Keep customer service personal with this simple step.
As I travel the U.S. visiting ophthalmology practices, I have the unique privilege of observing incredible physicians and staff. I am impressed with our industry’s quality of care and the commitment to provide the most innovative treatments and technologies available.
As practices embrace new technologies (and become more complicated), they must consistently update systems, revising the way they do things. When these changes occur, staff will often be consumed with the logistics of operations, and ophthalmic professionals can lose sight of customer service basics. Recently in my practice visits, I have noticed many staff members missing one of the primary tenants of customer service — calling patients by name. Using a patient’s name can be a powerful customer service instrument to confirm identity, demonstrate respect, and build rapport.
Use a patient’s name
For many practices, the telephone is still the first point of patient contact. To look up patients quickly in the electronic practice management system, receptionists may be more inclined to use the date-of-birth, to quickly narrow down the list of possible records. While this can save time, I find this approach to triaging calls impersonal, especially if a patient has been on hold for several minutes.
For example, here is a call I recently heard when observing on a practice (names have been changed to protect the innocent):
“ABC Eye Care. An appointment? Yeah, okay. What’s your insurance? Okay, yeah, we take that. What’s your date of birth? Janet? Yeah, okay, I found you. What seems to be the problem?”
Though I could only hear one side of the conversation, I wondered what the patient thought of the quick and impersonal dialog.
In contrast, I recently had a pleasant exchange with an imaging center in my town. Here is how that call sounded:
Center: Thank you for calling XYZ Imaging Center. My name is Maria. How may I help you?
Me: Hi, I need to make an appointment. I have a referral from my doctor.
Center: Wonderful, I can help you with that. May I please have your name to assist you better?
Me: Elizabeth Holloway
Center: Thank you, Ms. Holloway. Have you been to see us before?
Center: Well, thank you for choosing us again for your needs. May I please verify your date of birth?
Me: I then provided my birthday.
Center: Thank you. Can you please verify that your address is still the same? And can you also confirm that your insurance is still the same?”
Taking the time to request my name and then using it throughout the call promoted goodwill and rapport. Although the examples in this article are from the phone team’s perspective, these scenarios could also apply to every position that handles patient triage, tech calls, or pharmacy call-backs/prescription refills. Simple courtesies on the phone do not happen by accident and should be woven into the fabric of a practice’s customer service policy.
Provide your name
While it is essential to ask for the patient’s name, ophthalmic professionals should also provide their names to patients. In the ABC Eye Care example, the staff member scheduled the appointment but did not provide her name to the patient. In my experience with XYZ Imaging Center, the call center employee identified herself within her greeting.
Appropriate phone greetings often take scripting and can follow a formula, including the practice’s name, the staff member’s name, and then asking, “How may I help you?” Most staff members must practice this greeting out loud, to prepare for using it on the phone. I have also seen practices tape a printed copy of this greeting on the wall near phones, to provide a quick reference.
Continue customer service
When I visited XYZ Imaging Center, the high-level customer service continued. Each staff member I encountered was courteous and friendly. They confirmed and used my name throughout the appointment, they also identified themselves and described their role in my visit. As they were speaking with me, they were even passing around a thank you card, which I did not know until a few days later when I received it in the mail. Though the card had a pre-printed message, the four people who took care of me that day also hand-wrote a personal greeting: “Elizabeth, thanks again for choosing XYZ for your imaging needs. I hope you feel better soon! Susan.”
This center had decided how they wanted patients to feel – from the first phone call, to the experience in the office, and even beyond the encounter. Using patients’ names throughout the visit was an integral strategy to promote outstanding customer service.
Regardless of the position in the office, ophthalmic professionals have an opportunity to build a personal connection with patients by using their names. Throughout the patient encounter, the practice can provide customer service that will inspire a life-long patient/practice relationship. OP