Practice Management Articles
CUSTOMER SERVICE: The Other Medical Specialty
Survey results printed in a national publication indicated that customers believe there to be a marked decrease in quality customer service over the last 5 years. Among the top 10 areas, the medical office ranked number four (4).
As healthcare professionals, we have the unique opportunity to impact every aspect of our patient's lives. We are involved throughout their growth and development, and in many cases, deal with intimate and confidential issues of which may lead to feelings of embarrassment, anger, withdrawal, denial and depression.
So why is customer service so important to a patient who goes to the doctor specifically for medical care? In order to understand the true meaning of customer service, let us first examine the words "Receptionist" and "Customer Service Specialist". It is a given that the suffix "-ist" suggests "expert" or "specialist" in reference to the preceding root word. For example, an "Oncologist" is a specialist or expert in "Oncology"; similarly, a "Cardiologist" is a specialist or expert in "Cardiology". Thus, given these examples, then "Receptionist" and a "Customer Service Specialist" suggest specialization and expertise in "Reception" and "Customer Service". It is quite apparent and no secret that our patients expect us to "diagnose" and "treat" their feelings and appeal to their senses accordingly. After all, the actual treatment of medical conditions and disease processes are relatively constant; however, the service to our customers (patients) is not. We must recognize that healthcare treatment is multi-faceted, and, with the changes in reimbursement and higher level of information available to the patient, customer service is becoming the source of keeping patients and conversely, losing them.
Here are a few steps in the right direction:
- Remember! 93% of all communication is non-verbal. Recognize changes in your patient's behavior and/or sudden changes in attitude. Don't assume that they are just mean or rude.
- Keep lines of communication open with the patient. Have a customer satisfaction box available for comments. Remember! It is better that you hear from your disgruntled patient before someone else does.
- Get to the source of the problem. Why are they behaving this way? Is there something I can do to fix the problem? If I can't, who can?
- Educate your patients before problems arise. Let them know what your policies are, and don't make promises that you can't keep.
- Let them know that they are not a burden to you by smiling and thanking them for coming.
- Remember that we are all traveling down the same road. Treat how you want to be treated, serve how you want to be served.
- Treat your customers with "ECG": Empathy - Caring - Gratitude