Speaker, Author, Consultant, Fraud Examiner

Customer service in every industry is struggling, most often due to financial burdens. In healthcare, insurance companies have reduced practice profitability by creating cumbersome hurdles, delaying payments and charging patients exorbitant monthly fees. The practice must not only focus on providing quality treatment now but also deliver sincere patient care. At the end of the day, great customer service means increased patient retention.

So, how do we as professionals and business owners make sure we’re delivering the same customer service we’d like to receive?  There are four simple tips to implement in your practice to improve your customer relations!

A lack of customer service gains nothing but bad reviews.

First, let’s address why we should be concerned with customer service. Recently, a friend made a FaceBook post saying they would not return to their dentist because of the practice’s customer service. Not only was she not greeted, but the front desk employee didn’t even bother to put down her cell phone. Next came the assistant who walked her back to the treatment room. Again, nothing was said. Not until she was seated did the assistant say to her, “the doctor will be with you shortly,” and then promptly left. Then the dentist walked in and immediately started talking about what she was there to have done.

People will frequent where they are valued.

Now, I know the story is solely from her perspective, but even if only 50% of it is true, that is still 50% too much. Valuing customers and patients is what will separate our businesses and practices from the rest.  Caring for others does not require much effort. Do not forget that customers essentially give us existence; they are the source of our jobs and paychecks that allow us to own cars, buy groceries, and drive through Starbucks. So, without further ado, let’s get into the tips.

1. Greet your customers/clients/patients with enthusiasm.

Don’t simply phone the greeting in. Go the extra step, make eye contact and give a sincere smile. Train your employees by modeling friendly behavior to your clients/ patients. But be sincere and intentional in your care. Learn about their families or hobbies. Check your schedule for the next day to see who may need an extra smile. Or maybe you haven’t heard from a patient in a while. Send them a personal note and let them know you are missing them. NO ONE sends personal, handwritten notes anymore. In a sea full of emails, dare to be different.

2. Store cell phones away from any patient or work area.

If there is a family emergency, then the family can call the practice, not the employee’s cell phone. Work time is set aside for work. If a customer/client/patient is in your presence, get OFF the phone and greet them. If you don’t already have a  no phone policy in the office, set one up now and stick to it!

3. Keep to your schedule.

One of my mother’s doctors was notoriously late. The receptionist confided in me that though my mother had the first appointment of the day and was required to be there at 8:30 a.m., the doctor most often did not come in until 10 a.m. The reason for his tardiness? He liked to sleep in.  At the second appointment, I asked him directly about his being late. He mumbled something about how doctors are always late, as if that was a satisfactory excuse. I changed her doctor after that. I was okay if he wanted to sleep in, but then his first appointment needed to be scheduled accordingly. That let me know he didn’t care about his patients time or long they had to wait.

4. Be mindful of everything posted on social media.

Once something is posted anywhere, it lives on the internet forever.  I have seen Facebook rants complaining about a client call. It does not matter if the client’s (or patient’s) name was said, regardless, it made me wonder what they were saying about their other clients, including me. Social media makes having a private life difficult. While we all need a good rant now and again, some rants should stay off the internet.

Caring for your customers/clients/patients is an act of kindness when done sincerely. How refreshing it would be to have someone look up from their monitor, smile, and greet the next person. It can be accentuated by even just lifting your hands off the keyboard and leaning forward. As you smile, light up your eyes in acknowledgment. These are small signifiers that whomever you are talking with has your full attention. And it makes a huge difference.

You never know when a person you greet may need that act of kindness. Hopefully, somewhere in some way, that kindness will be returned to you!

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