You are here

Can the NHS really teach us anything about customer service?

The NHS announced the launch of its new ‘TripAdvisor’ style feedback system for patients last month, for the first time allowing its customers to quickly and painlessly give frank, honest reviews of the service they receive at hospitals around the country.

This change in strategy by one of the biggest employers in the world highlights how important it is for businesses of all sizes to be aware of real-time feedback, both as a customer service tool and a source of information to drive innovation.

For the NHS, gathering and reacting to customer feedback really could be a matter of life or death – it’s a vital way for one of the UK’s largest service providers to monitor and address problems that could have serious implications for patients if left unchecked. While it may sound theatrical to suggest that the same is true for other businesses, those not taking online reviews seriously are killing their chances of success.

User experience must come first for all paid-for services and, rest assured, anybody parting with hard-earned cash will have plenty to say about what they’re given in return. Review websites have already shown how peer-to-peer recommendations can make or break hotels, restaurants and holiday companies, while the vast majority of ‘etailers’ list product reviews from others who have already purchased that new television you’re looking at.

‘Trust’ and ‘transparency’ are buzz words for organisations the world over, not least due to consumers increasingly demanding to know that the closets of the companies they’re buying from are skeleton-free. The NHS itself published surgeon mortality data online for the first time earlier this year, in a bid to provide patients more information about the person cutting them open. Despite strong opposition from some consultants, they were greeted by a predictable response: What have you got to hide?

Here at Trustpilot we’re of the opinion that one strong, considered response to a negative review is more powerful than several positive reviews. This honesty and openness allows businesses to begin converting detractors to brand ambassadors, by putting consumers’ concerns first and visibly providing them with exactly what they’re asking for.

Online reviews encourage a customer-to-business feedback loop, and this direct dialogue allows businesses to improve operations and, ultimately, customer satisfaction. By quickly addressing one complaint from a customer, companies can ensure the same problem doesn’t crop up for others, stopping a threatening issue in its tracks before it can ever really gather momentum.

Reviews are also important from a consumer point of view – sharing thoughts and interacting with brands directly means that customers shape the trading standards of tomorrow. So a fair, open and independent portal, where consumers can access reviews of peers’ experiences to help make their own decisions, is vital for any forward-thinking business.

On the whole, British people are quite rightly very proud of the National Health Service; it’s a shining light in the world of healthcare. But, at a time when the NHS is having to make significant cutbacks, providing senior decision-makers with instant access to feedback from customers – the people that matter the most – is a very smart move.