Six Ways to Serve Your Patients From the Heart

September 4, 2014

Patients are foremost people and they sincerely appreciate caring physicians and staff members. Don't forget to build customer service into your daily practice.

Last week's blog post, "Marketing a Small Medical Practice Doesn't Have to Be Slimy," brought on some wonderful discussions. One of which is the inspiration for today's post.

A few years ago, I wrote a series of articles for Physicians Practice blog called "Customer Service from the H.E.A.R.T." These articles served as a guide for medical practices to incorporate customer service into their daily medical practice. It has now developed into a complete course that practices teach to their employees, annually. When I wrote this, I said "customer service is the new marketing." Even though that advice isn't new anymore, customer service is still one-half of the best marketing strategy for practices.

Oftentimes practice employees forget in the stress of a chaotic day, that they are dealing with people who are ill, tired, broken, and worn, and what they need is warmth and caring and a genuine smile. Patients need to be listened to, and, quite frankly, loved. Never forget that medicine is, at its heart, a "people" business.

Here are six ways to serve your patients using great customer service (from "Customer Service from the H.E.A.R.T."):

1. Hospitality. Treat patients as if they are guests in your home. Be warm and inviting (your patients are guests in your practice, after all). Make sure your waiting room is clean and comfortable; go have a sit out in your own waiting room. What would make you more comfortable if you were to sit there for an hour?

2-3. Empathy and enthusiasm. Empathy is important in customer service and especially in a medical practice. It is important to understand where the patient is coming from, even when they are angry. Make sure you are genuine and sincere when dealing with patients. I include enthusiasm with empathy, because unless you are enthusiastic about your job (helping people) then you will not be able to demonstrate empathy effectively.

4. Attitude. Every member of the team in a medical practice must have a winning attitude and show it in the clinic, online, and on the phone. Your attitude must demonstrate to your patients that you are thankful that they chose you and your practice. Thankfulness isn't groveling, it isn't fearing they will leave your practice - it is a sincere feeling of gladness that patients chose you, and confidence that they will continue to chose your practice.

5. Respect. The patient isn't always right, but he always deserves respect. The key to respect is listening intently to what your patients are telling you. One of my clients got a 5-star review from a patient just last week, and in the comments section they wrote, "Dr. X listened to me."

6. Timeliness. This is key: Be on time. Explain any delays to patients truthfully if you are not on time. If you or another provider is habitually late, adapt the schedule to make up the difference.

Excellence in customer service will boost your patient retention and referral rates. It will also improve staff morale and retention. I'd like to share a wonderful quote that our reader (Jim) reminded me of, "People will often forget what you tell them, but they will never forget the way you made them feel."