Key No. 6: Service Service Service.
It sounds like a platitude to say that “the most important thing you can do for your clinic is to provide your patients with first rate service from the first phone call”. Most of us have heard many times that customer service is probably the most important factor in the success of any business. Nonetheless, it may still surprise you that YOU (the physician) rank a lowly FOURTH in the hierarchy of “the top four factors influencing patient satisfaction” in a survey of family practice clinics conducted by the Horizon Group Ltd in 1997.
Like most medical doctors, you undoubtedly pride yourself on your professional skills and perhaps agonize over the latest controversies about the best technology for laser resurfacing (traditional CO2 vs. fractional CO2 vs. fractional erbium, etc., etc.) when in fact very few of your patients have any idea what you are talking about. In fact, chances are that your patients are unable to differentiate between the results they might receive from an experienced, highly skilled aesthetic physician and a beginner. They will, however, know when they are treated in a rude manner or when they feel like they are being rushed. According to the survey conducted by the Horizon Group, the top three factors cited by patients were as follows:
- Front office staff;
- The ambiance of the practice facility; and
- The clinical support staff.
Perhaps even more surprising than the low ranking of the physician is the fact that top notch customer service still remains the missing component of many clinics and med spas. Oftentimes, physicians and entrepreneurs get overly wrapped up in purchasing the latest and greatest equipment or building the most spectacular facility while failing to adopt the all important "service is king" credo. Even though you may design and implement the very best service menu and offer state of the art equipment and products, if your day-to-day patient interactions, consultations and treatments are not delivered with enthusiasm, politeness and professionalism your clinic will not succeed in the long run. Hire and train your medical staff carefully and thoroughly, and demand nothing but the highest level of customer service in every patient interaction. In addition to having the knowledge, training and experience to deliver the requested services or provide patients with the best products for their unique needs, your staff members must be empowered to do "whatever it takes" to offer the highest level of quality service to each patient. First rate service will create the kind of loyal following and word-of-mouth advertising you will need to avoid unnecessary spending on external advertising. Ask yourself and your staff what you can do every day to insure your steadfast commitment to delivering the highest quality service possible.
You can use surveys, telephone calls and patient interviews to determine patient satisfaction with your service menu, products and staff performance. Find out if your patients are looking for services and/or products that your med spa does not offer. It might be preferable to address your patients' needs by adding services to avoid losing them to a competitor. As a physician, you may not even be accustomed to thinking of your patients as “customers”. Particularly with discretionary services such as those offered at med spas, your patients will compare the friendliness of your staff and the quality of service provided with the service they receive at any other type of business. Today’s aesthetics prospects usually shop the competition before making a decision to purchase. And oftentimes the clinic or med spa making the best first impression will be the one the prospect chooses.
One of the finest examples of a stellar emphasis on the importance of customer service is the Walt Disney empire. It becomes immediately apparent to anyone who visits a Disney attraction that customer satisfaction- and painstaking attention to detail – are king. It is no great surprise that Disney is generally acknowledged to be one of the top-performing companies in the world in terms of customer service. The Disney corporation goes to extreme lengths to make sure its “guests” have a great time during their visit. Walt Disney recognized years ago that this is one of the big secrets to insure that his visitors would return again and again to his famous parks (approximately 70 percent of guests to the Magic Kingdom are repeat visitors). Great customer service is also probably the most cost effective marketing tool for recruiting new customers as well due to the power of word of mouth advertising.
Great staff training programs go hand in hand with great customer service, and the training programs employed by the Disney corporation are legendary. Even custodians and street sweepers at Disney attractions are part of the “cast” and trained to believe that the way they perform their jobs has just as much impact on customer satisfaction as anyone else. Each of the 30,000+ “cast members” in the Disney organization --even members of the custodial staff at Disney parks-- receives a minimum of two weeks of training at Disney University. Apparently, Walt Disney realized early on that when his guests had questions, they were most likely to ask a member of the custodial staff rather than higher ranking employees. Disney therefore made his most visible and approachable employees-- his custodial staff -- a polite and educated resource for visitors. By dedicating two weeks of training for his custodial staff, Disney was able to provide them with detailed knowledge of the entire park and all the important features and details that guests would be asking about. Disney employees are happy and proud to be treated as important “cast members”, so they always greet guests and perform their jobs with great gusto and sincerity.
With a little planning and a lot of hard work, Walt Disney’s proven strategies can be applied to your aesthetic practice as well. Like the guests at Disney World, many of your patients will be more likely to approach your front office staff with questions than you or your nurses. This is partly because the front office staff is more visible and accessible, and also because patients consider the front-office staff to be peers. As a general rule, most people are more comfortable approaching individuals they view as their peers. The members of your front-office staff are usually the ones your patients encounter first and last during their visits. They are also usually the ones who answer the telephone when patients call. In addition, many of your patients spend a large portion of their visit in the waiting room where they are in close proximity to your front-office staff. Yet—in many practices—the front office staff are frequently the ones who often receive the least amount of training!
Providing less training for staff in low-level positions is a mistake many organizations make and one that contributes to poor job performance, decreased job satisfaction and eventually, increased turnover. Instead, take a tip from Walt Disney and invest in your front-office staff, regardless of their position on the pay scale. Encourage your employees to share their knowledge with one another through informal lunch-and-learn sessions, job shadowing or cross-training. Send your staff to local customer-service seminars. Spend the time, money and energy to make them knowledgeable about their responsibilities and your general office operations. Finally, allow your staffers to receive as many free treatments as possible so they will be your biggest believers and advocates. Doing so will enable your staff to work with increased confidence and improve the service your “guests” receive in your “Magic Kingdom”.