Patient Satisfaction Extends to Third-Party Relationships

July 2, 2016
P.J. Cloud-Moulds

Good customer service is a hallmark of the successful practice. Don't let third-party vendors give you a black eye.

As a follow-up to my previous articles about customer service, I wanted to touch on an area that I did not mention previously. Physicians spend time and money training their staff to be helpful, friendly, knowledgeable, and respectful to patients. Customer service training for practice staff quite often has another layer - encouraging compassion, the ability to listen, to serve, and to be responsive to patients. So, your practice has a solid customer service process, but what do you do when a vendor or other third party makes mistakes and tarnishes your glowing reputation? This could be an online pay portal, a billing service, statement delivery, a DME supplier, or even the patient's insurance plan. These are just a few areas where customer service is not within your immediate control, yet is still a reflection of how you manage your private practice.

You have the responsibility to your staff and patients to manage all areas of your business. This includes people not directly on your payroll. If you are utilizing any outside sources, as mentioned above, it's a good idea to set up standards of behavior, operating protocols, expectations, and consequences for bad behavior.

You should start with a phone conversation, followed up by an email or written documentation to your vendor. Your documentation should include if and when an issue occurred (e.g., your vendor forgets to mail statements for over a month), what your expectation is (statements will be mailed by the fifth of every month with written confirmation that they were sent), followed by consequence of not following protocol (the vendor will lose your business if the mistake happens again). Be very clear, this is business and not personal.

The scenario I mention really did happen to the practice I work with, and it created havoc with their patient population. Statements were run on the fifth of the month, but not mailed until the 18th after the practice reached out to the vendor. The vendor originally dissembled, declaring that "statements went out last week." When the vendor was pushed, the owner of the company intervened and apologized profusely and gave the practice a discount on its monthly fee. Unfortunately, patients received their statements nearly three weeks after they were run, leaving the amount of time to pay less than a week and a half! This is poor business and unfair to patients. Plus, irate patients will call your practice or billing department and yell at your staff, who had nothing to do with the mistake.

You do not want to experience scenarios like this, they give your practice an ugly mark, and it's completely preventable. Be proactive, your patients will thank you!