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Article 6 + 6A
“10.5 Mistakes Doctors Make In Customer Service”
Medical practice collisions with patients necessitate treatment by the ER (Expedient Repair) with more than just a band-aid. Other than the bad attitude of a physician, the second most common reason for patients deciding to change doctors is how they are treated in your office, on the phone, and in the hospital. The impact on marketing of your medical practice is astounding. The impact on practice building or failure is unquestionable. The impact on patient retention is absolute.
Best Customer service must be a priority in any medical practice and an integral part of your marketing strategies. The problem is that medical doctors don’t attribute customer services to the level of attention and value that all other successful businesses do.
Why is that?
Attention to the ten-plus biggest mistakes physicians make in their medical practices should be a wakeup call to due diligent physicians—at least to those who want to build or maintain their medical practice business. One of my favorite experts in the field of exceptional or excellent customer service which is above and beyond the norm is Lisa Ford. As an international speaker, writer, and promoter of customer service education for 20+ years, she can easily make you understand why your practice sucks.
Consider these customer service mistakes:(ones you can repair)
1. Believing that great customer relations and services are all easily managed by a nice smile and attentive behavior. No need to do anything to improve patient satisfaction, after all, they are willing to come to your office already……….right? But, we can forgive that reaction because you were never educated in the value of medical practice business management, medical practice marketing, nor customer service marketing.
As you have been told, ignorance is not an excuse. My suggestion to you is to get smart, provide your patients with attention and services well beyond your practice competition and watch what a difference it makes. Start with http://lisaford.blogspot.com/ and www.lisaford.com and find out what you don’t know. Also, www.milteer.com .
2. Failing to evaluate what it is that makes your medical practice sparkle. I believe over 95% of physicians never even think about why their patients chose them as their doctor. Sure, you have your own assumptions as to why they absolutely love you, but have you actually asked them? You don’t have any idea of why patients prefer you, and you should.
Actually knowing, by surveying your patients, is the best way to find out. The reason this information is important is because it enables you to expand you desirability to your present and future patients (covert marketing). It will increase referrals back to you because any person (patient) who refers someone to you knows that person will be treated extraordinarily well and come back to thank them.
3. Inattention to your staff’s knowledge and compliance with customer service standards and principles. Have you ever taken a minute to quietly stand nearby and listen to what your office staff person is saying on the phone to a patient or how your receptionist greets your patients? And, how their presentation sounds? Friendly….or in a hurry?
Have they developed their own methods for responding or are they following how you want them to respond? Your own office staff must be educated about strategies and tactics of good and bad customer service, have some basic customer service training, understand what it accomplishes for them and you, and create new ways to improve it. You, the physician, are entirely responsible for it all.
4. Not being smart from the start.
The mistake originates from not hiring the best candidate to work for you at the start. A few tips here might be helpful.
· Hire the attitude: Questions about how they would respond to situations is a means of judging behavioral patterns and habits.
· Hire the compatibility: First hand reactions of the candidate to your other employees, and theirs to the candidate, can be evaluated by your whole team if you have the candidate come into your office to work for a couple days. Your team will see flaws that you may not see— a team hiring process.
· Hire the toughie: Lay out the good and bad aspects of working for you by thoroughly covering what you will and will not tolerate, what you expect out of their work efforts, and your thoughts about your methods of criticism should it be needed. This weeds out the supersensitive individuals who pout for 3 days after, as well as those who prefer to make their own rules.
· Hire a phone voice: You need to know what the candidate sounds like on the phone—which your patients will feel, sense, and hear. for example, your office staff can call the candidate at home unexpectedly (interrupting their situation) a couple times to test how they respond to interruptions of other duties—like they will constantly face in your office. It’s part of the interview.
· Hire a work ethic: Does the candidate have respect for time? Do they understand that your office hours begin at 8:00 AM? It means arriving at the office 20 minutes before that, unlocking the front door, pulling the patient charts if needed, and be ready at 8:00 AM sharp to get the first patient started.
Additionally, are they bothered about occasionally missing lunch time to handle patient problems or emergencies? Do they have strict rules of leaving the office at exactly 5:00 PM no matter what? Any outside personal commitments that directly interfere with your office hours—like a mandatory meeting with an outside entity every Wednesday at noon hour?
5. Not recognizing you have a bad employee problem: Have you been way too busy seeing and treating patients to manage your office properly? I know………you just can’t do everything yourself…….heard that one before. One bad employee will repeatedly make mistakes that will cripple your practice without you even knowing it. It happens all the time in medical offices—from fraud and embezzling to arguing with patients in a threatening way.
The reason you may not know about it is because your office staff members are a “click.” The referee is not allowed in the huddle sort of thing. The office team does not betray another’s mistakes or problems to the doctor—or have you already experienced that? Customer service (patient) clashes are made aware to you most often by the patients themselves. Remain aware of the signs of problems.
