Customer Service as a Marketing Tool

Health care practices are not generally known for their customer service. In fact, more often than not, they are known for its lack thereof. We all know that patients talk about our practices. If that talk is good…it’s great for marketing. However, if it’s not good…it can do a great deal of damage to your practice. There are lots of ways to encourage good reviews and favorable referrals to your practice. One of the best ways to get patients talking positively about your Nurse Practitioner business is with excellent customer service.

Picture this: You go into your provider’s office. You don’t feel well and you hope that you can just get in and get out before you have to pick up your kids from school. You are a bit grumpy by the time you walk in the door…parking was horrible and now you see the waiting room is full and there are crying kids. The receptionist does not seem to know you are supposed to be there even though you spoke with her two hours ago. When she tells you (without even looking at you) the NP is running behind, you turn around to see the only available chair is next to a screaming 2 yr old, who obviously feels as bad as you do. So begins your wait.

Without going further into this scenario, I’m sure you can already see several issues that should be corrected immediately. As time drags on, this is one patient who will be less happy with her visit to you today, and aside from telling her friends about her horrible experience, she just may find a new provider.

So what can you do to help insure that your patients receive excellent customer/patient care?

• Make your patients feel welcome. If you have anything other than a walk in clinic, your patients should be expected. Make them feel so with a warm welcome.
• Drop the “waiting room” and refer to it as your reception area or another appropriate term.
• Keep your patients updated on any wait times. Offer them the opportunity to reschedule if necessary.
• Consider making your reception area more comfortable. What’s the temperature like? Is it clean? Is there water available? What about tea and coffee? In keeping up with the times, consider making Wi-Fi available. Avoid loud TV’s that are tuned into game shows. If you must have the TV going, tune it to appropriate viewing.
• Encourage an office culture that treats each patient as if this was the most important person they will see that day. Listen to them.
Of course there is so much more you can do both in the front and back office of your practice, but this is a good start to making changes in your office. Your patient’s want to be comfortable in your office. They want to like you and your staff.

Consider this question: “How can I delight you today?” I was asked that question once by a customer service rep. It stopped me in my tracks and made me a loyal customer. I’d love to see you do that in your practice.

Remember: Excellent customer service + Happy Patients = Excellent Marketing ROI.

(c) 2011 Barbara C Phillips, NP

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