[Today’s article was written by Lindsey Dahlberg.]
Many people in the health industry have neglected the customer experience for far too long. It’s been easy to believe that specialized knowledge will allow your business to succeed. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy anymore.
People have options when it comes to healthcare—whether it’s a dental office, yoga studio, clinic, acupuncture center, pharmacy, etc—and the way you treat your patients can have a drastic impact on whether or not they decide to return. Since it’s much easier to convince someone to return to any business than it is to convince someone new to come in, it’s essential that you provide everyone with an experience they appreciate.
The most important thing you can do is encourage your staff to listen. Many healthcare providers are rushed. Don’t let that be an excuse to half-listen and half review a mental checklist. When patients are speaking, they need to have the full attention of your employees.
Patients will notice when someone takes an interest in what they have to say, and it is sure to be appreciated. Beyond that, it will help your employees do their job. When they listen intently, they’re more likely to catch the patient providing information that will make their diagnosis easier.
Smile (When Appropriate)
Your staff may feel stressed from the pressures of their job, but they need to show the patients their warm and friendly side. A smile can do a lot to put a patient at ease.
That being said, there are certainly moments when a smiling healthcare provider can be extremely inappropriate. Your employees will need to be able to discern the situation and respond appropriately.
Take Their Concerns Seriously
Given their position, it’s likely your staff understand the risks and benefits of certain procedures and medications better than the patients could ever hope to. Because of this, it’s often difficult to maintain a pleasant demeanor when a patient or the family disagree with suggestions.
Encourage your employees to take a step back and remember that, while they may understand the medical aspects better, the patients are the ones who will have to live with the consequences. This isn’t to say that your staff shouldn’t encourage patients to see their point of view, but it does mean that, ultimately, they have to respect their decision.
Remember Their Human Side
It’s easy to look at patients as a list of symptoms. This can even be a coping mechanism employees use to prevent them from becoming too emotionally involved with their patients. While it is important that they don’t become overly attached to anyone, they must also not make the mistake of dehumanizing patients.
People can tell when they are no longer seen as a person. What they can’t tell is that your intentions are good. If a patient believes you look at them as something less than human, they will assume you see them as paycheck, or worse, an annoyance.
Ensure a Clean Environment
There is no worse feeling than going to a doctor’s office or hospital that is cluttered, unorganized, and generally viewed as chaotic.
Even if everything is properly disinfected, a messy environment never inspires confidence. If you can’t be detailed enough to provide a clean environment, you’re patients will wonder what other areas are falling under your radar.
Provide a Comfortable Waiting Area
Make sure that patients and their families have a comfortable area to wait in. At the bare minimum, you need seats that are pleasant to sit in. Providing magazines and perhaps a television with the volume set reasonably low as entertainment is also a plus. If you can, providing an area that keeps children entertained will help you to win over many of the parents.
Your patients will be much more comfortable if they understand what is happening and why. While you can never expect them to have the type of knowledge you and your employees enjoy, you should still have an environment that is open.
Patients should be helped to understand the issues that are being faced, how your staff is working to address the problem and why you think this route will be the most effective.
Allow Customer Feedback
There are two main reasons that you should provide your customers with a venue to tell you about their experience. The first is that it gives you an opportunity to improve. When you see what you are doing that upsets your patients, you can change it. When you see what you’re doing that patients love, you’ll know to continue focusing your efforts in that direction.
The second reason is that people simply want to be heard. When someone is upset, they want to know that the decision-makers will be aware of their issue and will have the opportunity to improve the situation. In short, people want to matter.
Make Customer Service A Priority
In order for you to be a successful healthcare provider, you have to make sure your customers are happy. If you don’t, there’s a good chance they won’t return.
Healthcare is one of the most competitive industries. There are plenty of other doctors who are more than willing to help those patients you’ve alienated. Don’t let poor customer service turn away patients who need your help.
About the Author
Lindsey Dahlberg works for Amino Pharmaceuticals. She has learned first-hand how important customer service is. Whether she is providing information about lipotropic B12 injections to patients online or helping individuals in the clinic, Lindsey appreciates how important quality interactions are.
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