A Foolproof Way to Ensure Your Patients Love Your Practice and Sing Your Praises
Offering great customer service has been a powerful marketing initiative for any and every business for as long as we can remember. Whether its the sincere small-talk with a clerk, a rare glimpse of honesty, a great return policy or even convenience, great customer service has not only encouraged loyalty from existing customers, but has helped businesses build their reputation, new clientele, and ultimately their success.
Some customers may or may not be fazed by the little efforts made like VIP rewards or no hassle returns because were too distracted to notice or we expect and even demand it at times. And while our patients demand good service from us as well, customer service in medical practices is slightly different. The very nature of the business were in is to provide support and healing for our patients. They come to us vulnerable and in pain and they are relying and trusting in our abilities. It’s important to always remember that though we see hundreds of the same conditions time and time again, each patient has an individual experience which can be coupled with feelings of discomfort, fear, and pain very different from when they are at Home Depot or a car dealership.
Because of this fragility, our customer service efforts can hold exceptional value; however, any shortcomings can cause exceptional damage. In thinking about how to make our internal marketing and overall services more effective, occasionally step back, empathize with the patient’s experience, and see how you can offer more comfort and ease. Don’t underestimate the power of the little things. Implement some new ideas and you’ll be amazed at how grateful and loyal people will be to you for displaying a genuine interest in their health & well-being. THIS could be one of your best marketing strategies that will keep your patients coming and recommending you to their peer and family circles. Below are a few small things that can create an enormous impact:
- Show Utmost Respect – alert your front desk to address new patients cheerfully and warmly, greeting them at first with proper names like Ms. Sanchez, and then following-up by asking what they prefer to be called. Patients often anticipate a long wait and being dismissed by the front desk. Even if they feel that the patient wouldn’t mind being called by first name, this courtesy will set the tone and help break down any guards that are up.
- Shock them with common courtesy – there is unfortunately a perception that when going to a doctor’s office, you’ll give the front desk your name (usually without receiving eye-contact) and then will be ignored until the doctor’s ready to see you. Of course, the front desk is there to do their work as well and cannot serve the purpose of entertaining the waiting room, however, if they did every so often, in very menial ways, it would only be a pleasant surprise for the patient(s). If there aren’t too many patients waiting, and your front desk has a minute to spare, she/he could ask if any of them would like some water. They most likely will refuse, but they will be caught off guard, notice the unexpected gesture and appreciate the thought.
- Respect begets respect – The more your patient feels that you are respecting their time, they’re more likely to cooperate and be flexible and understanding instead of being difficult or complaining. If your schedule is running very behind, don’t let patients come on time only to wait extensively and lose half the day. Call your patients whose schedules are affected and give them the option to come in later or re-schedule. It can seem that this could reflect negatively on the practice (and should not be made a habit), but they will more so appreciate that their time was respected as well.
- Follow up – incorporate simple steps into your check-out protocol so your front desk can be attentive to patients and check up on them instead of just collecting their copays. Before collecting payment, have your TEAM ask how everything went and if they have any questions. If someone was an emergency case or had surgery, have your front office team shoot over a quick email or call the following day to check on how they are doing. And if possible, try calling new patients yourself either on that evening or the next day just to see how they are doing, if they have any questions, and just welcome them to the practice. This for certain, will not ever be forgotten. Most patients will be so surprised to hear from the physician directly that they usually won’t end up keeping you on the phone but will keep you around as their physician or specialist.
While many of these tips might seem insignificant or unnecessary, they can be very powerful for the patients experience since so many don’t expect (and really, no longer see) that sort of simple and thoughtful behavior. Unfortunately, that kind of extra effort and the small nuances is becoming either more and more rare or less and less sincere. It doesn’t have to require much time, and sometimes none at all, but small efforts like these backed by sincerity and a positive TEAM, can make all the difference in the patient experience, and no matter how small the gesture, the impact can be truly grand.