For the next several weeks we are using the book titled, “Excellence Wins”, by Horst Schulze as a resource for Thursdays Thinking TIPs.
While having a copy of the book is certainly not needed to enjoy the next several BLOG posts, if you’d like to grab a copy to follow along, feel free to pick it up at Amazon here , or of course at your favorite book store.
Now, let’s review Chapter Two: CUSTOMER SERVICE IS EVERYBODY’S JOB.
Right away there it was, THE problem. “Too many people think customer service starts after a complaint has been voiced.” (1) Not true! Customer service starts where the patient starts. At MedicalGPS we believe that so deeply, we named our service improvement program; Endeavor for Excellence: Start Where the Patient Starts.
First Step – Offering a Great Welcome
“Customer service starts at the front door or with the first ring of the phone.” (2) Simply stated — that is the fact of the matter. At the very first point of contact, as soon as the patient encounters a member of your team, customer service begins, or it doesn’t. As part of MedicalGPS’ E4E (Endeavor for Excellence) webinar dedicated to teaching medical office receptionists how to project an image of caring and concern, we teach the exact same technique as mentioned by Mr. Schulze. ” …welcome needs to happen as soon as the person [patient] gets within ten feet of them [the receptionist].” (3) Medical receptionists, as they see the patient approaching their work area, should look up from their computer, make eye contact, offer a genuine smile, and welcome the patient as the patient completes their walk to the check-in area. In most physician practices, and other medical facilities, using Mr. Schulze’s 10-foot technique works very well. Too many times receptionists are so busy entering data into their computer, doing paperwork, or otherwise preoccupied with performing administrative tasks, they seldom take time to look up to see patients entering their work area. Intentional or not, appearing to ignore a patient, even for a few seconds, absolutely sends the message, “you are not important”. It cannot be overstated, that first patient encounter, at the front-desk check-in area, is extremely important and it is essential that every receptionist learn to demonstrate the art of making patients feel warmly welcomed!
“…If a customer’s first four contacts…go well…there will be virtually no complaints thereafter.” (4) Now that is a very interesting observation — an observation based on “hundreds of thousands of comment cards “ that Mr. Schulze and his team collected over several years. (5) For now, let’s call it the RULE of the First-Four-Contacts.
So, let’s apply the RULE of the First-Four-Contacts that Mr. Schulze describes to today’s medical practice.
Here’s a scenario for a new patient: The first of four, person-to-person contacts, probably starts by the patient placing a telephone call to the office to book their appointment. If an appointment slot is available, which fits the patient’s schedule, perfect! The appointment is booked and the patient is most likely pretty happy. Contact number one — successful! The next person-to-person contact for the new patient may be the receptionist at the front-desk/check-in area. We have already talked about how important that patient encounter is to the success of the practice. Let’s say that the receptionist knocked it out of the park and welcomed the patient to the practice with all of the care and compassion that we talked about earlier. Now, next in the process is patient encounter number three, which may be the call-back to the exam room. Sometimes, if the patient-wait time is creeping up on the 20-minute mark, (think waiting room rounding), the third patient encounter may be a member of your team keeping the patient informed about the wait. Patient encounter number four very likely will occur between the MA and the patient as the patient is escorted back, into the exam room. In today’s modern-day physician practice, there is a high probability that the RULE of the First-Four-Contacts will be expended BEFORE the Physician/PA/NP ever has a chance to see the patient.
Mentally walk through the same RULE of the First-Four-Contacts for an established patient. For example, think about when an established patient calls the office and needs someone to call them back. The number of patient encounters involved in something as simple as returning a patient’s phone call can quickly reach four contacts; the initial call, a returned call resulting in a voice mail, another attempt by the patient to call the practice, and eventually, a person-to-person call that actually provides the patient with the information they originally requested. Remember the RULE of the First-Four-Contacts? ALL of the four contacts have to go very well to ensure virtually no complaints occur thereafter.
Second Step – Complying With The Customer’s Wishes
“The focus here is not your agenda, but theirs.” ( 6 ) Let’s be clear, we are not talking about patients making their own clinical diagnosis, prescribing their own medications, or making medical decisions about their illness or disease without the partnership of their healthcare professional.
“What is most important is what is on their mind. That is why you say, ‘How may I help you? I’m happy to do so.'” (7) Beginning the patient encounter with, “How may I help you? I’m happy to do so,” whether it’s service related or clinical in nature, will go a long way in letting the patient know that you are most concerned with what’s on their mind. What matters most to the patient must matter to the receptionist, the nurse, the physician, the technician, the billing clerk, the janitor, and yes, it must matter to everyone involved in, or in support of the patient’s care.
Third Step -Saying Good-bye
“Thank you for allowing us to serve you.” (8)
The last thing that the patient experiences is the good-bye. Making a really good impression as the patient makes their way to the checkout desk and beyond is one of those key touch-points in the patient experience, which is sometimes overlooked.
“A sincere good-bye makes people feel positive about their visit. Whatever skepticism they may have harbored about the organization is being replaced by trust.” (9)
Not Just for Frontliners
Just a couple of weeks ago we dedicated an entire BLOG post to what Mr. Schulze succinctly summarizes here, “Customer Service isn’t just for those who face the public. It also extends to people inside an organization who deal with each other. Really, it’s all connected.” (10).
To learn more about how every member of your team is essential to the success of your organization (11), I encourage you to review: Thinking Thursdays TIPs : Connected Strategy.
Next week we will review chapter three: FOUR SUPREME OBJECTIVES
Please let us know if you have comments or questions, and s ubscribe to our Email Updates , so that you can be assured to receive Thinking Thursdays TIPs.
Jerry L. Stone
Names: SCHULZE, HORST, 1939 author. | MERRILL, DEAN
Title: Excellence Wins: a no-nonsense guide to becoming the best in the world of compromise / Horst Schulze, with Dean Merrill
Description: Grand Rapids, MI : Zondervan, 
(1) Page 46
(2) Page 47
(3) Page 47
(4) Page 47
(5) Page 47
(6) Page 48
(7) Page 48
(8) Pages 48, 49
(9) Page 49
(10) Page 49
(11) Pages 50-60