Okay, let’s have some real talk, shall we?
As much as we’d hate to admit it, healthcare is known for subpar (terrible?) customer service. There are 2 ways we can look at this…
- You can be sad and frustrated that the industry that we love is known for poor customer service
- OR, you can see this as an opportunity for your practice! The bar has been set so low that even a few simple changes can turn your practice into THE-MUST-GO-TO practice in town!
To start, we need to stop comparing your service to the hospital or family physician in the next town. Being as good as them isn’t enough, because quite frankly, they are terrible at customer service.
You want to benchmark your healthcare customer service against the best service-intensive industries—it’s what your patients and their loved ones will compare you to anyway.
- Connect with your patients, and make them feel cared for
One of my favorite hotels to stay at is the Four Seasons.. Why? Because the people who work there remember my name, they greet me with a smile, they show interest (by asking about my kids) and they know things about me – that I prefer tea to coffee, I’m allergic to feathers, and so on.They provide a level of personalization that make me feel comfortable, and at home.
They know that at its core, the hospitality business is a fundamentally human process.
Healthcare is no different. At the center of effective care delivery is a connection between the provider and patient. Yet, in the past 25 years many pressures have eroded the quality of this human-to-human healing connection.
Your patients want to connect with you. This is why they will keep coming back to you and why they will proudly tell their friends and family about you.
There are several studies that show people will actually get better based on their relationship with their healthcare provider. In other words, feeling cared for by another human being has real, tangible therapeutic benefits.
Sounds great, you say, but I don’t have enough time. Believe it or not, connecting with patients is not a function of how much time you spend with them. Rather, its about empathizing with your patients. And in fact, research shows that effective empathetic expression actually saves time. The reason real empathy takes no extra time is that true empathy is not about an action. It’s not about a particular set of words or a way of sitting or how to touch a patient’s hand. It’s about a feeling. But first, you must give yourself permission to actually feel the empathic connection – the care in healthcare – is the secret to achieving this step.
- Delight your patients
“Deliver more than would be expected. Patients can get a prescription anywhere, but they can’t get that experience everywhere.”
–Sally Hogshead, Author of Fascinate: Your 7 Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation
A patient can go anywhere to get their healthcare needs met. If someone needs an antibiotic, they can go to a Minute Clinic. Heck, now you can use Doctor On Demand and not even leave your house—you can talk to a doctor on the other side of the globe and get a prescription in a snap.
This means you have to give your patients a reason to choose you as opposed to a less personalized service. The answer is in delighting your patients.
They want to walk into a clinic and have the person at the front desk smile and say, “Hi! It’s good to see you!” They want someone who asks about their kids.
They want somebody who follows up with them.
When I started my practice, we would call every patient 2 days after their visit to follow-up and see how they were feeling. As we grew, phone calls became more difficult, so we turned to an automated platform. We now use a secure messaging system that allows us to automate this follow-up. This is an example of delighting your patients by going above and beyond what other providers will do for them – making them feel seen, heard, and that someone cares.
Sending a follow-up text not only lets your patients know you care about them, but it also gives you important information as a healthcare provider: is the treatment working?
It’s such a small gesture, but it delights our patients. They can’t believe their healthcare provider takes the time to check on them. And it costs you no money and very little time, especially if done with software.
- Accommodate your patients online
No matter what company you’re trying to contact, waiting on the phone to talk to a customer service rep is annoying. I know I dread the thought of needing to call my cell phone carrier or – how about one we can all relate to – waiting on hold with insurance companies! Much to my pleasure, there’s a new trend emerging – the ability to message with customer service providers.
It turns out that customers would rather message with you ‘on-demand’ than wait on hold or for a callback. That’s why we use a secure communication system at my practice, which transcribes patient phone messages into text allowing our administrative staff to quickly answer patient questions or direct them to the appropriate provider (who can also respond via text!).
It’s private, secure, and meets all HIPAA regulations. It also allows patients to send us a message via text and get a response back within 2 hours (and usually faster), which is unheard of in our industry.
People don’t want to wait on the phone to talk to you—they want to feel cared for. Having a secure, on-demand, and communication platform signals to our patients that we’ve considered their needs and taken action to accommodate them.
- Gift your patients
When I first started my practice and I was making house calls, I put together several different care packages for the common ailments that led to urgent care visits.
Since it’s cold and flu season, let’s talk about my “URI box”.This box contained chicken broth, a travel-sized container of Kleenex, herbal cough drops, Vitamin D3, and Breathe Right nasal strips.
My “GI Box” contained probiotics, chicken broth, Pepto-Bismol tabs, and saltine crackers.
People love to receive gifts, no matter how small. The gift packages were not only thoughtful because they were specific to the problems my patients experienced, but they also reflected who we are as a company. We practice a more integrative, holistic approach to medicine, so items like the probiotics, Vitamin D3, and the chicken broth reflect who we are as a practice.
We included business cards as well so that patients could hand them out to their friends -because these care packages were something people talked about! Not only did we come to their house and help them feel better, we gave them a gift and two days later, we called them to see how they were doing, and then we sent a hand-written card to thanking them for being our patient.
People talk about THAT kind of customer service!
There are lots of different ways of delighting and raising the bar on your customer service for your patients—these are just a few of my examples. The bottom line is that patients want a relationship and a connection with you, a fellow human being, to make them feel cared for.
Your best marketing is word-of-mouth. When you stand out from the crowd with excellent customer service, your patients will do the work to bring more business your way.
Want to know my favorite tech tools that help save you time and keep your business running smoothly? Enter your email below to download my tech cheat sheet. Grab the best tools that will improve your productivity, operations, patient care, marketing, and work/life balance!