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Great customer service: You can take it to the bank

Article-Great customer service: You can take it to the bank

Chicago — Growing a successful cosmetic surgery practice involves a lot more than just having skillful hands.

Dana Fox
Although the cosmetic surgeon may be the goose that lays the golden eggs, customer service and a helpful staff feed the goose, according to Dana Fox, vice president of InForm Solutions, Lynnwood, Wash.

"You have to think of what really drives a practice," says Ms. Fox. "As a rule, this has not been advertising. It's more what people say about you, (both) customers and employees. If you put together a good office environment with a strong customer service component, you have a practice that will be more profitable, work smarter, keep employees, and will be basically happier."

Ms. Fox added that the whole team must be equally responsible for revenue, and that there's no room for prima donnas.

"Everyone has a share in the success, and they all look at it that way, even the surgeon. He or she is not greater than the whole."

Begin with the endMs. Fox says that physicians need to begin with the end in mind, defining what they want to accomplish over the life span of their practice — in business and from a personal perspective.

"To be successful in today's highly competitive environment you need a proven growth strategy," she explains. "That means getting new patient inquiries into the office, converting them into surgery patients, and then turning them into vocal advocates for your practice."

This is true for any practice, but especially for cosmetic surgeons because their practices are fee-for-service, says Ms. Fox. It all starts at the front office. Traditionally, reception staff have been gatekeepers instead of relationship-builders, she says.

"Sadly, physicians often don't have a clue what's going on at the front end, of what is and is not happening," she says. "A practice that drives people away has a front-end staff that doesn't look at their job as a means of promoting goodwill."

The number one thing to look for in potential office staff? People skills.

"Take someone who has excellent people skills and you can train them on medical terminology," she says. "Customer service comes from the heart, and you either have it or you don't."

Source of customer serviceGood customer service may start with the front end from the customer's perspective, but, in reality, it has a different source, according to Ms. Fox. Nobody can do more to promote a pleasant and productive office environment than the physician who cares about the staff and the everyday aspects of the business. Ms. Fox says patients can sense the office atmosphere, and it greatly affects their experience.

"Attitudes filter down, not up, so a physician sets the example," she adds. "When there's a committed team effort, the physician is as involved as everyone else, and is comfortable with that."

To evaluate the success of their team environment physicians need to look at their conversion rates: how many patients call, come in for an appointment, and schedule surgery.

"Often doctors only count the numbers that are sitting right in front of them," says Ms. Fox. "One client told me, when we first started working together, that he converted about 80 percent of the patients who walked through the door. What he didn't know about was how many patients never got to the door in the first place because they were handled improperly on the phone and were not followed up with correctly. Over the life of a practice, millions of dollars could be lost."

Ms. Fox says that of all the callers who make inquiries, only about 18 percent actually receive surgery.

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