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Secret shopping in medical tourism: Close the customer service gap, increase revenue

Customer service audit in medical tourism

Elizabeth Ziemba, President of Medical Tourism Training, Inc looks at the role of the mystery shopper in medical tourism, and how a Customer Service Audit can show you what you’re doing right….and what you’re doing wrong.

Customer service is an integral part of delivering high quality, professional services.  Do you know what your current and prospective clients think of your medical tourism business – your services, prices, and employees?

Secret shopping, mystery shopping or, more accurately, a Customer Service Audit, is an effective tool to assess and improve the customer service experience in medical tourism. By seeing and experiencing your business through the eyes of your clients, Customer Service Audits are highly effective ways to impact the bottom line.  The results of a Customer Service Audit can be used to improve the performance of weak employees, reward the outstanding work of others, and point out gaps in business systems that need to be repaired, all to increase revenue.

Why a medical tourism business should engage in a Customer Service Audit

Medical tourism businesses make substantial investments to attract clients including web sites, brochures, conferences, advertising, direct marketing, and more.  With all that money spent to attract customers, you need to know answers to many questions such as, “Are we offering the services that our patients want?”  “Are we easy to do business with?” Equally important is, “Are customers being treated well so that they will buy our services, come back again, and refer other people?”  If the answer to these questions is “yes”, then you have valuable information that can be used as a benchmark for future performance.  If the answer is “no”, then you can identify and correct problems before negative patient experiences do serious harm to your business.

An American Express Global Business Customer Service Survey found that” 78% of customers have opted to cancel a transaction or did not complete and intended purchase because of a poor customer service experience.” (Source)  Poor customer service carries a large price tag for companies of every size.

What is the cost to your international patient business of even one lost client?  For a dentist or clinic, it may be a few hundred to several thousand dollars.  For a hospital, the average amount spent by an international patient may be thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars.  In this competitive environment, your business needs every advantage to succeed.  You have invested a substantial amount to bring clients to your organization, now invest a little more to make sure you are converting leads into clients.  The relatively modest amount invested in a Customer Service Audit pays for itself simply by saving one client.

Trained auditors investigate and evaluate according to client’s specific needs

A Customer Service Audit - or Mystery Shopping as it is more commonly known - is a research tool where a marketing consultant is retained to evaluate one or more aspects of a company’s services.  In the medical tourism sector, the scope of the audit might include the telephone switchboard, reception area and international patient department all the way through to the delivery of services.  It may also include marketing materials and the web site.  Here is how the secret shopping experience typically works.

The decision to conduct a Customer Service Audit is made by a member of senior management and the parameters of the service are set in consultation with the independent consultant hired to provide the audit.  The specific needs of the client are identified, a program is customized, and a price quote agreed upon.  While employees are told that an audit will be conducted at some point in time, the specific dates and time are kept confidential to ensure that the test of the system is not influenced by employees “being on their best behavior”. 

Trained auditors acting as interested prospects are given instructions and procedures to follow to obtain the necessary information.  The auditors keep detailed information about all aspects of their interactions with the business being evaluated.  The results of the audit are submitted to the market research company to review and analyze the information.  The information is then shared with the client along with actionable feedback and recommendations to improve the system.

The results of the audit are also shared with the employees, preferably in a team meeting, and presented in a positive light.  The recommendations are designed to improve services as well as job satisfaction.  Avoiding a “Got You!” approach is essential so that employees do not feel like they were being spied on. 

Modifications to the system are implemented, training is conducted to improve skills, and another evaluation is done after a reasonable period of time to ensure that the service has improved.  If so, then periodic evaluations can be conducted to be certain that the high quality of service has not deteriorated or new problems arisen.  If customer service has not improved, another intervention may be required.  And remember to reward your top employees to keep them happy and motivated.

Employees are expected to perform their job duties including customer service functions at a certain level.  Given the opportunity and training, many employees will raise the level of their performance.  Some may not.  Just remember that employees who are performing below par have an impact on the bottom line – your business is paying someone who is not getting the job done for your organization and may be costing you customers.  A Customer Service Audit can help identify the weakest links and strongest performers.

Improve customer service, increase revenues

A thoughtfully constructed Customer Service Audit conducted by a professional, experienced independent consultant can help you grow your medical tourism business.  Poor customer service and gaps in the service delivery system push away the clients you are working hard to attract.  Whether your business is a JCI accredited hospital, dental or medical office, facilitator or other service-related business, you cannot afford to be ignorant of the experiences of prospective clients.  Secret shopping can be an effective tool to drive revenue in the right direction.


Profile of the author

Elizabeth Ziemba, President of Medical Tourism Training, Inc.

Elizabeth Ziemba is President of Medical Tourism Training, Inc., an independent company offering online, web-hosted, and onsite training to deliver the knowledge and business skills medical tourism professionals need to succeed.  Medical Tourism Training, Inc. is partnering with Stackpole & Associates, a market research and marketing company, to offer a full array of secret shopping services.  Since 1991, Stackpole & Associates has provided secret shopping services to a wide array of health care and senior living services in the US and internationally, helping clients to improve the delivery of services to increase revenues.  Together, we make an excellent team to meet the needs of your organization.

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