Customer Service Techniques All Medical Practices Must Use

June 14, 2013
Robert Thomson

Corporate customer service techniques tailored for use in physicians' offices can increase your patient base, revenue stream, and good reputation.

It has become very fashionable for doctors and other professionals to invest thousands of dollars of their hard earned money on website design, blogs, webinars and podcasts, and time in engaging in social media, with the hopes of developing a larger practice and enormous followings across the different social media platforms.

And all of this is done for several reasons, primarily to get their name out "there" so they can draw in more patients thereby, making more money, and to keep up with or surpass the other guys they compete with. If you ask me, I think this is all great.

You can do all of these things and attract great numbers of new patients, but if you don't do the following things right, patients will seek help somewhere else the next time they need it. And I don’t have to tell you how competitive the market has become.

Giving top quality medical care should go without saying. This is what you trained all those years for and what I am sure you all provide to your patients. But they need more than that when they call or visit your offices. They need great customer service.

The Telephone

When patients call, they should immediately hear a friendly, live voice answer. They should not hear, "Could you hold please?" Someone should be manning the phone at all times. They should at least sound like they are in a good mood and that they care. This may be the first impression this person gets of your office and your staff.

If it is a new patient calling to schedule an appointment, they need to hear that you accept new patients, the types of insurance you accept, and your availability. Give them detailed directions to your office and let them know that you have new patient forms on your website they can fill out ahead of time. Tell them if they have any questions before their appointment to please call back with them or e-mail them to your office prior to their visit.

If it is a patient with a medical question or concern, have the receptionist collect all the information they can from the patient, showing compassion and concern, then either find a nurse who can help the patient by answering their questions or tell the patient that you will ask the doctor to call them as soon as it is possible. Tell the patient when that might be. If the doctor answers such calls at the end of the day or another time, let the patient know what to expect.

The Office

Your office should be easy to find. It should be easy for someone to find parking there so that their blood pressure is not elevated when they arrive for their appointment. They should be greeted immediately, as soon as they enter the office; not when they finally come up to the appointment desk. They may not even know who they should approach if they are new patients and have never been there before. Staff should always be friendly, courteous, and display a caring attitude and should always carefully listen to the patient.

Hopefully, your waiting room is clean, organized, and comfortable. It should be an attractive room where patients can wait and relax.

The Wait

In my opinion, there should never be a wait unless the patient is early; at least that should be the goal. It should be possible for the office administrator to manage this function so that the physician is available at the time the patient was told he would be seen. I know that the impulse is to fit as many patients into a day as possible for the revenue. But if patients have to wait a long time to be seen, they become unhappy. Unhappy patients - for any reason - tell their friends about their bad experiences; they talk about them in e-mails and on Facebook and Twitter. They make plans to see other doctors the next time they need one. If some unforeseen medical problem develops or misunderstanding occurs or things are just not to their liking, they are more likely to call their lawyer. So to make a few bucks stacking the schedule you end up losing in the long run.

If for some unforeseen reason a doctor is going to be delayed, make sure someone goes and tells the patient that it cannot be helped and that you are sorry for the delay. Just keeping the patient informed shows them that you care.

Next week, I'll share some tips on how to train your medical practice staff on some of these key aspects of customer service.