Regardless of your healthcare practice’s size or specialty, the way your front desk staff behaves with patients will determine whether patients will be returning to you or taking their business elsewhere. Essentially, your staff is the face of your healthcare practice, and patients rely on them to receive assistance whenever they need it. One lousy episode of customer service has the potential to ruin your years of hard work on attracting and retaining patients. Not to mention, the dent it will make on your online reputation and bottom line.
Customer service will make or break your medical practice. In fact, according to a report, medical practices lose more than $41 billion a year due to bad customer service. Quality of care matters. The best combination is to have outstanding patient care supported by exceptional customer service. Customer service is so critical that even the best quality care will fail to retain patients if not supported well by customer service. The hard truth is that patients look for healthcare providers who can offer the best of both worlds – fantastic patient care with professional customer service.
Consider these stats:
- 65% of patients cut ties with healthcare providers over a single poor customer service experience.
- An average patient shares a poor customer service experience with at least 15 people.
- 62% of patients say that a front desk executive’s knowledge was critical to their positive experience.
- For 72% of patients, having to repeat their problems to multiple front desk executives is a critical marker of lousy customer service.
Training tips for front desk staff
All of these stats indicate that no medical office can afford the adverse effects of poor customer service. To ensure that your patients keep returning to your practice, here are the top 10 training tips for your front desk staff:
1. The first rule of front desk staff training is: The patient is always right
Agreed, the patient is not right 100 percent of the time. However, it will help if your staff makes sure that patients walk away feeling that they are. People do not want to haggle and argue, nor do they want to feel as if they “lost” in their interaction with a customer service executive. They do not care to be ignored, criticized, or passed from one employee to another, especially for a service they are paying for. Get patients into a hostile encounter with one of your front desk employees, and you will see them head for a competitor’s doors.
2. Handle patient requests with a smile
This training tip seems like it is straight out of a textbook. It sounds simple that service must be given with a smile, yet how often are your employees able to do it? According to a study, 42 percent of patients are put off by unhelpful and rude employees. Most of us have dealt with the employee who hardly smiles and seems to care less about the patient experience. This sort of indifferent attitude is impermissible in your medical practice and must be addressed during training sessions.
3. Show patients you care about them
Make sure your front desk employees understand the concept of “care.” Nothing creates brand ambassadors and produces long-term relationships better than a medical practice full of employees who genuinely care about patients and show it. Make sure your employees are trained to greet patients and engage in a meaningful conversation. Tied into this “caring” attitude is the essential skill of listening. Train your employees to listen to the patient’s problems and respond accordingly.
4. Always be professional and polite
Every training session must emphasize this trait. Irate patients come and go. Make sure your staff members stay calm, professional, and polite at all times. Ensure they do not become dismissive, condescending, or cold, even in the face of the most demanding patient. Your employees should win the hearts of your patients, so they return to your practice and recommend your services to their family and friends. An indifferent attitude won’t do it. Make sure patients’ visits are pleasantly memorable, so they want to come back.
5. Keep a positive attitude
Train your staff to be energetic and positive, even when they do not feel like it. This is especially important on bad days when they have had to deal with an angry patient. Just because one of your employees had to deal with a nasty patient does not mean they should take it out on other patients. Nothing will turn off a patient faster than a negative interaction with an employee who is supposed to provide fantastic customer service.
6. Know your patients
Nothing adds a personal touch like a medical practice that remembers its patients. From doctors to support staff, every employee should remember patients’ names with whom they interact regularly. This extra special touch is sure to bear tremendous fruit — knowing your patients also ties into simply asking about their wellbeing. These small acts may not result in immediate reputation building, but over time your employees’ bedside manners will be remembered by patients and will add to the perceived level of care they are receiving.
7. Be helpful
Often, employees do not want to step into a coworker’s territory or an unfamiliar department within the practice. It is easy for workers to cluster within their departments and not interact with other teams. Often, employees are told by supervisors to “stay in your lane.” This is not a productive manner to run a medical practice. Such behaviors often result in patients waiting on someone to assist them or provide an answer.
8. Go the extra mile
Train your front desk employees to have all available knowledge concerning their department. Also, urge them to learn a bit about other departments in your practice. Train your employees to go the extra mile even when they need to step out of their routine department. This tip is focused on teaching employees to break out of silos. If your employees do not know answers to a patient’s question, they should feel confident to seek the answers outside of their department.
9. Respond quickly
Quick and prompt responses must be included in customer service training. If you have a help desk for patients, make sure callers are not put on hold for extended periods. Set a customer service policy that all responses must be provided within 24 or 48 hours. Nothing is more disappointing to a patient than waiting for days for their email to be answered or a phone call to be returned.
10. Choose the trainer wisely
Have you ever attended customer service training, only to discover that the trainer is ill-equipped to be teaching anyone anything about customer service, except how not to do things? Take the time to find the right trainer who walks in excellence in this area. If you are doing the training in-house, make sure you are well-prepared to instruct others. If not, the training is simply an empty gesture that your employees won’t take seriously and won’t be able to utilize.
There is no doubt that robust and effective customer service training programs are necessary for every medical office’s front desk staff. Losing loyal patients is an obvious result of poor service, and retaining and drawing more patients is an outcome of superior service.
Ensure that your front desk employees have strong customer service skills and watch your medical practice succeed and grow in the future.