Think right now about a customer service experience. Chances are that you immediately thought of a very good experience – or, perhaps, a very bad one. A good or bad experience can each leave quite the impression on a customer – and this is especially true in the world of healthcare.
There is a tendency in the healthcare field to feel that interactions with patients do not compare to interactions in customer service in other areas, such as retail. This is partially true – but only because interactions in healthcare are more important. When working with patients, you aren’t just selling a product that may last for a couple of years. You’re offering products and services that can contribute to a patient’s overall comfort and quality of life. When patients complain, it often deserves to be taken seriously, and deserves our attention.
Customer service issues are growing more relevant as patients begin taking advantage of resources such as the Internet. Review sites have guaranteed that healthcare practices can no longer exist in a bubble that’s isolated from customer service complaints. Now, a single review – good or bad – may be the deciding factor in where a patient brings their health concerns, and their business. To ensure that your practice is meeting the expectations of patients today, we recommend using the following four tips in your practice’s patient interactions:
Give Your Patients Your Full Attention
A common complaint throughout the healthcare world today is that medical experts do not give their patients the attention they feel they deserve. No matter how busy your day may be, taking the time to actively listen to and engage with a patient is a must. Consider this: imagine that a patient comes to your practice concerned about developing floaters or halos of light in their eyes. This can be a frightening experience for patients. Is someone in this state more likely to feel satisfied if they spend the meeting trying to talk to someone who is looking at a computer or a chart for 20 minutes? Or will they feel happier, more relaxed, and confident in their options and their health if they are able to ask questions, engage in meaningful discussion, and generally connect with their doctor?
Obviously, the second scenario is the one that will lead to a happier patient – and is the one you want to strive for during every interaction. The next time you’re in an appointment, actively take the time to put away any major distractions and to truly pay attention to your patients. It will make a big difference in their perception of you, your practice, and their appointment experience.
Communicate Clearly With Your Patients
Giving them understandable feedback is just as crucial as giving them your attention. Remember, the average patient who walks into your office has no medical training. Too much medical jargon could leave your patients feeling as though their appointment did not address their problems. They’ll leave feeling confused and dissatisfied because they didn’t understand what was happening to their bodies and health.
Overuse of jargon affects patients in many ways, both inside and outside of doctor’s offices. It’s a common problem – and one that can take some practice to overcome or work around.
Nonverbal communication also makes a difference. For example, did you know that not making eye contact can make your patients feel uneasy? Or even make them question your confidence in your professional capabilities? Because of this, no matter how busy your day may be, interacting with patients as you might during any polite conversation is a critical part of good customer service.
Listen To Your Patients’ Feedback
Patient feedback is one of the best ways to find out exactly what your practice is doing correctly and what it needs to improve on. If your practice is listed on a review site, use those reviews to examine possibilities for improving on your patient’s experience. You should respond to those reviews, too – a good response is a natural part of any customer service strategy. A “good response” in this case refers to an emphatic, well-crafted statement addressing the commenter directly. And as customer service and patient experience consultant Micah Solomon points out, “It’s best to immediately take the patient’s side. Have empathy for the patient’s position and train all…staff to respond to these situations with compassion and professionalism.”
But don’t limit yourself to the feedback that’s online. Setting up an internal feedback system through e-mail blasts or survey cards can also help you get the information you need to improve your customer service. And actively asking for patient feedback is a nice touch in general, as it shows that you are open to feedback and that you want your patients to talk about any issues they’ve experienced.
Aim To Provide Patient-Centered Care
As a general rule, practices should work to provide care that is respectful of and responsive to individual patient needs, and which ensures that a patient is involved in all of their clinical decisions. This is known as patient-centered care, and it is the best way your practice and staff can begin working to provide a top-notch customer experience in your practice.
While patients have not historically been viewed as customers, a 21st century patient is indeed a customer. And while these customers may not have the financial voting power of a retail customer, they do have the ability to “vote” for your practice with their words – and with their feet.
Has your practice recently adopted new customer service strategies? How have they affected your business? Share your story in the replies below.