Think back to the last time you received service so good that it took you completely by surprise. Maybe it was in a restaurant where the waiter seemed to have a sixth sense about when to approach your table and when to hover in the background while anticipating your needs. Or perhaps it was while you were shopping for clothes and a clerk took a genuine interest in your style preferences and went out of her way to find the “one perfect item” that you’ll be wearing for seasons to come. Or maybe your positive customer service experience was something as simple as a happy, friendly clerk at the supermarket who, by doing nothing more than being himself, made you leave the store with a smile on your face. Now consider what it would take to provide this kind of experience for patients who come to your office.
Patients have certain basic expectations when they visit a healthcare provider-good clinical care, respect for their privacy, a clean environment and adequate time with the doctor. But, often it’s the little unexpected touches they remember about a visit. Experiment with some of the following ideas for going that extra mile in terms of service, observe how patients react and share your findings at an upcoming staff meeting.
If a doctor is running behind schedule and has several patients sitting in the reception area, walk out and let everyone know what’s going on. Physically entering the space where patients are waiting and saying something like, “Dr. Romero was delayed at the hospital which put us behind, but we’re getting caught up now and you’ll be seen as quickly as possible,” is more personal than announcing that same message from behind a desk or glass enclosure.
When a patient is made to wait in an exam room for more than a few minutes, have someone (probably a back office staff member) check in to let them know what to expect in terms of continued waiting time. Offer a new magazine or a glass of water, or just take a moment to visit. A little bit of small talk will help make the patient’s wait less noticeable and less tedious.
At the conclusion of an office visit, instead of pointing patients in the direction of the check-out desk, escort them and offer a sincere “goodbye and it was nice seeing you” comment.
If one of your regular patients arrives at the office appearing unusually sad or anxious, discretely and sincerely ask how they’re doing. They could reveal a piece of information that you can encourage them to speak with their doctor about, or the fact that you’ve inquired might give them the opportunity to say out aloud that, yes, they’re feeling a little down or tired or just plain crabby today. Sometimes simply knowing that another human being is aware of our feelings can make us feel better.
These seemingly small personal touches can go a long way toward making your practice memorable-in a good way. Don’t be the office where patients “feel like a number.” Think about how you can make each patient who walks through your door feel just a little bit special.