Without a doubt, you’re familiar with the motto “The customer is always right.” Today, we often talk about providing exceptional customer service.
“The customer is always right” is attributed to Harry Gordon Selfridge, who founded the Selfridge department store in London around 1908. He made it a priority to provide the best service possible to all his customers.
Selfridge was an innovator, ahead of his time. He regularly used the now famous slogan in his advertising. By focusing on providing a pleasant and enticing shopping experience, his store was unique.
Shopping in his store was an experience, not a chore. His store was among the first to provide a space where women could feel comfortable in public and enjoy themselves. He transformed the drudgery of shopping into the enjoyable experience it is today.
“The customer is always right” implies that the customer is important to the business, will be respected, and treated fairly.
And without a doubt, customers are critically important to any business.
For starters, every business and practice needs customers. A practice without a patient, a customer, is like a fish without water; neither can exist for long without the other.
But once your business has acquired a customer, the question is how do you retain that customer?
The easiest way to do this is by delivering exceptional care and customer service. When customer service is done right, your patients want to continue to see you and do business with you.
But there are additional reasons why businesses and practices want to deliver quality customer service to their patrons. Some of them include:
Customer Service: Lower Acquisition Cost
Even though I’ve already touched on it, it’s worth repeating: exceptional customer service encourages customer retention.
So why is it important to retain current customers or patients? Wouldn’t it be just as easy to bring new patients into the practice? Well, if you’ve been in practice for a while, you know one of the biggest challenges is acquiring new patients.
No matter the industry, getting new customers for the business is expensive. That’s why it’s far less expensive to retain your current customers instead of constantly having to find new ones.
Customer Service: Rise Above The Crowd
There are probably many things differentiating you from other offices in the area. Perhaps they include things like:
- Convenient location
- Early morning or evening office hours
- Weekend appointments once a month
- A special service unique to your office
- Someone in your office speaks a second language
Regardless what makes you different from other offices, providing exceptional customer service should always be part of the mix
Patients pay attention to how they are treated in your office. If they feel they’ve been ignored or treated unfairly, they may decide to find a new provider.
Why not include providing exceptional customer service as an explicit goal for your office, for example: “We deliver exceptional experiences to all our patients!”
Customer Service: Creates Good Will
Consistently delivering exceptional customer service to your patients creates good will. It’s like putting money in the bank.
In the event something should go wrong, the person who has consistently experienced great customer service from your office is far more likely to be understanding and work with you.
Compare this to the person who had a string of bad experiences in your office. That person is dissatisfied and may consider suing you when something goes wrong. That’s why a “happy patient or customer” can go a long way.
Customer Service: It’s Marketing
When you consistently deliver quality customer service, the word gets out; you can’t stop it!
Unless your office is an STD clinic, happy and satisfied patients tend to talk to their family and friends about you. In essence, they will do the marketing for you.
What’s the big deal; what’s the benefit?
A recommendation coming from a friend or family member will outrank any advertising, every time. So let your happy and satisfied patients do the marketing for you.
Customer Service: Creates Positive Space
When a business or a practice truly values its customers, the attitude creates a positive work environment. You expect the best from your team, and they are willing and prepared to give their best in return.
Almost by default, the workplace becomes more supportive and enjoyable for everyone. Not only do customers feel appreciated and valued, but so do your employees.
As you can see, there are compelling reasons for consistently delivering exceptional customer service. This begs the question, how do you do that?
Well, I could give you a mile-long list of clever things to do when creating your customer service strategy.
But really, it comes down to this. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you!”
Very simple, but very powerful!
So here’s what I think is important to include in an exceptional customer service strategy.
- Be attentive to your patients:
- don’t ignore patient standing at the front desk
- inform them of delays
- give them options to reschedule
- let them know you value their time
- Listen to the concerns of your patients
- Read between the lines
- Pay attention to the small remark
- Set clear expectations
- Communicate clearly
- Pay attention when patients tell you about a problem
- Take their concerns seriously
- Communicate you want to know about problems
- Let them know you will investigate
Does that mean you’ll do anything and everything patients want you to do… a prescription for the purple pills, more antibiotics, another procedure?
No, course not.
However, it means you’ll take the time and explain the reasons behind your decisions. In general, most patients will be fine with your decision, as long as they’ve received an explanation.
Giving consistent, exceptional customer service doesn’t equal giving in to everything someone wants or demands. Nor does it mean tolerating rude or unacceptable behavior.
It simply means, showing your appreciation and respect for the people you serve.
We’d love to hear from you… Tell us what you do to provide exceptional customer service to your patients.
By Johanna Hofmann, MBA, LAc; regular contributor to the NPBusiness blog and author of “Smart Business Planning for Clinicians.”