When it comes to keeping existing patients, finding new ones, and generally building a solid future for a medical business, customer service is actually a big part of the picture. While many doctors traditionally don’t pay much attention to this aspect of running a practice, more physicians are now waking up to the importance of treating customers right and presenting an appealing environment to patients. Here is some of the top advice for creating a customer service friendly environment that will retain existing patients while attracting new ones.
Let’s face it. First impressions are usually lasting impressions. When your patients enter your waiting room, what do they see and feel? Comfortable and aesthetically pleasing or drab and impersonal? Sprucing up a lobby or waiting area does much more than what you might think. Take it a step further and add coffee, music or other entertainment options to assist your clients in relaxing. This is one factor consumers use to evaluate potential new medical providers because your environment reflects you.
A kind smile or a friendly face in the front end of an office is a no brainer. However, it seems, that this critical area is often overlooked. Front desk staffers tend to have a lot on their plate. Hire flexible personality types and individuals that can perform well under pressure, because their interaction with your patients can make or break your business.
When patients have a long wait before entering the exam room and then another wait in the exam room, they can leave frustrated and possibly never return. Offset this by instructing your team to provide check in updates. This shows respect for your patient and their time. If appointments consistently run behind or the doctor is on call that day, you may even choose to inform your patients to call ahead. The last thing your patient wants to do is to arrive at the office and be told the appointment has to be rescheduled because the doctor was called away. Again, measures like these creates good will.
We can’t overemphasize how important it is for patients to always have access to staff to ask about the costs of health care services before, during and after care. When patients better understand how their plan coverage issues benefits, they are more likely to pay. Education and communication are key.
Good customer service can also involve carefully created mailers that educate and reach out. To reduce costs, ask permission for email addresses to keep your patients informed. Asking for referrals and feedback is also recommended. Some providers also send test or procedure reminder updates and birthday wishes. Your practice management system can assist you in identifying key marketing opportunities that will keep you on top-of-mind between visits.
In the average doctor’s office, there can be a lot of ‘blind spots’ where overworked physicians and other practice leaders don’t take the time to really evaluate daily operations. These are usually hidden in the details and later on can cause glaring problems. At this point though, damage may have already been done. Good delegation, teamwork, and oversight can help to shine some light on these problem areas before they wreak havoc.
New patient paperwork is hard enough without pushy front desk staffers breathing down the necks of those just entering a practice for the first time. Engineer your intake process to make it comfortable. Many practices are transitioning their patients to complete the paperwork online or print the form from their practice website and bring the completed forms on the day of their appointment. Scheduling staff can implement these instructions in their appointment scheduling process.
Part of maintaining a good presence extends to the exam rooms and hallways of the practice. An uncluttered approach is best. Pleasing artwork, personal touches, and tasteful wall coverings will create long lasting impressions. Remember, details matter both consciously and subconsciously!
Keep these non-patients out of patient areas and away from those who are there to receive services. Create a secondary wait area for business vendors. You may also want to implement a policy that reps will be seen only on certain days or during certain hours.
Some doctors end up hiring clerical staffers known more for their battle-axe approach than for anything resembling customer service. This is usually a mistake, even if these people are super-skilled professionals because patients will talk - to each other, their friends, relatives, and online. Your reputation and image is at the hands of those you hire.
Providing quality clinical care to your patients is your first priority. Other “care” areas are equally important though, as your patient will develop an impression of your overall practice philosophy based on how they were treated by your non-clinical team. Delivering great customer service can easily set you apart from your peers. Add to your expertise with a team of top patient centric professionals and watch your practice soar.
More expert advice about Business Operations
Photo Credits: otoscopekeh by Flickr: Robert S. Donovan; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas - Fotolia.com