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Communication is at the Heart of Customer Service

Have you ever considered what your patients see, hear and feel when they come to your office?  Providers know how to give excellent care but is that enough to keep them as a patient?  From the patient’s perspective what is good customer service?  Linda Scheele, a contributing writer, provided insight into good customer service through the eyes of a patient.  It is definitely worth sharing.

By Linda Scheele, Contributing Writer

You’ve heard it said that real estate is all about “location, location, location.” But when it comes to customer service, it’s all about “communication, communication, communication.” Professional and personal relationships succeed or fail based on how well you communicate.

In a physician’s office, your team is already starting from a point of disadvantage because a patient is arriving at your door with an illness or injury. They may already be in pain or anxious about the visit. Those first impressions from a patient’s point of view are critical. A patient feels welcome, safe, and cared for when there is good communication.

First impressions. Whether the first point of contact is the practice’s website, or a call to the receptionist, tone and language matter.

  • A website that is professional, well organized, and easy to navigate, instills confidence in a patient. The underlying messages are “These people know what they’re doing” and “This office makes it easy for me to … schedule an appointment … see their locations and office hours … understand their services.”
  • Personal contact with the receptionist, nurse, or doctor, is just as important in building confidence in patients. A patient feels welcome and, even special, when you remember their name as they walk through the door. Good eye contact is important. If you multi-task while the patient is speaking with you, it sends the message that you’re too busy for them and don’t really care. It also sends subtle messages like the office is too busy and not well organized.

Safety. In these days of COVID-19, communicating safety begins with the office following guidelines. A patient isn’t usually upset by having their temperature taken upon entering the office, or being required to wear a mask, etc. In fact, it helps them feel protected and assured that their safety is your number one priority.

Respecting time. Communication also comes in the form of respecting the patient’s time. Letting them know that the doctor is running behind, as soon as they arrive, helps them know what to expect. They don’t start wondering whether you forgot to call them, or if they are ever going to be seen by the doctor. On days when the doctor is way behind schedule, calling the patients ahead of time to see if they want to reschedule, also shows that you respect their time spent traveling to and from the office.

Non-verbal communication. Communication is also about knowing when not to communicate. A patient feels respected and protected when the office or physician manages privacy matters such as healthcare and finances with the utmost care and confidence. This is especially important at the front desk because the patient doesn’t want everyone in the waiting room to know about their ailment, or that they are having trouble paying their bill. Speaking with them out of earshot of others, or speaking more softly, lets them know you care.

An office that communicates well with its patients is an office where patients and staff thrive, patients refer family and friends, and the practice does well.

George Bernard Shaw once said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

Trying Times Are Times for Trying

I know everyone gets lots of emails, blogs and webinar invites but I thought this one was particularly interesting and spot on.  It’s a quick read but well worth giving it some thought: Pandemic Customer Service … It still matters (Courtesy of WW Payment Systems)

Has your organization, department or team used COVID as a reason for less than your usual performance?  Are you waiting around for the pandemic to be over and for things to return the way they were in January and February 2020?  What is the status of your business plan?

If you are waiting, hoping and expecting things to go back to ‘the way they were’ then you are missing an opportunity.  As this article indicates, now is the time to commit to going above and beyond to being better at everything you do because an excuse is a reason for failure.  There is no better time to ‘think outside the box’.

Here are some examples of those who have picked up the pieces and tried harder.

  • The flight attendant that has added very expressive hand gestures and happy body language to the pre-flight instructions.  Sure, it is a little thing, but it brings a smile to your face and you know she is trying;
  • The piano teacher who was initially locked out of her studio but quickly contacted her students and explained how lessons could continue via Zoom.  She has now expanded that to be a virtual studio by incorporating other musicians and providing a venue for them to offer lessons, as well;
  • The restaurant owner who not only expanded to outside dining but then started lunch bag drop-off to hospitals and other businesses that were open, and the employees had nowhere to go eat lunch;
  • The tutor who met students in the park for 1:1 tutoring because the remote education just doesn’t work for all students.

I know there are hundreds/thousands more examples of those who haven’t let the pandemic hold them back.

What have you, your team or your company done to keep moving forward during these challenging times?

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