I’m a fan of outstanding service. I’ve read books like “Setting the Table” by Danny Meyer, spoken with business owners who I believed had acheived a high level of customer service, and have attempted to apply what I’ve learned to my office. When I take my office team out for dinner, we’ll pay attention to the service and comment on the nice little touches that create a great dining experience. I believe that making patients feel special is almost as important as providing a high level of care.
… there is a line that we must draw. I’ve written before about the 5 red flags that make me want to fire a patient. Rude and disruptive patients are clearly way passed that line. But there are more innocent, subtle moments that cross the line quietly. There are moments when a patient is asking too much of us and we need to let them know we can’t accomodate any further. If we don’t remind them we may end up training them to think that those little infractions are acceptable.Here’s a common example: no-shows. Our cancellation policy is given to patients in writing when they join our practice. It’s mentioned again if there is difficulty setting up an appointment. When we call and confirm appointments, we’ll remind them of the policy if we have to leave a voice mail. There really is no excuse for a patient to not show up for an appointment, barring a true emergency. So if someone no-shows on us, they are crossing that line. When we are able to reach that person we don’t have a “customer is always right” tone in our voices. We won’t scold them in a condescending fashion, but we will politely and firmly remind them of our policy and charge them a missed appointment fee. Yes, I will occasionally waive that fee on the first offense as a courtesy, but never a second time. To do otherwise is passively teach them they they can get away with it.
Other examples include showing up late, consistent late payments, mild rudeness to team members, and similar subtle infractions of common decency. If we let people walk all over us, we will eventually end up with a stressfull, unruly practice. The customer (patient) is not always right and we need to remind them of this.
The people most responsible for this guearding the line are you and your front desk. It’s one of the most important qualities of an office manager: can they politely reprimand a patient for crossing the line? We don’t want it to turn into a fight, rather we want the patient to sheepishly realize their minor infraction so we can all move on. If you or your front desk are nervous about drawing that line with patients, you can use a great beginner’s technique, The Compliment Sandwich. With practice, you’ll learn to drop the compliment portions of the “sandwich” and just deliver a polite critique that isn’t offensive.