Why Treat Your Patients Like Customers?

Because that’s who they really are.

Delivering a powerful, positive customer experience is the biggest challenge facing every consumer facing industry today. That is especially true in the health care sector. If you doubt me, consider a recent Press Ganey study. According to the research, a patient’s perception of “caregiver teamwork” is the #1 predictor of patient loyalty. But here’s another finding that jumps out even more: feeling treated with courtesy and respect and responsiveness by that care team is a strong predictor of patient loyalty.

For your clinic to thrive in 2020 and beyond, it helps to embrace a customer service and customer experience mindset. In healthcare, being a competent, highly trained health care professional isn’t what differentiates you from your competition. Those things are table stakes. What differentiates a practice is their ability to make every patient feel known, understood, and important. Patients need to trust that, at every step of the way, everyone on your team will treat them with compassion, and urgency, and dignity. Every time.

In other words, no matter how caring you are, or how thoughtful your bedside manner may be, all of those trust-building experiences can be swept away by a just one poorly delivered conversation on the phone, one perceived snub at the front desk, one missed call.

You have a first-impressions team. It’s comprised of those hardworking individuals in charge of greeting patients at the front desk, checking them in, answering their questions, and keeping the trains running on time. Are these the people who are also expected to stop everything to pick up the phone every time it rings – and triage each call, from the easy questions to the urgent needs – to the everyday requests for an appointment?

How’s that working?

Whether you’re ready to outsource your appointment scheduling, it’s probably time to upgrade your appointment scheduling process. Start by creating a clear set of process and set of expectations. It will take training, encouragement and, maybe even some new hiring. But it will pay off.

  1. Start with team input

You know you need things to change. You can either come up with new rules and try to enforce them (rarely – almost never – a good idea). Or, you can invite your staff into a collaboration. They know – better than anyone else – where the scheduling challenges are, what your patients expect, and how they respond. So, get them together and ask them. 

  1. Get Specifics

Shadow your team and listen to a few calls. How are your patients greeted? What words are used? How are they expressed? Is the call a calming, caring, reassuring experience for the patient? Or is it rushed? Are calls confusing, chaotic, frequently placed on hold? Are patients given specific, helpful information about what to expect at their appointment? Do appointments get successfully scheduled with just one call? Ask your team how they would rate the calls and what they wish worked better.

  1. Create a New Set of Rules

You may resist the idea of asking your experienced office team to memorize a script word-for-word. I understand. But you should be able to agree on the bare minimum components of a great call. This includes:

From the patient point of view, there is a world of difference between a cold recitation (e.g. “Acme Pediatrics, can you hold please….”) and a real welcome (e.g. “This is Jan Smith at Acme Pediatrics, how can I help you today?”)

I’m not going to lie. This is so much harder to coach with an existing staff. You might have someone on your team who is so good at so much of their job but on the phone, they come off like a heartless robot. That hurts – your patients and your bottom line.

When staff are feeling harried and rushed, they rush their calls even when they don’t mean to. There are few things as off-putting to a patient on the phone than trying to keep up with the rat-a-tat-tat of a hurried call. When your goal is to ensure that every customer call is treated as critically important – and when that goal is clearly expressed to your team – you’ll need to follow up and be prepared to give some very specific one-on-one coaching.

If you would like to know more about how Skybridge Americas can help you deliver a more rewarding patient experience on every call, please reach out. We would love to talk!

-Bobby Matthews

Senior Vice President, Sales and Marketing
Skybridge Americas


Find out how Skybridge Americas can help you delight your customers and grow your business.

We seamlessly integrate our superior customer care skills with your brand messaging. For more information, contact us at 763-477-7720 or submit the form below!