You’ll hear it time and time again – customer service is one of the most (if not the most) important factor in a consumer’s decision about whether to return to a business. It’s no surprise either, because we all want to be treated with respect and to enjoy a positive experience. However, many medical professionals seem to think that healthcare isn’t a true business so they ignore some of the basics of customer service. As a marketing company who specializes in healthcare marketing, we’ve experienced first-hand the impact that customer service can have. In reality, a doctor’s office could spend thousands upon thousands of dollars each year to tell people about their practice, but their finances can still suffer if they’re not giving their patients a positive enough experience to get repeat business. To help professionals in all parts of the healthcare industry (physicians’ offices, surgical practices, hospitals, medical supply companies, etc.), we’re addressing some of the most common myths about medical customer service.
Myth #1: You can’t respond to online patient questions because of HIPAA.
It’s true that HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) puts very important limits on the ways that patients and doctors can communicate about certain types of information, and you certainly can’t be as frank with patients in online conversations as you would be when they’re in your office, speaking with you in private. However, some medical offices think they’re playing it safe by just refusing to respond to any online reviews, patient interactions, etc., and this can actually damage your reputation by making it look like you don’t care enough to respond. It’s best to make sure that you (or whoever in your company is managing social media accounts and online reputation management) have a thorough understanding of HIPAA’s restrictions and to reply in a way that is HIPAA-compliant. For instance, if a patient comments on a Facebook post asking you to call in a new prescription for them (yes, people actually do this), ask them to call your office so that your staff can get the information they need. This way, you’re not confirming or denying that they are a current patient, you’re not revealing any amount of medical information, but you’re still showing other patients that you care and that you’re attentive.
Myth #2: Good customer service is just a matter of having the right personality.
There is a certain degree of warmth and positivity that a person needs in order to make patients feel welcome, but particularly in a high-complexity field like healthcare, you need to be knowledgeable as well. On top of having a working understanding of the services your company offers so that you can answer basic questions, anyone providing customer service must also have some degree of technical skills to manage the many ways patients reach out to communicate. In the age of technology, patients want to be able to access their doctors through email, social media sites, online scheduling software, texts, and more, so your company’s representatives should be able to operate and balance all of these choices. At McCauley Marketing Services, we’ve helping countless clients by consulting with and training medical personnel.
Myth #3: Healthcare is just like any other industry – if someone is a good salesperson in one company, they’ll be successful in a medical business, too.
When it comes to elective procedures like cosmetic treatments, plastic surgeries, vision-correcting surgery, etc., sales is certainly an aspect of customer service. However, selling a medical procedure is very different than selling a car. There is a much greater degree of trust required before a patient will put their health and safety in someone’s hands, so “selling” a procedure is more about listening to a patient, answering their questions, showing that you care, and making your expertise known on the best options for them, rather than creating a high-pressure environment and dazzling them with heavy discounts.
Myth #4: In medical care, patients only really care about the doctor and the outcome.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but for patients to continue returning to a doctor, you really need to provide them with the whole package. Certainly their main priority is finding a proficient physician and getting a good outcome, but the reality is that there are plenty of knowledgeable doctors out there (especially in the Atlanta area), so all the other incidentals really do make a difference. The way a patient is greeted, the convenience of scheduling an appointment, the follow-up – these all play a part in making sure a patient has an overall positive experience and feels comfortable with your practice.
The medical industry may work with “patients” rather than “customers,” but it’s still a business and it’s a business that requires a certain degree of trust. This is why customer service is so very important for the healthcare field. It’s certainly a unique field that has hurdles few other industries experience, and that’s why we’re here. At McCauley Marketing Services, we’ve been working with the medical field for nearly twenty years and we have the expertise to help your business accomplish exceptional patient retention while also consistently bringing new patients to your doors. To discuss your own company and find out how we can help, schedule a meeting with McCauley Marketing Services, and be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for more helpful tips.