6. Failing to treat your office personnel with enough motivational feedback. Just imagine, if you worked in that medical office and have voluntarily stayed overtime for the last 5 days to finish up with the day’s appointment schedule which has been running late every day, would you expect a “thank you” for that now and then? I would and most would.
Criticism without any significant praise here and there for doing something right will build resentment and a barrier which in many cases won’t be resolved. If you don’t take time to thank your office members, daily if necessary, for specific jobs they have performed above expectations, then they will continue to do nothing to make your life better, nor help the practice, and will resort to doing just enough to get by. It will sabotage your customer services.
7. Not attempting to measure and understand the financial impact to your practice in real dollars when you lose a patient because of poor patient services. The new study, “The Cost of Poor Customer Service: The Economic Impact of the Customer Experience and Engagement,” commissioned by Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories on 8,880 consumers across 16 countries, revealed a cost of $338 billion per year—each lost relationship costing $243.
If you lose a patient, can you calculate the lifetime value in terms of earnings that you loose on each patient that leaves your practice? I doubt it. The answer to that question would probably take the wind out of your sails, or at least stimulate you to improve patient services and patient loyalty—which, sadly, most doctors rarely do much about, if anything.
8. Neglecting the implementation of going the extra mile in service and etiquette. Sometimes, the simplest change makes a world of difference in a patient’s perception of your practice. Chick-Fil-A is a fast food restaurant which has reported a double digit growth yearly for the last 16 years, while others flounder in the recession blues. Why? Because they go the “second mile” to stand out in their customer’s minds. Things like clean parking lot, smiling faces, and great service.
Employees say “it’s my pleasure” in response to a customer thank you---rather than, “no problem.” Courtesy and manners are taught to all employees which includes an employee going around the tables offering a beverage refill, asking customers how they can improve their service, and etc. Imagine how your patients would feel if you insisted on excellent manners from your staff, or creating forms of constant engagement of your patients attention in the waiting room as well as in the exam room where boredom becomes the focus.
9. Misunderstanding the difference between customer service and an experience. In a down economy good customer service is a necessity for practice business survival…….but it’s a lot more than that. In the mind of a patient, good customer service is a, “Well, that office visit was nice.” In the mind of a patient, an experience requires a response like, “I can’t tell you how fantastic that office visit experience was today.” “Just imagine, I had my nails done while I waited for the doctor,” or “Every patient seen today was offered a free massage in a special room down the hall after their visit
with the doctor.”
These are real examples used by doctors, dentists, and chiropractors who create an experience for their patients—and their competition isn’t. Guess where the patients want to go for care. Take action. Guess who brings in well over $200,000 in their practice just by creating an experience for patients.
10. Not making use of the reservoir of ideas and creativeness going dormant in the minds of your employees. When you invite creativeness from your employees, and follow their accomplishments with rewards, you will not only have a long term employee, but also a rocket propelled agent promoting your practice daily. Their creativeness earns them respect, positioning, and often a higher salary. It also allows them to be, and recognize themselves as, an important part of the business and how well it does………and improves their self-esteem in the process.
10.5 (A simple and effective afterthought) Forgetting to address every patient by their name. Recognition is a powerful human need that is best applied by using their personal name over and over in letters, emails, and personal conversation with them. When every person in your office greets your patient with a, “Hi Mrs. Brightface, let me help you today,” or some other uplifting comment, “beautiful sweater you have on today,”
the patient gains a sense of belonging there, like family. Not only does the patient know that they haven’t been forgotten from the prior visit, but also shows close attention to her importance in the office. Wouldn’t that make you feel good at being there? It’s not my thought, but the thinking of every respected expert who deals with people socially or in business relationships.
In a world where almost everyone takes for granted personal issues in social and business relationships, trouble arises. How you treat patients or customers either becomes a field of landmines or evolves into a fruitful venture. Some of those customer services unintentionally create barriers and frustrations that often quietly and subtly undermine the interactions taking place. Others, quickly and completely destroy any benefit to either participant, and can often ignite repercussions far beyond anything you might expect.
The danger lies in not recognizing the importance of what you train yourself to do unconsciously and automatically towards others which will improve or destroy your pace in life and business.
I think George Eliot expressed it best, “What do we live for if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?” That’s exactly what customer service is all about!
The author, Curt Graham, is a medical doctor, marketer, copywriter, author, speaker who has written extensively over his 35 plus years in active medical practice. He is a published author in Modern Physician, and is credited as an expert author by web article directories and self help websites including selfgrowth.com.
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Keywords = best customer service,excellent customer service,customer service marketing,great customer relations,poor customer service,marketing medical practice
Curt Graham, M.D., L & C Internet Enterprises, Inc.
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