Think about the last time you received top-notch customer service. Did your doctor call to check up on you the day after a procedure? Did a restaurant give you extra sauces and napkins with your delivery? Did your accountant send a handwritten note on your birthday?
Now think about the last time you received terrible customer service. How many friends and family members did you tell? Did you rant about it on Facebook? Did you write a scathing Yelp review?
The truth is that the customer experiences we remember are the ones that were either fantastic or truly awful. And unfortunately, it’s usually the latter that gets the most attention:
Customers who have a bad experience are 2-3 times more likely to write a negative review than happy customers are to write a positive review.
Needless to say, bad reviews are bad for business:
80% of people will choose to go elsewhere if they read bad reviews about your business online.
A positive customer experience is key to building loyalty. As the saying goes, “a happy customer is a loyal customer.” And you can’t underestimate the value of loyalty:
Loyal customers are 5 times more likely to purchase again and 4 times more likely to refer a friend.
During my years working in a private practice in Florida, I oversaw all our community outreach events (health fairs, hearing seminars, Lunch & Learns, etc.). Anyone who knows me would tell you, I’m perfectly suited for this type of work. When I wasn’t in the office, I was out in the community, talking to people, learning about their hearing history, and conveying to them how important hearing is to their relationships, livelihood, and overall health.
Once you scheduled an appointment with me, you were my patient. I sent my patients appointment reminders, I called them the day before their appointment to confirm, and on the day of, I made sure to greet him/her upon arrival (“George! Welcome! It’s so nice to see you again!”). This didn’t happen overnight—it took time to build these relationships and good habits. I was fortunate to have a boss who pushed me to do more, be better, and try harder. Sometimes it was difficult, but the outcome was worth it.
I realize the Coronavirus has complicated what good customer service looks like. Healthcare providers have had to quickly adopt new safety and sanitation protocols to protect staff and patients while continuing to provide the same high level of care.
But the pandemic has also made exceptional customer service all the more important. Even something as small as extra bread with my takeout pasta seems to mean so much more. Years from now, it’s the people and businesses that took the best care of us during this challenging time that we’re going to remember most and be loyal to.
Below are sure-fire ways to increase patient satisfaction and build greater brand loyalty—not just today, but in the months and years to come.
1. Be accessible.
Today’s consumers expect and demand greater convenience in every aspect of their lives, including their healthcare. For younger and more active patients, offering services like online scheduling, automated appointment reminders (via email and text message), and live chat can be differentiators for your practice. Keep in mind that some of your patients are also more tech-savvy today than they were just a few months ago. With the pandemic forcing older Americans to remain largely confined to their homes, many have relied on video chat and other apps to shop, work, connect with loved ones, and even meet with doctors. The best thing you can do for your patients right now is to make yourself available to help them, especially the most vulnerable. Consider implementing curbside and teleaudiology services if you haven’t already.
2. Stay connected.
Now more than ever, your patients want and need to hear from you. So much that we recommend overcommunicating with them. Consistent outreach and follow-up with your database is crucial to increasing patient satisfaction and driving sales. Continue to update your digital properties (website, social media, Google My Business, Healthy Hearing profiles, etc.) to reflect any changes to your hours and services as well as the safety precautions your office is implementing. This should also be included in all of your marketing collateral. Use social media to stay top-of-mind with patients and make calling your database a priority. How often should you contact patients to ensure they purchase their next set of hearing aids from you? Click here to find out!
3. Make a good first and second impression.
Your website is often your patients’ first impression of your business. If it’s cluttered, outdated, slow, and/or difficult to navigate, visitors will have a negative perception of your practice (follow these ten tips to take your site from good to great). Just like your website, your office space should be a positive reflection of your brand and the quality of care you provide. Old or unsightly furnishings can suggest a lack of pride and attention to detail while a mini-fridge filled with bottled waters says, “We care about your comfort.” A fresh coat of paint and a fresh pot of coffee (or Keurig) can go a long way in creating a more inviting atmosphere where patients feel welcomed. Once it’s safe to have communal items in your waiting area again, be sure to have fresh new educational and marketing materials (flyers, posters, brochures, etc.) for visitors. Aside from offering valuable information that can help patients make the decision to invest in their hearing, they lend to your credibility as an “expert.” Finally, toss out all those old magazines—no one wants to read about the Royal Wedding anymore (well, except me, but that’s a topic for a much different blog).
4. Don’t keep them waiting!
How do you feel when you arrive to an appointment on time but the doctor doesn’t see you for 20 minutes or longer? Honor your patients’ time with respect. If you’re overbooked and struggling to manage your time, have your Front Office Professional (FOP) do a double knock on the door 5-15 minutes before your next appointment or a single knock when the patient has arrived. This can help keep you focused. Need more time with a patient or wrapping up a sale? Take a quick second and let your FOP know so they can inform your next patient. This is where having a fresh cup of joe and ample reading materials will come in handy.
5. Ask for reviews and referrals.
I’ve already touched on the importance of positive word of mouth but allow me to really drive the point home: nearly 90% of people trust online reviews as much as they trust their best friends’ recommendations and people are 4 times more likely to buy when referred by a friend. If you’ve done everything right and created a positive experience for your patients, then this part should be easy. A satisfied patient is already more likely to recommend your practice to a friend or family member. But why wait for that to happen when all you need to do is ask? There are several ways to ask for patient referrals and, I promise, none are as awkward as you think. In addition, you should be sending automated online review requests through your practice management software (email and/or text message) after each appointment. It helps to plant the seed while the patient is in front of you. Let them know they’ll be receiving a message then explain how valuable their feedback is and that you’d really appreciate it if they could take a few minutes to share their opinion.
Change is hard. I’m the first to admit this. But we all understand the value of good customer service. If you’re following the above recommendations, keep it up. If not, take it one day at a time and gradually make the changes needed to ensure that every person who walks through your front door has the best experience. As my mom always says, “it’s the little things that often make the biggest difference.”
About the Author
Julie Gesuale joined Consult YHN in 2010 and currently serves as an Assistant Account Manager in the company’s Hospital and University Division. Her diverse professional background includes customer service, marketing, and project management. When not working, Julie enjoys spending time with her wife of 15 years and her two rescue dogs, Sheldon and Leonard. She’s also been singing in church and community choirs for over 25 years.