The Business of Contact Lenses
Seeing Eye to Eye With Patients About Your Customer Service
BY GARY GERBER, OD
If you asked 100 practitioners, “How important to the success of your practice is the patient customer service experience?” I’d guess that more than 90 percent would reply, “It’s very important.”
Similarly, when our company asked a random sample of practices, “How would you rate the level of patient customer service in your practice?” 95 percent said that it was a 5 on a 1 to 5 scale, with 5 being the best.
When we asked those practices’ patients the same question, only 80 percent rated those same practices a 5. While the 15 percent difference (95 percent versus 80 percent) might not seem significant, it certainly points to a significant misalignment between how the practice owners view their performance compared to how their patients view it.
The Patient is Always Right
So, if practitioners believe that the patient experience is important to their success, and believe that they’re delivering it, why don’t more patients agree that they are indeed receiving top-shelf service?
The answer is simple. They’re not. It’s the patients’ perception and only that perception that matters here. Your definition of exemplary service is subordinated to the patients’. It really is that simple. Therefore, you need to reorder your own notions of what will make a patient score your practice as a 5 and put that behind your patients’ opinions.
Learn to Think Like a Patient
But this article isn’t about maximizing your patient experience scores. It’s about why there is the disparity between practitioners’ perceptions and their patients’, and how you can address that gap.
First, obviously, if you think you’re already performing at a high level, then you have little motivation to make changes. Psychologists refer to this as self-serving bias. So, if you already believe that the service you provide warrants a “5,” then why change what you’re doing?
Addressing this point, however, is harder than the logic dictates. For example, you wouldn’t expect many practitioners to answer “no” to the question, “Are you a clinically competent contact lens practitioner?” The same goes for the question, “Does your staff respect you?” It’s hard to step outside of yourself and see your performance as others see it. But once again, your patients’ perceptions are what really matter here, not what you think those perceptions are.
Get Your Staff on Board
Changing patients’ experience in your office can’t be addressed without involving your staff. Staff members often spend more time with a contact lens patient than the practitioner does. So, Gandhi’s motto, “Be the change you want to see in the world” should apply in your office.
However, you actually have to execute that change—not simply give it lip service. If patients are complaining that they’re waiting too long to see you, do something about it. If they find your policies restrictive and cumbersome, change them. Show your staff through consistent and repetitive actions that you are willing to make changes and that you actually make them.
We often hear from practice owners, “But I’m doing X and my staff still doesn’t model my behavior.” The reason here is that deep down, the owners don’t acknowledge that they, too, contribute to the problem.
Ask your staff, “What changes can we as a team and I as an individual make to move our patient experience ratings from a 4 to a 5?” Discuss the results with your staff and then agree to act on those items that are within each person’s ability to change and act upon. CLS
Dr. Gerber is the president of the Power Practice, a company offering proven and comprehensive practice and profit building systems. You can reach him at www.PowerPractice.com and follow him on Twitter @PowerYourDream.