For some years now, most businesses seem to have treated the task of customer service more like customer management, customer herding or customer avoidance.
Healthcare, being inherently a more high-touch business than most, offers some insights into what people want and crave. And when a person’s health or survival is on the line, what he or she seems to want the most is compassion, understanding and a personal human approach.
In fact it trumps cost, wait time and various other factors that patients usually grumble about. Dignity Health, one of the country’s five biggest health providers, launched a Hello HumanKindness initiative last year as its own effort to acknowledge the reality.
Patients Will Patiently Wait for Personal Service
Contrary to conventional business wisdom, not everyone is shopping for the cheapest deal. A national survey commissioned by Dignity and undertaken by Wakefield Research late last year found that a full 72% of Americans would be willing to pay more for a doctor who placed an emphasis on kindness in his or her work.
Close to two-thirds (64%) of respondents reported experiencing unkind behavior in the delivery of healthcare services, often in the form of rudeness, inability to listen to the patient or inability to connect personally.
Some 88% would be willing to drive further to see a more compassionate medical team. And 90% would consider switching their health provider, even if it boasted top technology or various frills, if they received unkind treatment there.
A full 54% would find themselves withholding information from a doctor who didn’t seem to bring appropriate kindness to the healing
The Cities that Are Kinder than Thou
The survey also found some intriguing results regarding where a person is most likely to report kind and unkind healthcare treatment.
Philadelphia, Chicago and San Francisco came out on top. New York, Houston and Los Angeles came out on the bottom.
I’m Kind … and You’re Kind of a Jerk
Tellingly but perhaps unsurprisingly, the survey found that almost all Americans see themselves as kinder than the people around them.
A whopping 95% of respondents reported that they themselves are kind people. And 94% humbly and dutifully reported that they make a point of being kind to someone at least weekly.
But in a sign that we notice our own kindness more easily than that of others, 48% of respondents said that society on the whole is unkind. Nearly 6 in 10 (58%) felt that American culture places a low value on kindness. And half of them believed that the next generation will grow up less kind than this one.
In a sense, this mirrors various studies in which most people say that they’re less selfish than others or smarter than average—a statistical impossibility. And it mirrors anxiety that goes back to America’s colonial days that the younger generation is composed of barbarians.
But it also reveals a warm and tender spot in the national heart, a desire for everyone to value kindness and a deep wish that our society as a whole would revalue it.
Given that, businesses that unashamedly bring a human touch—in health care or any field—have a chance to build a powerful brand for the long haul.