Creating a Customer Service Culture
Let’s visualize your practice as a puzzle, and all the elements that make up your practice are the pieces. Your services are pieces of the puzzle, one piece for chiropractic, one for massage, one for rehabilitation…you get the picture. There are also pieces for your products, supplements, equipment, and so on. There are pieces for your competitive and fair pricing and financing. Finally, you have pieces for the qualified, talented, and pleasant staff and providers that you have hired to care for your patients. When all of these pieces come together, you have the picture of your practice.
Now that we have the picture together, let’s look and see what makes your picture unique. What piece do you have that no one else has? The products, services, and prices are not unique to your practice; other practices could always try to match you. Other practices have qualified, talented, and friendly people. What can make your picture truly standout and shine? The answer isn’t in the pieces. The answer is in the frame. If you frame your picture in an exceptional customer service culture, it encompasses every piece. This frame sets you apart.
So, what can you do to create this amazing culture of customer service excellence? It’s not as easy as simply hiring nice people. Exceptional customer service needs to be included in every aspect of your daily practice. You must actively listen to the needs and concerns of your patients. People want to be heard, and they want to know that their individual interests and needs are a priority to you and your practice. When your patients feel appreciated and valued, they not only continue care, they refer others to your practice as well.
I know it can be overwhelming as you try to meet all the individual needs of your patients, but I assure you, by following a process designed to engage people and encourage proactive communication and problem solving, you can accomplish this in your practice.
No matter the circumstance or the practice, there are 8 Golden Rules of Customer Service that apply. These rules are to be kept in mind through every interaction.
Golden Rules of Customer Service
- Great every patient with a smile. (In person AND on the telephone!)
- Call each patient by his/her name.
- Respond to patients with speed.
- Respond to patients with accuracy.
- Never say or think, “It’s not my job.”
- Be a good listener.
- Identify and anticipate the needs of each patient.
- Treat each patient as you would want to be treated
The 5 Forbidden Phrases
There are 5 Forbidden Phases that can completely derail exceptional customer service. Let’s look at the correct way to handle these situations, and what to say instead.
- Instead of saying: “I don’t know.” Say: “That is a good question. Let me find out for you.”
- Instead of saying: “I/We can’t do that.” Be positive and say: “This is what I/we can do.”
- Instead of putting the responsibility on the patient by saying: “You’ll have to….” Take initiative and say: “I/We will…”
- When asking a patient to wait, don’t say: “Just a second.” Give a more honest estimate of time.
- Instead of saying: “No.” Find a way to state the situation positively.
So now that we’ve covered the basics of what to do and what not to do, let’s address a very important, everyday customer service interaction: answering the telephone.
For many of us talking on the telephone is a commonplace, everyday occurrence, so we may not realize how much impact this activity can have. Projecting the proper telephone persona is extremely important in any business, including your practice. Although the majority of phone calls will be fielded by the back office, it is everyone’s responsibility to answer the phones.
Before you answer the phone, you need to be prepared. Answer the call promptly, by the second or third ring. Smile as you pick up the phone to help you project a tone that is friendly, enthusiastic and natural. Assume your telephone voice, controlling your volume and speed, and focusing on speaking clearly. Greet the caller appropriately by identifying yourself and asking how you may assist them. Ask: “To whom am I speaking?” and “How may I help you?” Refer to the caller by name frequently throughout the call. Should you need to place the caller on hold, return to the call every 45 to 60 seconds.
You should try to assist the caller to the best of your ability, but in the rare instance that you should have to transfer a call, avoid the use of the word “transfer.” Instead say: “I am going to connect you with…” Give the caller the person’s name and direct number in the case that you are disconnected. Inform the person to whom you are transferring who is calling and why. You don’t want the caller to have to restate their question or problem.
If you must take a message, indicate the period of time the person will be unavailable. For instance, “Mary is out of the office at the moment, she will be back at 2:00.” Write down all of the important information given: name, telephone number and the message. Ask for clarification if necessary. Read back what you have written to be sure you’ve understood the message correctly. Finally, be sure to deliver the message in a timely fashion.
Handling an Upset Patient
In an ideal world we are able to make every patient happy and satisfied every day, but unfortunately, this is not always the case. When you encounter an upset patient, it is extremely important that you acknowledge that person and his/her concerns in a positive way. I use the acronym P.L.E.A.S.E to teach my clients and their staff how to react in this situation: Listen, Empathize, Apologize, Positive, and Solve.
Always state what you CAN do for the patient rather than telling them what you CAN’T do.
Allow the patient to vent and listen attentively to what they are saying. Do not interrupt them or begin to speak until they have had their say.
Acknowledge the patient’s feelings. Make sure that your tone of voice is in sync with your words.
Even if the problem is not your fault, you can say “I am really sorry that this happened,” and mean it.
Generate and suggest solutions that you can solutions that you can both agree on and/or ask what you can do to help. If the patient makes a reasonable suggestion, do it! If not, find a compromise.
Finally, you should always go the extra step and follow up on the solution. Contact the patient again to make certain that the issue has been handles in a manner that is satisfactory to them, and ensure that they are pleased with the outcome. Remember to ask if there is anything else that you can do for them. Taking the time to ask this question often results in increased business and a more committed patient.
When you frame your practice in the elements of an exceptional customer service culture, your practice will truly stand out amongst all others. How you approach everyday occurrences, patient interaction and even patient complaints, shows that your level of care, commitment and attention rises above the rest.