In my last blog post, I discussed some key customer service techniques to use at your medical practice. Now let's address how to train your staff to be at their best on these aspects and any other patient interaction.
I believe that there should be routine customer service training in all of your practices. How often depends on how big your practice is. You can break it down into different areas and go over each once a month. And you need to keep repeating this training. All of these things I have touched on should be reinforced and their importance stressed to the team.
So, how do you make a training plan?
• The leadership of your practice should get together and develop clear training objectives. You must develop an outline that highlights the components, objectives, and purpose of the training. The outline can be then used for organizational purposes and as training literature for your staff.
• Develop presentation materials you can use in the classroom like PowerPoint projections, handouts, workbooks and others materials. Create written materials for staff self-study. Write and print materials that outline customer service policies and procedures. Materials should include handy references that staff can refer to long after training. Make copies of these materials and distribute them to your training class. Keep original copies in a training folder or binder
• You might want to have a mock telephone and computer in the training room. Make sure to create different scenarios for your staff to play different roles.
• You can include many topics in your training program. They can be very simple topics at first and then can graduate to more complex ones such as how to manage angry or difficult patients.
• You can develop and teach the customer service program yourself or hire a professional to develop a customized training solution for you.
There needs to be follow-up on how staff performs and accountability for how they treat your patients. This can be all be documented in staff performance evaluations and included in their records.
Think of this as CPR for your practice. As a physician, you only see your patients. You do not hear what is happening on the phone when your patients call unless the calls are monitored. And you do not see how your patients are treated when they come for their appointments. Of course, when you interact with your staff they all seem happy, smiling and willing to help. Why? Well, sometimes it is just because you are a doctor and you are their boss.
So how do you stayed in tune with how things are going in your office? There are a number of ways:
• You need to make it clear to your office supervisor what you expect of the staff so that they can monitor things and report back to you, either at the end of the day or in a weekly staff meeting.
• You can do patient service surveys. Patients can be asked to answer a few questions at the end of their visit and then submit them anonymously before leaving. You can also ask them for their input online or by e-mail.
• You could monitor phone calls and recording video of the waiting area where you could see the patient and staff interaction.
• How about having someone pretend to call and make an appointment every once in a while and do a professional assessment of the quality of service they received? Then use this as a training tool later.
• How about putting into place a rewards program where patients can nominate the person they felt was the most friendly and helpful in their view during their visit? The person with the most nominations each month wins a prize and their picture, name, and position posted in the waiting room for all to see?
Happy patients — spreading the word about you and your medical practice — are priceless.