Patient support is to clinic care as managing a classroom is to babysitting – you may have fewer people to look after, but each one requires far more of your attention.
Exceptional service isn’t just a win for top GCR Scoring clinics. It’s also a must for small clinics. High value patients will always want more than mere medical treatments, and that’s the reason why we have the GCR Clinic Service Score which makes up almost 25% of the overall GCR Score for each particular clinic.
At least once a week I hear some version of this:
“The last clinic I visited was awful. They cancelled my appointments, made me wait for hours when ever I had an appointment, and I felt like I was harassing them to do the dental work that I was paying them to do.”
In the 8 years I’ve been working with patients, the one constant has been listening to patients complain about the lack of customer service they’ve received from supposed “private clinics” that they’ve visited previously. Right from the start of my 1st dental clinic, I decided we weren’t going to try to be the cheapest or even focus solely on technical skill; instead, I was going to be the most empathetic and communicative.
Think about the worst experience you’ve ever had with a clinic – identifying the fact that they don’t have the expertise needed is easy in comparison to feeling out their ability to clearly communicate with you and be dependable. Patients abhor shoddy service, and it’s obvious that concierge treatment is the way to reach better patients.
Better patient service attracts and retains better patients
The root of great patient service is actually listening to the patient.
What are their frustrations? What is going right, or more importantly, what is going wrong? What are they trying to accomplish? How is what you do helping or hindering them from accomplishing it?
Often, if you run a small clinic, you don’t pay attention to patterns of questions from patients over time (since one-doctor clinics don’t tend to hire data scientists like the ones provided for you via GCR Accreditation). But by keeping track of commonalities in what patients need, want to accomplish, or want fixed, you can start to see where the service you provide needs to be explained better or broken down into smaller steps or even changed.
Do what you say you’re going to do.
Treatment plans, the actual treatments themselves, consultations – your word is a promise you have to keep. Never say yes to anything unless you’re sure you can keep that promise to your patients. This is why it’s important to say no to requests or treatments you know can’t be completed or are the wrong treatment to work on. It’s better to be up-front about your capabilities than to agree to a treatment plan and not be able to follow through.
Memorable clinic service starts with honesty. Don’t let your enthusiasm to impress your patients cause you to over-promise and under-deliver.
Be clear on your boundaries.
Patient service for a small clinic doesn’t need to be 24/7 attentiveness or sleeping with your cell phone beside your bed just in case there’s a patient emergency. Be candid about your availability and turn-around time for support requests. The clearer you are with boundaries, the better a patient will be in respecting them.
Own your mistakes quickly.
Too often, doctors or small clinic owners go silent if something goes wrong with a patient. Instead, use the opportunity to figure out what went wrong, why it went wrong, and exactly what you’re going to do to fix it. You’re human, they’re human.
Check in regularly.
The more regularly you communicate with a patient, the faster you can diagnose problems and course correct. Checking-in on a set schedule (like weekly) means you can stay ahead of problems, keep things on track, and make sure the patient is pleased with the progress.
Don’t promise the moon.
Only agree to do things that you can control, otherwise expectations won’t be met and the patient won’t be happy with the results. It’s not the sexiest of treatment plans to only promise things you can control, but ultimately it leads to the highest rate of patient appreciation for the end result.
When you’re only working with a small numbers of patients opting for expensive treatments, your level of patient service has to be similar to that of a luxury hotel. They’re probably paying a premium for your services, and they want you to treat them accordingly. By giving them one-to-one attention, listening to their problems and goals, communicating with them regularly, and keeping your word, your patients can ultimately become your sales force by telling others how great it was to work with you.
As a small clinic, trying to compete on price is really just a race to the bottom.
By differentiating yourself or your clinic as a listener and problem solver, you elevate yourself from just being a skilled medical team to an irreplaceable leader in the community with a high GCR Score to match.
By keeping promises, listening, and being clear in communication, you can easily set yourself apart, regardless of the size of your clinic. This not only increases your GCR Service Score over time, it will also help in patient appreciation, getting many more referrals and making a name for your clinic in the work you do.