Exemplary customer service does not happen by accident, it requires careful planning, a commitment to 5-star standards, and disciplined execution. To thrive in today’s healthcare value-based environment, understanding that value-based care is centered around the customer/patient is the essential first step.
A key factor in delivering 5-star customer service is to develop patient interaction guidelines that will enhance the patient’s experience while optimizing the practice’s reputation. Employees must understand just how vital their actions are in achieving these goals, and they should be confident in their command and use of interpersonal skills as they engage customers/patients.
Here are the first four tactical techniques that your team can put into play right away to deliver 5-Star Customer Service. Look for the rest of our tactical techniques in part two and three of this series, coming in the next few days.
1 – The Importance of Making Eye Contact
Eye contact is one of the most important elements of communication. It is a vital part of effective conversation and human interaction. Friends spend more time making eye contact while talking to each other as compared to when they engage mere acquaintances. People who make regular eye contact while speaking are perceived as being more earnest and believable (1).
Let the patient know that you are ready to help them by initiating and maintaining eye contact the entire time you’re interacting with them. In addition to fostering trust through eye contact, keep multitasking to a minimum when you engage patients in person. Unless it’s required as part of the engagement, let your computer remain idle while listening to the patient. If you must enter information into the computer on the patient’s behalf, describe to them what you’re doing and why.
2 – Use of the Patient’s Personal Details
An effective way to connect with your patients is to personalize the conversation. Every patient wants to feel important. All of us, including your patients, invest personal emotion in their family, personal achievements, hobbies, and even their prized possessions. (2) Personalization goes deeper than remembering a patient’s name. Everybody has a story and they appreciate it when someone takes an interest. For example, if the patient told you during their last visit that they were up for a promotion at work, ask about the promotion, and then offer congratulations, or condolences. A patient whose child just went off to college will appreciate you asking about the child. While making small talk with your patients find common ground around shared interests or hobbies.
3 – Addressing the Patient by Their Preferred Name
An important part of personalizing the patient’s experience is to find out how the patient prefers to be addressed. If you are meeting the patient for the first time, or if you cannot recall what name the patient prefers, ask the patient how they would like to be addressed. (3) Imagine you have a patient who is named Edward Smith, after his father. To avoid confusion, his family has called him Eddie since he was young. Eddie recently lost his father. You greet Eddie by saying “Good morning, Edward” and he begins weeping. Obviously, it was not your intention to upset the patient, even so, upon hearing his father’s given name, raw emotions were brought to the surface. Asking the patient what name they prefer is a good practice. Using their preferred name from there forward is a great practice.
4 – Be Aware of Body Language
Body language includes all forms of non-verbal communication. Avoid crossing your arms, looking away, or making facial expressions that are counter to what you are saying. Exhibiting your concern and care for the patient through body language helps build stronger relationships. Body language that reinforces our spoken words will foster trust, and build confidence, such that the patient seeing that we are truly listening and comprehending what the patient is saying.
Engaging in active listening and using an open body posture are the keys to good body language. When the patient speaks, it’s important to smile, nod, and acknowledge with what the patient is saying. You can demonstrate that you are truly listening by occasionally repeating what they’re saying, in your own words, or by asking questions to clarify your understanding. (4) Turn in the direction of the patient when speaking with them, and resist any urge to look away, cross your arms, and absolutely do not roll your eyes. These gestures communicate disrespect, and minimally, lack of concern for the patient. Affirm the patient by smiling and nodding. Always remember, your smile should be both genuine and natural. Your patients will be able to tell if it’s not.