Patient service is arguably the most critical aspect of your medical practice to get right.
Outstanding patient service can overcome poor marketing, but it is incredibly difficult (and expensive) to replace poor patient service with even the most exceptional, “delightful” healthcare marketing.
Inbound marketing is patient-focused and inherently aids patient service, but that does not mean medical practices who use it can’t be guilty of bad service experiences.
Top Side Effects of Poor Patient Service
1 A damaged online reputation
2 Leads do not convert
3 Your patients’ lifetime value drops
4 You lose skilled staff
5 You enter a profit-sucking cycle
Of course, “good patient service” is often up for interpretation.
It is reasonable for small mistakes to happen or to encounter patients who are difficult to deal with. Often there are little bumps in the road, which do not constitute lousy patient service.
However, the following situations are usually considered unacceptable:
- Long wait times and response times
- Poor attention to detail
- Medical practice reps with lack of experience and knowledge
- Unprofessional and impersonal interactions
Medical practices that are guilty of these inferior patient service traits often face negative consequences – many of which are impossible to overcome and can lead to the medical practice’s failure.
But the good news is that even the worst patient service practices can be fixed without causing any significant damage to your healthcare brand, assuming you take swift action.
Let’s discuss five dangerous side effects of inadequate patient service and what healthcare marketers can do to reverse their negative impact:
1. A Damaged Online Reputation
Your healthcare brand’s online reputation is incredibly valuable, and it is not something you want to damage or lose control of. However, especially in this digital age, your online reputation is the first thing to take a hit when you have several instances of unsatisfactory patient service.
Patients are quick to write negative reviews online when they have a terrible experience with a medical practice. In addition to leaving critical reviews, patients vent their frustrations on social networks for the entire world to see.
In a recent study, 95 percent of respondents said they usually tell at least one other person about a lousy service experience with a brand, while 54 percent said they share it with at least five different people.
Now, in case you think existing and potential patients are not reading reviews or searching for discussions about healthcare brands on social networks, the same study found that 88 percent of respondents have been influenced by reviews when making a buying decision.
This means a decrease in overall sales, but more importantly, a significant reduction in word-of-mouth marketing – arguably one of the most valuable marketing outlets a brand can have.
How Can You Minimize the Damage?
Have a crucial figure in your medical practice reach out to those who have received poor patient service to make changes.
Responding publicly to bad reviews, accepting responsibility for delivering a miserable experience and informing the target audience that you are making strides to resolve the issues can do wonders for negative perspectives target audience may have of your healthcare brand.
Always move this conversation to a private discussion. Do not go back and forth publicly because you might end up doing more damage than good.
After you have reached out to the upset patient, resolve the problem internally. Set a higher standard for patient service and make it a top priority until it has become a permanent fixture in your operations.
2. Leads Do Not Convert
Bad patient service kills conversions.
Although the term “patient service” implies existing patients, all interactions with potential patients can fall into this category.
Have you ever been ignored by a brand? How frustrated were you?
Now, imagine what your prospects must be thinking when they request some information and wait forever, or when your staff is slow to respond.
Patient service departments have a negative perception associated with them as a whole, so why not surprise people with a positive experience?
Excellent patient service upfront leaves an excellent first impression and gets prospects excited about your medical practice.
How Can You Minimize the Damage?
If your medical practice staff doesn’t use a CRM, consider using one.
An effective CRM will help your staff respond to leads quickly, with the majority of the necessary information at their disposal, and enables you to keep track of every engagement that patients have had with your medical practice, in order to better serve them.
Also, be sure to use an integrated approach that aligns healthcare marketing and patient volume goals. Having an integrated approach makes it easier for your marketers and patient service teams to deliver the best results.
3. Your Patients’ Lifetime Value Drops
By now, you are aware that acquiring new patients is more expensive than retaining existing ones. That is one of the many reasons why delivering excellent patient service is so important.
Did you also know that 9 out of 10 people are willing to pay more to ensure an excellent service experience, and as many as 70 percent will continue to visit your brand if you resolve their complaints?
While bad patient service can destroy your average patient lifetime value, putting more strain on your healthcare marketing budget to attract more patients, excellent patient service can save these relationships.
How to Minimize the Damage?
Develop a patient retention strategy that strengthens brand loyalty.
Healthcare marketing can be used effectively to retain patients by providing:
- Informative videos and blogs
- FAQ pages
- Discounted or free consultations
Healthcare marketers often get caught up in focusing solely on patient acquisition when patient retention generally has a higher ROI.
4. You Lose Skilled Staff
Bad patient service has adverse side effects in all areas of medical practice. Not only do you lose patients, but you run the risk of losing your best employees.
When your medical practice has a patient care problem, your good employees are forced to pick up the slack for average staff. This leads to dissatisfaction from the employees you rely on most.
If your medical practice develops a bad online reputation, your top performers may also jump ship when they realize things are going south.
How to Minimize the Damage?
Reward your best employees and do not keep bad employees around. Excellent patient service starts with a unique organizational culture.
When bad patient service is frequent, your bad employees will not feel incentivized to improve. However, a culture where quick and professional patient service is expected will set the bar higher for mediocre employees.
The positive side effect of a healthy and encouraging organizational culture is that it attracts trained employees and motivates them to stick around, which improves all areas of your practice, including patient care.
5. You Enter a Profit-Sucking Cycle
Bad patient service can create a downward spiral for your profits.
First, your online reputation is damaged, and you start losing new patients (especially from referrals), then even your loyal patients begin to leave.
At this point, you are forced to either cut costs, or do you double down on marketing to attract new patients?
If you cut costs, you still have to improve your patient service through training, which requires resources.
On the other hand, trying to cover up for your poor patient service with marketing might help you attract new patients, but the problem will only get worse with scale.
How to Minimize the Damage?
Address problems with inadequate patient service early and often.
Conduct regular patient surveys and monitor patient service KPIs.
The best way to address unsatisfactory patient service is to prevent it, but the second-best way is to get it fixed before it gets out of hand.
Front Desk Staff Training is the Prescription To Alleviate the Side-Effects of Poor Patient Service
Medical practice owners who stress the need to make patients happy will succeed in building a loyal patient base that results in higher productivity, increased sales and a robust online reputation. A notable service experience will stick in the patient’s mind for a long time, whether positive or negative. Poor patient service will drive away patients, and they will spread the negative word among family and friends. Similarly, patients will remember a positive service experience, which will keep them coming back.
To learn more about the front desk staff customer service training and its impact on patient experience, retention and practice growth, contact the experts at Practice Builders.