Insights From Our Editors

How to Get Patients to Stick With You

Oct. 25, 2017

Your patients may not have as much patience for sub-par service as you might think, Paul Greenberg, author of the best-selling CRM at the Speed of Light and president of The 56 Group, says. According to Greenberg, research shows that 55 percent of consumers are willing to pay more for a guaranteed good experience.

Eighty-six of consumers are willing to pay more for an upgraded experience. Air travel and hospitality are examples where up-selling better experiences can generate incremental revenue and bolster customer loyalty.

Click HERE to read 50 customer experience statistics for business leaders, which Greenberg shared with The Huffington Post last year.

Let’s explore the concept of Excellent Customer Service. How can we get this to happen in our practice? See if you have implemented all five of these steps in your practice:

Excellent Communication Skills
Everything starts with excellent communication skills. We often assume that our staff has at least adequate communication skills, but do we take the time to train them to have excellent communication skills? Let’s define communication skills as both verbal and non-verbal. Are smiles important? Yes, because a smile is a non-verbal essential communication skill. But equally important is knowing when to smile, and when not to.
Do you have at least annual training on how to have effective non-verbal communication skills?

Google announced in 2016, that after years of analyzing data from more than 100 teams, it found the secret ingredients for the perfect team. The secret ingredients are: emotional intelligence and a high degree of communication between team members. We need to make sure that our staff understands, and is proficient in, both emotional intelligence and communication skills.

Do you have at least annual training on emotional intelligence, and how to maximize effective communication between team members and patients?

Staff Proficiency
It’s not enough to just train staff. Staff must demonstrate proficiency after training and before they interact with patients. This is evident in the HIPAA training staff and doctors must go through each year. It’s not enough to just sit through HIPAA presentations; staff and doctors must past a test on the material and demonstrate proficiency with the content.

This same concept of proficiency testing during and after training should be part of all of our training programs. And when we find a staff member who let a skill set in some area slip, we need to have them go through a re-training program with a proficiency testing component. This process ensures our staff is at the top of their game when dealing with patients.

Do your staff (and patient) training programs have a proficiency component?


Prompt Service
We all hate to wait. All of us expect prompt service, especially if we have a scheduled appointment. A Federal Express commercial said: “Waiting is frustrating, demoralizing, agonizing, aggravating, annoying, time consuming and incredibly expensive.” We agree.

We should keep in mind this quote, which represents the feelings of our patients very well: “Once we are being served, our transaction with the service organization may be efficient, courteous and complete: but the bitter taste of how long it took to get attention pollutes the overall judgments that we make about the quality of service.”

The average patient spends at least 30 minutes waiting as they move through a comprehensive eye exam appointment. They wait 10 minutes to get called for pre-testing, they wait another 10 minutes for the doctor, then they wait still another 10 minutes for the optician to free up to assist them. What does this look like in your office?

Effective Problem Solving
The best way to think of our practices is that they are a combination of systems. The Business Dictionary defines a system as: “A methodical procedure or process that is used as a delivery mechanism for providing specific goods or services to customers.” We have systems for recall, systems for on-boarding staff, systems for helping a patient check out at the end of an exam … we should have systems for everything we do.

When a patient experiences a problem in the practice, one or more of our “systems” has broken down. It is not enough to just solve the problem for the patient. To have effective problem solving for all of our patients, we need to fix the underlying system that permitted the problem to occur in the first place. If we do not fix the underlying system problem, then we will face the same problem again with another patient. It may not be today or tomorrow, but it will occur again.

Have we thought through and written down every system we use in the office with a design in mind to provide excellent customer service?


Measure to Manage
Measure to manage should be our mantra for everything. There is a common saying in business that you cannot effectively manage what you don’t measure. This is true for customer service as well. The best question to ask your patients that will give a measurement of how well we are doing with customer service is called the Net Promoter Score, or NPS (this is also called The Ultimate Question).

To determine the NPS, you ask your patients this question: “How likely is it that you would recommend our practice to a friend or colleague?

The ideal NPS score would be 100% (i.e.: 100% Promoters – 0% Detractors).
The chart below gives examples of the NPS scores of different organizations.

The NPS score is a key measure of our patients’ overall perception of our practice brand. Once we know our NPS number, we can set in place a Customer Experience Program to improve our NPS score. Start with the goal of having an NPS score of 80, and then work to get this number as high as possible.

Here are additional interesting articles if you would like to read more on this topic:

The 10 keys of excellent customer service

What is excellent customer service?

10 examples of shockingly excellent customer service


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