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Customer Service Lessons from the Health Care Industry

By Lori Miller (1175 words)
Posted in Customer Service on November 14, 2013

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I have noticed that some medical practices and hospitals have invested a lot of time, money and effort in creating newspaper ads, billboard signs and commercials that show the happy faces of care givers who can’t wait for the patients (customers) to come in.  I often wonder why the patient’s reality with medical customer service includes cranky receptionists, patronizing billing and insurance clerks, and those who can’t wait for their shift to be over. If they took the time to compare their promotional message with the message sent by their employees, they might realize that changes need to be made. Maybe you and your staff need a reality check too?  Here are some questions that those medical practices and hospitals should be asking.  Think about how they relate to your business.

 

Do Your Ads and Reality Match?

 

Ask yourself the following questions:


1) Does your receptionist also handle billing and insurance paper work?  This creates the opportunity for a bad patient experience because:

a) When someone is in the middle of paperwork they tend to ignore the person standing in front of them.  

b) People focused on paperwork tend to have a scowl on their face.

 

2) When you are hiring someone to talk to your patients over the phone, is phone voice a major consideration?  Overlooking the importance of voice creates the opportunity for a bad patient experience because:

a) Monotone, tired and stressed out voices give the impression your practice is outdated and provides mediocre care.

 

3) Do you handle the last patient of the day with the same enthusiasm and thoroughness you had as the day began?  If not, that creates the opportunity for a bad patient experience because:

a) You may be taking short cuts that affect the interaction with your patient and accuracy of your documentation.

b) You can hurt a patient’s feelings.  That patient will tell other people about the bad experience which affects your ability to grow.

 

Simple Fixes Help Improve Patient Experience


  1. Hire a receptionist that has great non-verbal communication skills and who loves to meet people.  This is traditionally a sales personality.  Building relationships with your patients should be the focus.  In traditional sales departments we would call that person a retention rep since their focus is on making current customers happy.  Have this person get out and talk to patients in the waiting area when there is time.  This builds rapport and helps overcome complaints for long wait times.

     

  2. Receptionists should not be doing paperwork or trying to handle phone calls during times when you have a lot of patients.  Have their focus be to love on your patients.  They can help out with other things if time permits.

     

  3. Conduct phone interviews to evaluate voice before you hire someone who needs to talk to your patients.  Do not hire people who have bad voices!

     

  4. Billing and insurance clerks must be held to the same standard of positive and caring patient care as the rest of the team.  Call monitoring and performance evaluations help not only with accountability, but provide details to coach and train them to improve.

     

  5. Check the number of overnight voice mail messages you have to make sure your hours of operation are convenient for your existing and future patients.  If someone must spend an hour or two to return calls each morning that is counter-productive.

     

  6. Make it a privilege to be the person entrusted to care for the last patients of the day.  Can you assign a front parking spot for those who fulfill these roles?  Small perks like that reinforce the importance of serving.

 

How you treat your last patient of the day says it all.  It defines you and your organization.


There was a time that I specifically asked for the last appointment of the day.  The receptionist checked me in without saying a word.  A woman in faded pink scrubs beckoned me to follow her to the exam room.  She forced a smile as she told me someone would be with me soon. I knew that “soon” usually meant 30 minutes, so I sat in a chair and began to read.  I could hear the nurses talking in the hallway and doors opening and closing.  It seemed as if I wasn’t the only one with a late afternoon appointment.  Thirty minutes turned into 45 and I noticed that things had become awfully quiet outside my door.  I decided to open the door of the exam room to flag down a nurse to see what the hold-up was.  Imagine my surprise when I found that the lights were off!  I sheepishly called out, “Hello?  Is anyone there?”  No response.  I spoke louder as I said, “Hello?  Did you forget about me?”  The office manager with keys in hand and her coat buttoned looked my direction and our eyes met.  I was hoping for a look of concern.   But, she slammed her keys on the counter and said, “You’re lucky the doctor hasn’t left yet.”   

 

In the end, if the glossy photographs in your brochure or used on your website don’t measure up to the actual customer experience, your bad reputation will grow and your business will not.

 


{#/pub/images/LoriMiller.jpg}Written by Lori Miller, Nationally known speaker, author and President of Tooty Inc. Known as “the queen of customer service,” Lori helps companies increase employee morale and bottom line results while improving customer satisfaction. Leaders of some of the world’s largest companies rely on Lori to provide solutions to some of the toughest customer service and employee issues. For over 25 years, clients have worked with Lori’s company to evaluate, train, monitor and mentor their call center, customer service and sales departments to create custom scripts, training and strategies that change employee behavior, reduce turnover and boost customer satisfaction. Lori is a member of the National Speakers Association and a Board Member of the National Speakers Association-Illinois Chapter. Lori is a contributing author of Mastering the Art of Success, which was published in 2011 and Concrete Jungle,  published in 2012.

 

Here are some additional training articles you may be interested in: 

4 Essential Skills for Leaders, Managers & High Potentials

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Lessons Learned Templates & Guide: A Managers Toolkit for Continuous Improvement

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Strategic Leadership-How Strategic Are You?

   

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