As a healthcare provider, you aim to provide the highest quality of care to your patients. While that is paramount, it's also important to pay attention to and improve customer service from your front and back-office staff because how they treat patients can set the tone for the entire appointment. From answering the phone to handling billing questions and everything in between, every interaction can impact your patient's experience and your bottom line.
Continue below to define excellent customer service, how it affects the patient experience, metrics you should consider, and how you can hire employees that excel in this area.
What is Excellent Customer Service in Healthcare?
Excellent customer service is all about creating a positive experience for patients. In fact, it's very similar to what you want to experience in other industries. It's all about being attentive, helpful, and efficient. It also encompasses a clean and welcoming environment. When your front and back-office staff are friendly, they can put the patient at ease and make them feel more comfortable in an otherwise stressful environment. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen. We received a call recently where a patient had a terrible experience with one of her doctor’s back-office or outside partner individuals. Their conversation quickly escalated – not in a good way - and the issue remained unresolved.
Being helpful means going above and beyond – being a good listener and answering questions, explaining procedures, and ensuring patients have all the information they need to make informed decisions about their care. It even extends to becoming aware of what is happening in the environment. For example, opening a door, clearing magazines from a waiting area seat or something simple as a friendly smile with solid eye contact. And efficiency? Well, everyone hates waiting, especially when they're not feeling well. By streamlining your processes, you can make sure your patients feel valued.
How Does Excellent Customer Service Impact Patient Experience?
Patients who feel that they have received excellent service are more likely to return to your facility, recommend your practice to others, and even overlook minor issues. Those who leave appointments feeling that their questions have not been answered or they were rushed, or that the process was difficult will quickly forget the care provided by doctors and focus simply on the care they received from the front (or back) team. In healthcare specifically, patient satisfaction rates are closely monitored, and sometimes used to determine the reimbursement rates. And let's not forget the human aspect amid all the technology - feeling cared for is a huge part of the healing process.
What Metrics Should You Consider for Excellent Customer Service?
When evaluating the quality of the customer service provided by your staff, it's important to keep track of metrics that matter. This includes looking at the rates of first-call resolution, average waiting time, the number of calls answered within a certain timeframe, the issues that they tend to raise, etc. Standardized tools such as patient satisfaction surveys, benchmarking against national and local averages, and other feedback mechanisms can help with data gathering. A patient’s insight into the experience that was offered is priceless. These can highlight trends with improvement areas and further develop emotional intelligence or soft skill training topics with staff.
How to Hire Someone with an Excellent Customer Service Focus?
When hiring for healthcare frontline and back-office positions, ensure that "great customer service" is listed as a top requirement of the job description. These individuals are the face and voice of your practice. But don’t stop there! Describe what this looks like in your medical practice. The interview process should include exploring their customer service history. What experience level do they have interacting with customers? How have they dealt with difficult customers in the past? A useful tool to flesh out this skill is through role-play scenario questions. Hire people not just for their hard skill experience but also for their warmth. A few key attributes of a customer service focused individual are empathy, active listening, patience, adaptability, and follow-through.
It is also crucial to acknowledge the difference in roles and responsibilities between your front and back-office staff. Front-office staff members are usually the first impressions patients receive. They greet patients, check them in, schedule appointments, and answer calls. For this reason, front desk individuals should possess excellent communication skills, be impeccably groomed, professionally friendly in demeanor, and solution-focused. Back-office staff includes your billing and collection team - either in-house or outsourced. They work behind the scenes, ensuring patients receive prompt, efficient, and accurate bills. Back-office staff should be knowledgeable, courteous, and ensure that their skill also meets patient needs with warmth.
Furthermore, investing in training can go a long way in helping staff members gain the soft skills necessary to interact effectively with patients. Customer service training should focus on communication, de-escalation techniques, empathy and listening skills. And remember, sometimes listening means understanding what is not said. Your staff needs to understand the importance of their role in the big picture of patient care experience. Budgeting for something as simple as regular coaching seminars or hiring a patient satisfaction specialist to spearhead customer service programs can lead to impressive results.
What is Excellent Customer Service All About?
So, what does excellent customer service look like, and why is it relevant to healthcare businesses? It's simple really. Great customer service is all about being personable, helpful, and efficient. And it's important because your patient will expect the same level of service as they receive anywhere else. By providing excellent customer service in healthcare consistently, doctors can positively impact their patients' happiness and satisfaction with the care they receive, which can result in an excellent reputation, increased referrals, and a better bottom line. It is an ongoing process that requires continuous monitoring, feedback, and implementation of improvements. Therefore, it makes sense to invest time and resources in hiring individuals that uphold your practice’s values and demonstrate placing patients’ needs first.
Whether an ambulance transportation, physician practice or other professional fee healthcare provider, reach out to us at RMK for a free consult.