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Key iconKey Points

  • For cosmetic surgeons, good customer service means much more than great results
  • It's the big picture — every practice interaction and experience patients have before, during and after surgery

James W. Saxton, Esq.
For cosmetic surgeons, good customer service means much more than great results. It's the big picture — every practice interaction and experience patients have before, during and after surgery. Maintaining optimal customer service is a must for physician practices, but especially so in the cosmetic realm where patients have high demands and expectations, according to James W. Saxton, Esq., chairman, Healthcare Litigation Group at Stevens and Lee, a law firm in Lancaster, Pa. And creating a culture of outstanding customer service is more important for physicians than ever, says Mr. Saxton, author of the book Five-Star Customer Service: A Step-by-Step Guide for Physician Practices.

SO HAPPY OR SUE HAPPY "We unfortunately live in a litigious society. That is not changing. In fact, in many areas of the country, it's getting worse," Mr. Saxton tells Cosmetic Surgery Times. "Providing five-star service has been shown to cut your liability exposure nearly in half, both from what is referred to as a frequency point of view [how many times you get sued or whether or not you get sued] as well as from a severity point of view [the value of the case]." Creating a culture of five-star service means focusing on the patient as a customer. "It deals with your body language when they first come in. It deals with the greeting. It deals with what we call every linkage with the patient and making sure that each is a positive one," Mr. Saxton explains. It's important that practices maintain consistently high levels of pervasive customer service especially during stressful times, such as when things go wrong or patients become unreasonable, according to Mr. Saxton.

NO TIME? NO GOOD Five-star service includes taking the time with patients so that they don't feel rushed. "Feeling rushed is one of the patient complaints in surgical practices that we hear all the time. A lot of times it's not just the time that the surgeon takes; it is his or her body language; it's sitting down with the patient; it's looking at them in the eye; it's asking those open-ended questions," Mr. Saxton notes.

Patients who feel rushed will remember that feeling if they ever claim that something went wrong. Conversely, patients who feel as if the staff and surgeon treated them well are more likely to come back for repeat business and to refer others.

"Folks love to talk about positive experiences. And that's your best marketing. But it is not a zero-sum game. In other words, if they have a poor experience, they tell 200 percent more people or, maybe, it is a letter to the editor. Worse...the Internet," Mr. Saxton adds.

ENHANCED EDUCATION Cosmetic patients, in particular, tend to think that they won't be one of those suffering from potential complications. As a result, Mr. Saxton recommends that cosmetic surgeons enhance the educational process for their patients, letting them know verbally and through printed and other materials that potential complications are a reality that could affect any patient.

"If they [surgeons] do that [educating] well, patients tend to be far more forgiving about those less-than-desirable results," he says. "I've seen a lot of potential claims never go forward because the surgeon did a good job in maintaining a good relationship with the patient and family and with patient education and informed consent," he says.

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