Providing Amazing Customer Service
There are many mistakes you can make when you start your medical practice that you can recover from. You might negotiate your lease wrong. You might not hire the right staff members. You might not understand your financials. But you can recover from these mistakes with some hard work and adjustments. There is one mistake, however, that your practice cannot recover from, at least not quickly. You won’t read about it in most books on why small businesses fail – because those books focus on numbers. Yet, neglecting to make sure this mistake doesn’t happen to your clinic will put you on the fast track to failure much quicker than all other mistakes.
Providing your customers with Amazing Customer Service should be your top priority. Neglect it, and customers will neglect coming back to you. Do it right, and you will create raving fans. The good news for clinic owners, is the bar for customer service in medicine has been set so low over the past 20 years by clinics and hospitals, that almost anything you do for customers outside of the medical “norm” makes you look great.
So what is the medical norm? In many clinical settings, receptionists are thought to be rude, nurses are too busy to visit, and doctors, well their time is more valuable than the patient’s time. These descriptions should never apply to your clinic.
Tip 1: Mystery Patients
A mother walks into your clinic with a sick, five-year-old girl. As she approaches the check-in window, she notices the receptionist let out a sigh as she puts down her cell phone, but not before she manages to punch in the last few letters on a text message.
“What’s your name, and why are you here?” the receptionist asks, with a slight tone of irritation in her voice.
The mother wonders to herself why the receptionist needs to know this information now, but she explains her child has a fever and a sore throat. The mother then takes her daughter to a chair in the waiting room, where she patiently sits for 45 minutes watching other people get called back. She again approaches the receptionist’s window.
This time the receptionist does not put down the cell phone. She simply pulls back the window and says, “What?”
The mother hesitantly asks how much longer her wait may be, as the receptionist continues to text away on her phone. It is then that the receptionist realizes she never put the patient on the schedule.
With a red face and angry voice, she tells the patient, “Great, I forgot you. Well, you’re next.”
As the nurse comes to the waiting room to get the patient, she simply points and says, “You’re up little one.”
She then takes the mother and little girl into a room, where, without introducing herself, she begins taking the little girl’s vitals. The nurse then faces the computer and begins listing off symptoms and typing things in the chart, never once turning to give the mother or daughter eye contact. The nurse leaves, and 40 minutes go by. The mother steps out of the room and asks if perhaps she has been skipped. The nurse comes into the room and tells the mother a flu test has been ordered by the doctor. The mother questions the test, as the doctor has yet to make it into the room. But the nurse insists. Fifteen minutes later, the doctor comes into the room, briefly examines the little girl, and gives the “good news” that the little girl does not have the flu. The doctor offers a prescription to treat tonsillitis, and wishes the little girl well.
At checkout, the receptionist pulls up the patient’s bill and tells her, “That’ll be $110 because I couldn’t verify your insurance.”
The mother replies, “I gave you my insurance card when I came in.” After getting the office manager involved, the mother pays her $40 cop, and leaves with her little girl. Never once was she offered an apology, or even a thank you for her patience and visit.
Does that scenario sound far-fetched? One would hope so. But stories like that happen everyday at in medical clinics across the nation. Don’t let your clinic be one of the casualties of bad customer service. A great way to randomly check patient satisfaction is to hire a mystery patient to visit your clinic. The mystery patient should randomly check-in like a regular patient and go through the entire patient flow. After leaving, the patient should contact you to give a full report about the experience at your clinic. Another option is to ask each patient before they leave your clinic what could be done differently to improve their next visit. While most patients will not offer a lot of feedback, those who do offer feedback will become “raving fans” of your clinic if you implement their ideas or fix the problems they point out.
Tip 2: Consumer Driven Medicine
You may think “mystery patients” (or mystery shoppers as they’re more commonly called) are only for retail settings. You would be correct. But if you are shocked by the idea of utilizing mystery patients, you may not realize what type of business you are running. Patients are more like customers than we think. A great saying for your staff to live by is the only place a patient is a patient is in the room with the provider, at all other times, a patient is a customer. And customers should be provided with outstanding customer service throughout the entire visit. Leaving your clinic as a raving fan. Unhappy customers and Raving fans will will both share their experience to their friends an family, which of those two outcomes do you hope for in your clinics? Another way to look at this, ask yourself, “What product do I sell in my practice?” While the obvious answer would be healthcare, it is not necessarily the correct answer. Patients come to medical clinics and expect good healthcare, but they will come back if you sell them an experience.
Tip 3: Customer Experience
Creating a positive, unique, customer experience will keep your patients coming back to your clinics again and again. There are several things you can incorporate into your medical practice to help make it less of a “doctor’s visit” and more of an experience worth talking about. These things do not have to be expensive. Some great ideas to consider incorporating include:
All staff members should always call a patient by name.
Allow patients to check-in from home via web check-in or an app on their phone.
Offer free wireless internet in your waiting room and in patient rooms.
Offer free coffee, cold bottled water, or other beverages while patients wait.
Have one or two rooms in your clinic specifically designed for children. Consider painting fun character murals on the wall. Also, build a children’s play area in the waiting room.
These are just a few examples. Remember, the bulk of your future patients will come not from advertisements, but from referrals from current patients. Take time to brainstorm ways to take the customer experience at your clinics to the next level. Patients will talk about you if you give them something unexpected to talk about.
Chief Leadership Officer, Pam Reynolds