Customer service seems like an obvious concern in practice, we are health care practitioners after all. But are we really achieving the best customer service and client care we can?
Being a health care practitioner sets us apart from so many other industries based on the word care in the title. Us caring types want to make a difference in the lives of the people we work with.
We are so committed to this end that we spend countless hours training and learning our modality but we spend little time on understanding or training ourselves in customer service skills. For my mind customer service is queen. You can be the best practitioner in the world and provide the most amazing results but if your care begins and ends at the treatment then I guarantee you will fail.
By providing quality customer service we build a greater rapport and trust with our clients. As they are putting hard earned money on the table the expectation becomes one of a complete service that hopefully exceeds their expectations.
What is customer service?
Quite simply customer service is the assistance and care you provide to the patients of your practice and those people who enquire about your services. To me customer service is really about the act of service, meeting the needs of every person who connects with you the best possible way every time. This is about making sure that at every point of contact we provide the best level of attention and care we can to the people we are trying to help. By providing good customer service in healthcare we:
- helps to build a greater level of trust
- build a connection between you and the person you want to help
- adapt what you provide to meet the needs of the individual
Why does customer service matter?
You have all had an experience that you consider bad customer service. In some cases you regale that experience over and over again to people you speak with. You know what they say, ‘have a good experience you tell one person but have a bad one and you tell ten.’ So good customer service means more positive things being said about your healthcare practice and less negative ones. This is one aspect but to me it goes deeper than that. Poor customer service means we let someone down, we failed to look after them in the best way we possibly could, we failed to meet their needs. When we are dealing with healthcare this means someone goes out into the world without having their problem attended to. I don’t know about you but that makes me cringe. Healthcare is something that is so close to everyones hearts, so personal and vital for our ability to be at our best in the world. To let someone down here is potentially a deep wound. We also run the risk of letting our industry down because as a healthcare practitioner in our modality we are a representative of that industry.
So what were the issues that occurred in your experience of bad customer service?
- Were you ignored?
- Were you addressed casually?
- Did you feel safe?
- Did you feel respected?
- Did you understand the scope of the service?
- Was the service adapted to meet your needs?
- Was the service slow?
- Were mistakes made? Could these have been avoided?
- Did you know what to do after the service was provided?
What is the patient centred care approach?
Patient centred care is a way of creating stronger connections, better education, better healthcare outcomes and improved safety within the care that you provide to your clients. It works on the premise of recognising that the person you are working with is an integral part of their own healthcare process and should be included in every step of that process. This enables you the practitioner to be sure to meet the needs of the people you are trying to help.
It can be very easy to fall into the trap of doing things the way that works best for you without considering the impact this may have on your clients. Patient centred care ensures you are always listening to feedback from your clients and educating them about what you are doing and why. Patient centred care means you are providing your clients with the level of respect we all deserve. It also leads to better customer service, happy clients and a happier you.
How do you provide good customer service in practice
Here are 5 key caring customer (client, patient) service tips:
Whether we like it or not people do judge us by our appearance particularly when they are paying you. Looking professional and presentable is showing your clients and prospective clients respect. Keeping your workspace clean, tidy and organised shows you as a professional paying attention to the finer details. If you pay attention to these things then it assumes you do so in your treatments as well.
- Customer Communication
Make sure in all of your communication you provide all of the relevant information. Answer the questions, provide fees, payment methods, health fund rebate information, consultation duration, available appointments, condition explanations, treatment plan, advice etc. The more information you provide, as succinctly as possible the less hiccups are likely to occur. Effective communication is like watching a world-class ice skater. It looks easy and seamless but it takes a lot of planning and preparation.
- Managing Complaints
Deal with any complaints or issues head on. A dissatisfied customer can do irreparable damage to your reputation whether it is legitimate or not. Acknowledge their issue and work out with them what you can do to resolve it. Even if the issue was not your fault if they think it was then that’s what they will tell everyone.
- Delivery of service
Don’t make promises or guarantees as regardless of how good you are you will eventually not meet them. I always talk to my clients about ‘in my experience this is what we can expect. However I would be foolish to give you a guarantee’. Make sure your clients’ expectations are reasonable. We have all had the client who tells the story about their grandmothers hip problem that was solved in one treatment and again no matter how good you are this is not always the case. Educating clients around reasonable expectations means everyone knows the playing field leaving you to get on with the job of helping your client.
It means just that. Providing everyone with the best service you can in any way possible. Calling a taxi for someone, providing a referral for someone who you can’t fit in, checking in on clients who may be struggling, providing good quality information sheets, smooth booking process, Electronic payments and health fund claiming, getting back to people quickly, email or text message reminders, remembering the little things like anniversaries etc, doing what you say you will do and providing the best environment and experience possible with what you have.
I’ve been in practice now for 23 years and to be honest while I know I am good at what I do I know and have known others who would leave me in their dust. The difference is my strong focus on customer service as well as my skills. The result has always been a very busy practice despite living in many different locations.
Take some time to look at your practice and your customer service approach. What could you improve? How can you provide that extra special experience for the people you want to help? I guarantee it is worth it.
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