You’ve probably heard a lot of suggestions for how to handle this. But do you use/implement them? And, if you have managed to put some in place, do they stay in place? If you’re like the majority of your colleagues, the most significant barriers to meaningful change in your practice are difficulties with implementation – and keeping things implemented.
So, in this piece, I wanted to look at it from a broader perspective. I want you to leave with the ability to implement some of the beneficial improvements you’ve been considering, particularly in the area of “Customer Service.” As an extra benefit, several of the ideas I’ll be discussing in this article can be applied to any change you wish to make in your office.
So, with that in mind, how do you not only create an approach to improve customer service, but also enlist the entire team in order for it to “stick”? I have four bits of advice for you:
- Get your entire team on the same page.
When you decide to implement new procedures in your office, whether it’s a new marketing strategy or a new workflow, it’s vital that the entire staff not only understands what’s going on, but that they’re also “on board” with any planned changes.
This goes beyond simply “telling everyone” what you’re planning to do. Explaining what will be altered, why you’re doing it, and what the desired consequence is, including how it will make their job easier and/or benefit the overall practice (including the patients), may go a LONG way toward ensuring your changes “stick.”
If you’ve ever changed something in your practice and observed it “didn’t work” or personnel didn’t cooperate, it’s likely it’s related to the point above. Without offering insight and explaining the significance of what you’re attempting to do, it may appear as “unnecessary labour.” As a result, you can confuse the team and give the impression that they “don’t care” or aren’t cooperating. In most circumstances, however, this is not the case.
It stands to reason that if a patient understands their treatment plan and the repercussions, they are more likely to accept it. Staff are more inclined to implement new changes if they understand why they are doing it and how it fits into the larger company.
- Act out the full patient encounter as if you were the patient.
This is quite crucial. The customer experience begins with their initial contact with your company. In most circumstances, this will be a postcard or advertisement. The next step is to contact your front desk.
Walking through the complete patient process as if you were the patient is the greatest approach to “test” your patient experience. Begin with a postcard or ad that you’ve already distributed. Is the contact information easy to find? Call the phone number listed on the postcard or advertisement. Did you make it to the office? Was the receptionist pleasant? Did they appear to genuinely care about you and desire to assist you? Or did they seem rushed and immediately put you on hold?
How did the appointment go? Was it simple to plan?
If any of these components fails to function properly, you will lose patients.
Here’s an actual example: I went to a practice to assist them in resolving some concerns. After doing some research, I came across their postcard and dialed the number. I received a busy signal. The office only had two phone lines, and both were always in use, making it impossible for new patients to call and arrange appointments, and a new patient is unlikely to call again after receiving a busy signal – they may even believe you’re out of business!
Do not stop there. Examine the confirmation – is it too brief, causing patients to forget? Is it too much for them to be bothered by all the texts and phone calls?
Then, as if you were a patient, walk outside to the parking lot and back through the front door. Continue through the appointment process until you return to the front desk to check out.
As you can see, walking through the process can help you identify issues that are readily resolved. The fix in the preceding example was straightforward. As you go through this, you may come across other “easy fixes.” It’s not uncommon to discover that things you imagined were happening aren’t. You may not require a new confirmation procedure; instead, you may require the staff to perform the operation that you thought they were performing in the first place.
- Consider the entire procedure in its entirety.
Perhaps this has occurred to you: you make a small alteration in your office to fix a problem. But then another problem arises a few days later… you change something else to remedy that problem. Then another problem arises, and the cycle continues indefinitely.
I frequently see this with some of our clients: they genuinely want to cure one problem, so they try to modify it completely without considering how it would influence the rest of their practice. Overdue patients are no longer being followed up on since the Scheduling Coordinator is preoccupied with this new endeavor. Or the hygienist is swamped with patients. Etc.
The problem here is that you are not considering your entire practice. Take a step back and examine your entire practice and the procedures you already have in place, similar to a chess board. What would happen if you moved one of the pieces? Would it help the other pieces, or would it just add to the confusion? Looking at things from the outside in will help you make smart decisions that will benefit the entire office.
Another point I’d want to stress is that you should base all of your decisions on facts and/or statistics. Do not base your decision on “I feel like…”, “It appears like…”, or “a lot of patients appear to be…” In many circumstances, an actual number of whatever it is you’re seeking to qualify is beneficial, because what you feel and what actually is are two completely different things 9 times out of 10.
- A few pointers for providing an excellent patient experience.
Providing an exceptional experience for your patients will significantly improve word-of-mouth, patient retention, and loyalty. And providing a terrific experience is typically comprised of simple things that demonstrate your concern for them.
Consider the following example to demonstrate the differences in customer experience: Target. When you stroll around, everything is self-service. Finding an employee to assist you may need more effort than simply finding it yourself. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; some individuals prefer to shop alone; it’s just one type of experience.
Consider Nordstrom. When you walk in, you are greeted immediately by a friendly employee. They inquire if you require assistance in locating anything special. Assume you’re looking for new shoes. You simply tell them what kind of shoe you want and your size, and they go find it and bring it to you. It’s a completely different feeling that makes you feel more cared for.
I like to use that example because creating a memorable experience does not have to be complicated. It’s simply thinking about your patients’ requirements and anticipating what they’ll require before they do. Fast service, free, secure WiFi (in case they need to wait or are coming with their spouse and need to work from a laptop or phone), and coffee can all be simple methods to provide a fantastic experience for those people.
Most importantly, simply being present for your patients and communicating with them on a regular basis is essential. I’m not a fan of leaving a patient alone in an operating room. If the doctor leaves, the assistant can accompany them. And, if a patient appears unhappy or overwhelmed, ask them how you can assist them. Don’t wait for them to mention it. This type of personal touch and caring attitude will go far beyond gimmicks or flashy technology.
I hope these suggestions assist you in establishing effective practices in your office.
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