Interestingly, it is very simple to find top-ten lists for customer pet peeves in most industries. However, it is quite difficult to find patients’ pet peeves list. There are many online links to lists like “Top Ten Habits that Annoy Your Physician” or “Top Ten Pet Peeves of Nurses.” Medicine is one of the few industries where it is okay for the business to be annoyed with its customers, talk about it, and expect customers to come back for more.
I realize that this problem stems from many issues; there are many things about medical industry that have fed into less-than-ideal interactions between a clinic and its patients. Grievances with customers have some history behind them too. But, my friends, in the words of Bob Dylan, “times they are a-changin.’” And slowly but surely we are seeing more and more customer-centric clinics.
So what are some ways to get your clinic on the road to taking stellar care of its patients, even beyond providing an on-point diagnosis and treatment plan?
Imagine this feedback came into your office:
“One of my biggest pet peeves in the universe… is businesses that don’t communicate well (or at all). I have called Dr. XYZ’s office four times now about my referral appointment and I STILL haven’t gotten the info I need from them, not even the acknowledgement that they are working on it. If I wasn’t so far into the process (and if the doctor wasn’t a friend of my husband’s) I would be finding someone else.”
This is actual feedback from a clinic; this was the feedback that pushed them over the edge to get help. Even rereading it gives me that excited feeling that I can make a difference in this clinic, and help them better serve their patients (and reap all the rewards that come from that).
What would your reaction be to this type of observation about your clinic? Here are four simple steps to make it right when mistakes or otherwise poor service happens in your office:
1. Say you’re sorry. Give the facts about the error, oversight, or inconvenience that occurred, and hold off on the emotion. Be humble and sincerely apologize.
2. Say “thank you.” In the case above, my client, the physician, called to thank the patient for bringing this to his office’s attention. The employee responsible for the “dropped ball” and the office manager also genuinely thanked this patient for her feedback. Gratitude can help to diffuse the situation.
3. Show your patients a little empathy. It can be as simple as offering them a bottle of water, or just walking around the waiting area when the wait gets a little long and asking if there is anything you can do for them. Be sure and have a protocol that makes challenging situations a little easier.
4. Go above and beyond. There are many ways to do this. Imagine what your patients would say if someone from your office called to check on them after their appointment. Particularly if they were seen for a particular uncomfortable issue. Develop a protocol that nurses or providers call a patient 24 hours to 48 hours after the patient is seen in the clinic to check and make sure he or she is doing better, filled their prescriptions, or has any questions.
The bottom line is that taking care of your patients goes beyond taking care of their diagnosis, and includes delivering them a phenomenal experience in their office so they continue to choose you to trust with their healthcare needs, and bring others to you as well. Make sure you are completely taking care of the patients who keep your clinic going.