Customer Service

Keeping up with patient expectations

Demanding technology may call for additional staff members to provide excellent customer service.

Customer service has undoubtedly changed a great deal during the last decade. While modern patients still expect to have a customized experience with the front desk, they also want to take advantage of technological developments that can streamline their experience. This may include booking appointments online, chatting electronically with practice representatives, receiving appointment reminders via text, or getting recall notices via email. Meeting patients’ expectations and their customer service needs can be taxing on practices.

Consider the hypothetical ABC Eye Care, which introduced an online chat feature for patients. Since its introduction, of the 20 visitors who triggered the chat window only half were able to reach an available staff member — the rest of the patient inquiries went unanswered. As a result, the practice is now looking to hire someone who can manage the online chat program — as well as email, social media, and other online features — while simultaneously juggling front desk duties. Since this employee must be technologically savvy, the practice has decided to prioritize computer skills when hiring.

Regardless of the method, today’s tech-savvy approach to customer service has generated a need for staff who can provide excellent patient care while toggling back and forth between online platforms. Here are some of the steps that a practice can take to identify this technologically savvy customer service person.

Know your practice culture

Practices should define their mission statement, vision statement, and core values — cornerstones of company culture — during the interview process. Hiring managers should develop interview questions that determine a person’s ability to emotionally match core business values. For example, a hiring manager might ask an interviewee about a time she successfully reassured an upset customer.

Assess the candidate’s skill set

After a cultural fit has been established, candidates should be assessed for technological prowess. If the practice uses a live chat feature for refractive consults, employees need to be comfortable conversing with multiple patients simultaneously.

Additionally, the use of technology has increased patients’ desire for a quick response. This means staff members must be able to respond to patients in a timely manner. Finally, personnel should be flexible and able to adapt to constantly evolving technology platforms. Options for assessing this can include situational questions, acting out a patient interaction, or a hands-on trial period.

Incorporate practical interview questions.

Consider incorporating interview questions related to using multiple media platforms that the role will be required to manage. For example, is the candidate comfortable with email and social media? Will the candidate need to manage local directories, including inquiries, ratings, and comments for online medical grading sites? Is the candidate capable of checking insurance verification or surgical authorizations by using an online portal? Will the staff member be responsible for monitoring patient comments on the practice’s website or blog? All of these questions will help you determine if the candidate possesses the specific skill set your new role requires.

Track important processes

Practices that choose to incorporate technology into the overall customer experience must ensure staff members are prompt by tracking customer inquiries and response times. Therefore, it is helpful to know the types of questions your patients are asking and how long it takes your practice to respond. If patients do not receive a response in a timely manner, the practice may need to re-organize workflow. For example, a practice that receives a high volume of patient emails may need an employee solely dedicated to responding. In some instances, practices may find that they need to hire additional customer service staff to manage online volume, as the example practice did.

Consider flexibility

When interviewing and hiring for new technologies, look for a person who is flexible and adaptable. Since social media is always changing, consider hiring someone who is educated on multiple platforms and is not afraid to try to new things. To assess this, ask candidates about their experience with various platforms, and ask them about how they learn new things. Additionally, staff members familiar with adapting to new technology can potentially help the practice customize communication styles by offering cutting-edge phone, email, and online alternatives for patients as they continue to evolve.

Changing with the times

Customer service is changing, and as a result, our practices and staff must also change their approach. To stay competitive, it is important to manage patient expectations created by new technology, hire employees who can meet growing demands, and provide the tools and resources to help staff be successful. OP