Customer Service and the Ringing Phone in the Medical Practice do Matter
As we continue our blog series on the costs of healthcare delivery, we would be remiss to ignore the importance of customer service. Here are five facts about customer service:
- 95% of customers who have a bad experience share it with friends and family
- Customers who experience bad service are 50% more likely to share it online
- 54% of customers who shared a bad experience online shared it 5 times
- 86% of customers who were told of or read about a bad experience report that this information impacted their buying decisions
To close out our top five, our favorite customer service-related fact:
- Negative information takes 3 seconds to be stored into memory compared to positive information, which takes up to 12 seconds.
What does all of this mean? Providing GOOD customer service matters and you can expect that bad customer service will go viral!
A good patient experience is vital for a medical practice’s patient retention. Patients do have choices. Happy patients will not only return to the practice, but will encourage their friends and family to use the practice. However, as our facts show, news of a bad experience can quickly spread and influence how other consumers will perceive your practice.
In today’s digital age, delivering GOOD service must be a priority to sustain and grow your business.
Here are some best practices to keep your patients happy and making them repeat customers. The customer experience begins with the first interaction with the patient, most often when they are calling for an appointment, but the experience does not end there. For example, as we discussed in our previous blog, offering multiple payment options for your patients not only helps collections, but also provides convenience for your patients.
Tips for improving the customer experience in your practice:
- Meaningful Communication: Effective communication is not about quantity. It is about clarity. Communicate in ways that help your patients and their families understand. It is very easy to fall into the trap of providing information that is legalese.
- Take complaints and concerns seriously and address them quickly: A bad experience can create a lifelong customer when the customer feels listened to and validated. When patients or their families complain, listen to their message. Empathize and be sure to follow up letting them know you are looking into the issue. Let them know what’s been done to fix the problem. Send updates summarizing what you learned and what your practice is doing to improve.
- Put systems in place to provide a safe and positive environment: You do not usually hear how much someone enjoys going to the doctor. The more you can make the experience a positive one, the more satisfied your patients will be. Many patients do not leave their doctor’s appointments with good news. Making a bad situation worse by providing a bad patient experience will only compound that problem.
- Do NOT leave patients in the dark: Make follow up calls. Patients do want to know their test results-whether good or bad. Providing consistent follow up will leave your patients with a positive feeling about your practice and reinforce the message that “your practice cares”. The same applies to patient billing related calls. Be sure those are promptly answered and responded to.
- Consider a billing service with call center experience to answer and address patient calls: The best intentions do not always result in great customer service. In a busy medical practice, with dedicated staff focused on direct patient care, a ringing phone will often go unanswered. These calls go unanswered, not out of a lack of care, but out of a lack of priority. Answering the phone in comparison to caring for a patient in the practice are not usually equal priorities. To the patient or family member on that unanswered call, their call is a priority. There is a direct correlation between a satisfied patient and how quickly the practice responds to calls. If you are continually addressing complaints regarding unanswered calls or routinely experience full voice mailboxes, an outside billing service may be something to consider.
The Benefits of Answering the Phone and Why to Consider a Call Center
Medical practices are often quite hectic and dealing with a phone system constantly ringing can create additional time constraints. A call center can help fill this necessary gap.
Five considerations when deciding to use a billing service/call center:
- Managing that ringing phone: The call center’s primary responsibility is to answer those patient calls which will allow your office staff to commit their time to the activities within the practice.
- Getting Quality Agents: The call center staff is trained specifically to manage your patient call volume while representing your practice in a professional and compassionate manner.
- Assurance that your calls are being answered: With many businesses, there are not enough employees to take care of both the phone and the customers simultaneously. A call center has one objective — to answer the phone.
- Ability to take payments: As discussed previously, the option to make a payment over the phone is a major convenience for your patients and it will help your practice’s cash flow.
- Ability to help with any insurance issues: Most call center agents are trained on how to interpret an EOB and to explain to the patient why there is a balance due. Some more experienced agents are able to make claim corrections and refile claims if necessary.
Patients can feel rushed when they are in the office by all of the other activities around them. When there is a call center to handle patient issues, they get a one-on-one attention and a feeling of being heard and helped. Most patient complaints boil down to just wanting to be heard. Many times, call centers offer a way for the patient to reach out to the same agent and develop that connection to your practice. Connected patients become repeat patients.
In the next installment of our series, we will talk about how bad customer service and social media will affect your practice’s bottom line.