Is your clinic overlooking the basic premises of customer service?
I recently read that medicine is different than any other business, because the customer and the person/company that pays for the service are not often the same. The author went on to discuss that this indicated that taking care of your patients and providing excellent service outside of good medical care is not necessary. I can appreciate the author's point, but I would disagree. If your patients feel they are taken care of, they have the ability and the willingness to sing your praises, refer patients, pay what they owe you, and help make sure their insurance company pays you. Here are ten healthy customer service habits for your clinic:
1. Make sure every one of your employees is capable of making a good first impression. This is even more important for the “front of house” employees responsible for greeting the patients over the phone or on their arrival in the waiting room. (Tip: Hire people with a history of helping people.)
2. Keep your promises. If you or your staff says “I will get back with you today” do it. Even if you don’t have the answer, a quick ring to let them know you are still working on it is always best. Keep your commitments, no matter how small.
3. Show appreciation and gratitude to your patients. Thank customers in a meaningful and thoughtful manner on every interaction. Say "thank you" and smile.
4. Provide solid training. Great customer service isn’t all common sense, or there would be more of it. My clients find it beneficial to provide their staff with industry specific customer service training and follow up renewal training as needed.
5. Listen and act when your patients complain. Deal with every complaint, as complaints can be opportunities to build a lifetime of loyalty from a patient. Make sure that you listen to the complaint, check the validity, take action to resolve it, and then let the patient know how it was resolved. Always assume the patient is telling the truth.
6. Go above and beyond what your patients expect. It is always better to over-deliver on expectations. Make sure you are meeting your patient’s needs, then make an effort to exceed them by paying close attention to every detail in the delivery of your services.
7. Make it easy on your patients. Make the experience in your office as easy as possible with minimal wait times, maximum comfort, and amenities such as coffee/tea/water when possible. Also take into account the patient’s flow through the clinic to ensure it is easy to navigate.
8. Admit mistakes, and apologize. Forget to call a patient back? Overbook the clinic? Running a little late? Be honest, apologize sincerely, and offer options to repair the issue.
9. Be a little obsessed with your patients. Would you have a clinic without them? You should know who your patients are, why they come and see you, and be obsessive about making sure they receive the best experience and follow up possible. Have your front-office staff make an effort to remember names of your frequent patients; that goes a long way in making a patient feel welcome.
10. Treat your employees (and each other) like customers. It is a little like leading by example, if you treat your employees with great service, they will be more equipped to model that for your patients.
The bottom line is that you and your staff should do these things every day to make the patients that visit your clinic feel that they have made the right choice, and set yourself apart from most any other medical practice. This makes your patients feel like you are all on the same team, are more apt to send referrals, and more willing to make sure you are paid for the time and effort you have spent on their care.