By Mark Wright, OD, FCOVD,
and Carole Burns, OD, FCOVD
June 12, 2019
Your patients deserve both great care and a great office experience. Here’s how to ensure you give it to them, so they return and refer others to you.
A patient who has a positive experience is more likely to become both a repeat and loyal customer. Repeat business is the heart and soul of every successful practice. If we want our practices to grow, the starting place is to have current patients return. If we are hemorrhaging current patients, then new patients just fill the holes created by current patients who go elsewhere.
Loyal patients are the holy grail of practice management. Having satisfied patients is not enough in today’s world. Satisfied patients can be lured away from our practices, whereas, loyal patients will stay with us through thick and thin. The reality of life is that sometimes – hopefully not often – we will drop the ball, we will make mistakes. A loyal patient will forgive us and stay with us.
This is why we need to put systems in the practice that make sure that we are delivering excellent customer/patient experiences at every step of the patient journey. Successfully managing the patient experience is essential because it puts our focus exactly where it should be – on the patient.
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A Brandwatch study looked at millions of customer opinions and analyzed them based on three facets: of the customer journey:
• The emotions a brand elicits
• The value of the company
• The service the company provides
The study evaluated factors like emotion elicited, perceived value and service provided. Five common mistakes were discovered that are holding us back from achieving the patient experience we want.
Failure to respond to feedback
Our patients are telling the world about us by using review sites, complaints and suggestions. We must make sure that we are tuned into this feedback. We must respond publicly to negative Google reviews or a negative statement on Facebook. We need to make sure we are listening carefully to what our patients are telling us. We have to be careful to not make the mistake of only responding to this feedback by making superficial changes rather than responding to the underlying needs of our patients. By not responding appropriately, this valuable feedback data is wasted and our patient experience does not get better.
Slow design updates
Our patients interact with us in a variety of spaces. They interact with us from first touch to last touch and every supporting step in between. Understanding this means that we must manage the patient experience in each of our various patient communication channels. When was the last time we updated our digital media, our optical, our on-hold message, or even our exam room? Without updates, patients get bored. This drives them to seek a new and better experience in a different practice.
Failure to support front-line staff
Front-line staff provide more than just service to our patients. Front-line staff are the human connection between our patients and our brand. They act as the face of our practice as the patient moves through the patient journey. They also gather on-the-ground insights and can make suggestions on how to improve the patient experience that we might not otherwise have discovered. We need to make sure that we are always seeking out ways to support our staff through resources, listening, training and ensuring our employees have the power to solve problems. This sets up healthy experiences for both our employees and our patients.
Lack of internal consistency
How consistent is our patient experience? Have we worked out what we want to happen at each step of the patient journey? That means everything – the order, the words to use, the pictures to see and the sounds to hear.
Sales, marketing, service, technology and staffing must all work together seamlessly every time with every patient. There’s a reason this is important. A Harvard Business Review study found that omni-channel customers, for whom the experience was consistently high, spent an average of 4 percent more on every shopping occasion and 10 percent more online than single-channel customers. In today’s world, we can safely assume that most, if not, all of our patients are omni-channel customers.
Losing sight of the customer
Apple CEO Tim Cook talked about a healthy CX mindset by saying: “I view a stock price to be a result of doing other things well. And so for us, that means focusing on customer experience—making sure our customers are happy—and it means making the best products.”
It would be easy for a tech company like Apple to lose focus of the customer and focus instead on the technology. But what about us? Is it easy to do business with us? Are we open when it is convenient for the patient? Do we make it easy for the patient to pay? Are we focused on the patient experience to the level we should? A simple question to ask about everything we do in the practice is: “Does this best serve my patient?” This question helps reveal the places in the practice where we can do a better job of improving our patient experience, and ultimately, delighting our patients.