In today’s healthcare delivery system, it is rare to find medical practices where you are greeted with a warm welcoming smile or, God forbid, the front office person knows your name. Most of us dread going to the doctor’s office and not because you have to get your annual check-up, but rather, because of the long wait, the unfriendly front office person, the confusing insurance co-pays, and the too-short five minutes with the physician.
In the world of cash-pay, elective services, such as aesthetic medicine, the business model requires that both the first and last point of contact with a patient should set the precedent for a positive experience. This is why the front office position is one of the most important roles in your practice.
So how do you create a formula for a successful patient experience? Here are some tips that have shown tremendous success in providing a superior approach to patient experience and management.
Hire the right people
In any service-oriented business, the customer’s experience is all about anticipating their expressed and unexpressed needs. This means it is imperative to seek out those needs. To achieve this you must hire the right people.
I have hired thousands of employees during the course of my career, from mid-level practitioners, to front office part-time staff.
My successful formula starts with a definitive job description. What is this employee accountable for and what are the mutual expectations?
In order to weed out candidates who do not fit the position, I use a hiring template that includes weighted job-related factors that are necessary for their position, as well as behavior-based questions that are asked to each candidate. Once the promising candidate has scored the highest score on the interview process, I then ask the candidate to come in for a test run. This test run is not used to take advantage of a candidate, but rather to see if their personality is a good fit for the corporate culture. I have had amazing candidates who look stellar on paper and answer interview questions with poise, but then I put them in the environment and have actually seen them perform inadequately. Or I have received negative feedback from the staff in how the candidate conducted his/herself on the phone, with patients, etc.
New employee orientation is so important in determining who is the right fit in your organization. One characteristic that stands out to me when I have hired for front office positions is PASSION, which I define as the following during the initial interviews:
• Service oriented
• Work ethic
• Team spirit
Policies and procedures
Both your front and back office staff must work as a team and be given clear and specific direction by management. Simply saying, “We want to offer great service,” is not specific enough when it comes to attaining service excellence.
Employees need a road map. Management should never assume anything. Service standards should be written down. Learning through role-playing, coaching or allowing the trainee to observe your senior staff interacting with patients is a must. Don’t presume that someone’s parents, or previous employer taught them what really great service looks like. Have a written service strategy.
Another factor to consider is that many employees that you hire to greet your patients have never received a 5-star experience. So, to just assume that they understand what you are asking in terms of patient excellence, can lead to disappointment.
Successful service strategies
I suggest scheduling a 15-minute meeting every morning. Break it down where you spend 5 minutes going over follow up issues from the previous day, and 10 minutes discussing the line-up of patients coming in for the day. The theme of the meeting is not about venting. Instead it is about empowerment. You are telling your employees that you trust them to help the patient.
Another component of service success is making sure management inspires employees to bring their passion to work every day and to always give their best. You do that by reinforcing their purpose, not their function. Not the “how”, but the “why”.
Confronting employee failure
When an employee gets ‘off track’ the consequence should depend on the nature of the mishap. For instance, if an employee acts inappropriately, ethically, there is no coming back from that; no compromise. In my experience, you cannot teach ethics.
For the employee who is just in the wrong job position, management should reassign them into a more suitable position. For instance, a successful front office person might move into management or into the patient care coordinator position, and perform poorly.
The patient care coordinator is a critical role in any practice to you have to find the right person to fill that position. An employee who may look the part, but is unable to educate, sell or close a surgical or nonsurgical procedure can cost your practice thousands of dollars. In those cases, a return to front office has saved the employee and restored productivity.
The long and short of excellence in patient satisfaction is being able to provide services that money cannot buy. Giving your patients respect, dignity, employees who really listen, prompt and courteous response to requests, as well as an unfeigned friendliness is a recipe for high patient retention rates and five-star reviews.
If you are wondering how healthy your practice really is or if you want to explore on how to improve your customer service and patient experience, we would love to help you. Call me directly at 702-374-1944 and I can offer practice management solutions that include on-site training, standard operating policies and procedures, as well as responding to negative third party social media reviews like Yelp.
About the Author:
Lisa Marie Wark, MBA
Lisa Marie has been an owner/operator of a highly regarded medical aesthetics and women’s wellness clinic, and the vice president of marketing for an integrative cancer center. Lisa has spent the last ten years in business development and marketing consulting for small to medium size medical practices. Currently she is the Founding Partner at TheBestYears.com, a CBD wellness company dedicated to thriving 55+ communities as well as founded an upscale CBD skin care line called Ábaka.
Lisa Marie has served with distinction over the last decade on the Nevada Board of Dental Examiners as well as the American Board of Dental Examiners. Lisa Marie Wark sits on the Practice Management Faculty at the American Society of Aesthetics Plastic Surgery, Vegas Cosmetic Surgery & Aesthetic Dermatology Conference, The Aesthetic Show, The Aesthetic Academy, The MedAesthetics Association as well as a regular lecturer on contemporary marketing practices at the University of Nevada Las Vegas School of Dental Medicine. This, along with her successful career in producing business and marketing plans for health and medical industry start-ups, enables her to approach every aspect of a practice with a common sense, expert analysis of how to take the practice to the next level.