By Peter J. Cass, OD
May 25, 2016
We are in a service business. Our success is directly tied to how well we meet customer (or in our case patient) needs–and to do that we need to continually measure the patient experience and improve our processes and services to increase patient loyalty.
New tools, such as SolutionReach, help us better survey our patients, along with Yelp, Facebook and Google Reviews, which provide easy, low-to-no-cost ways of tracking patient satisfaction.
A system for getting a constant stream of feedback from patients, to know their level of satisfaction, and then make changes, allows you to consistently improve. You also can spotlight patients who were impressed with their experience to generate positive online reviews, and spread the word throughout your community about your practice.
My practice sends a survey to every patient after their exam through SolutionReach, with about one response per day coming back to us. Among other changes, this feedback from patients enabled us to make three recent changes: We changed the way we present fees and co-pays to make it easier to understand; we take more time to explain procedures to patients; and we have decreased wait times in the office.
Low Cost, Big Return
Most of the data collection that we use is inexpensive and has a high return on investment. The electronic surveys we use are included as part of our patient engagement software, SolutionReach, so have no additional cost is associated with them. Our other major tool, social media, can generally be managed at no cost, or can be assigned to a staff member at little cost in time and money.
Much of the monitoring of our online reviews and patient satisfaction surveys is automatic. Google, Facebook, Yelp and SolutionReach all notify us when a patient leaves a review or response. My office manager or I review the notifications as soon as we receive them. If the response is positive, we usually post a quick thank you, while if the response is negative, we carefully respond following our three-step guidelines (1. Acknowledge the problem, 2. Apologize, 3. State how we intend to correct it).
For serious breakdowns in customer service we take the time to make a phone to the patient as soon as we see the review. Fortunately, those calls only take a few minutes and happen very infrequently. Before our monthly staff meeting (where we review customer service) I always take the time to go through and review every survey and personally respond to any that we may not have already (even the good ones). It only takes 10-to-20 minutes, but it lets patients know that we are actively reviewing and responding to their input.
Reviews such as these, gathered through SolutionReach, spotlight patient testimonials. Dr. Cass says such reviews help his practice to keep tabs on patient experiences.
Seek Patient Feedback
We use patient surveys and social media to help us keep our pulse on the patient experience, and, ultimately, to generate referrals from patients.
We actively manage our social media pages including: Yelp, Google and Facebook. Each of these sites allow a business owner to claim, or create, a page for the business. Personalizing the page, adding our own images, and our own content, helps boost the visibility of the page. We also actively post to our Facebook page and manage and respond to reviews on all three sites.
Our surveys are electronic and automatically posted to the web. They show up in Google searches, so we manage them heavily and respond to every one, good or bad. Our responses to good surveys usually include a thank you and a reference to something in the review.
Respond & Improve
The best source for referrals have been patients that were treated well and provided exceptional service. We try very hard to provide the best service to everyone who walks through the door. Patients notice that level of service, and it differentiates us from other providers, and generates referrals.
We like to keeps things lighthearted, and often tell patients “If you have a problem, tell us, and give us an opportunity to fix it. If you had a great experience, tell someone else.” I have also informed my staff that anytime a patient mentions that they had a great experience, or enjoyed their visit, we should hand them several business cards and ask them to refer friends and colleagues.
For serious lapses in service we discuss the issue with any staff members involved, and I personally contact the patient to make a sincere attempt to repair the situation. Our responses to surveys are visible online, as well, and on more than one occasion patients have told me that they chose our office because of bad reviews online. By which patients mean they were impressed with our response to the negative review.
Let Patients View Comments From Other Patients
In addition to review sites, like Yelp, and social media, like Facebook, our practice makes it easy for patients to see reviews on our practice web site. This instills confidence in our practice, and encourages new appointments.
Reviews of the practice are appreciated by consumers. Dr. Cass says proactively managing online reviews like these allows him to keep patients satisfied, and even win over new ones.
Say Thank You to Patients
Thank you cards can be purchased for less than $1 each, and business cards for less than 10 cents each. While each of these methods are low cost, they can significantly boost referrals.
Our thank-you cards are simple and let patients know that we appreciate their trust in our practice and their referrals. Anytime a patient mentions that they were referred, we immediately make a note and address a card. My assistant fills out the cards and I personally sign each of them, often including a personal note of my own.