A bad review by a critic can make or break an actor or chef’s career. With the advent of social media and sites like Yelp, Foursquare, and Angie’s List, anyone with a smart phone and a bad experience can change the way your clients feel about your business. Reviews are popping up in all types of apps and for all types of business. From rating your Uber driver to your visit at the doctor’s office. With the changing technology, a bad office visit isn't just between the patient and the office, but available to everyone who knows how to use Google. You can be the best physician in the world, but if your office staff isn't acting appropriately you're going to lose patients.
When my insurance plan changed a year ago, the first thing I did to find a new doctor was look at online reviews. Apparently, I'm not the only one. According to PWC 74% of people on the internet engage via social media. Of those, 80% are seeking health information, half of which are looking up information pertaining to specific doctors or health professionals. That means that your whole, entire business you worked so hard for, could be shut down due to a few bad reviews posted online. You may be thinking "oh my patients are too old to be using social media", but you may want to reconsider. 43% of Baby Boomers are beginning to utilize social media for health-related information according to Mature Marketing Matters. With about half of your audience directly seeing information online, every review matters.
1- The First Impression
Bear in mind that the office staff is spending more time interacting with your patients than you are. From setting up the appointments, obtaining referral information, collecting insurance information, in office interactions, and follow-up calls, your staff is essentially the face of your practice.
It's important to take each action step-by-step to experience your office like the patient will. Once the patient has done their online research they typically will call to schedule an appointment. What are your patients hearing when they call you? In my experience, most offices will use an auto attendant greeting that someone who works in the office recorded, or they will have staff answering the calls. Your future patients have never called before and they are more than likely uncomfortable and nervous to be going to the doctor. With this information in mind, making the process as easy as possible is best. Let's review the cons of using a live operator and having an employee record the greeting,
Having staff member record the auto attendant greeting is not ideal. Firstly, the script being recorded is likely not following best practices. An auto attendant script, professionally recorded, is always reviewed to optimize caller experience and ease of use.
Secondly, this recording isn't professionally mastered, or recorded in a studio. What is the difference between a professional engineer and an iPhone doing the recording? With an iPhone you often hear heavy breathing, coughing, background noise, and overall awkward changes in the readers volume.
A third and final reason to not use an employee to record your auto attendant is because they aren't a professional voice talent. A professional voice can naturally pace the recording, so it's clear and easily understood by the caller. We're aiming to make the patient as comfortable as possible. In order to accomplish this, you must be accommodating. The future patient shouldn't be forced to listen to a recording multiple times growing more and more frustrated each time.
If you aren't using an auto attendant and your phone is being answered by a live operator here are some major considerations. When they answer do they sound frustrated? Often staff are required to juggle multiple projects, and answering the phone can be treated like just another task. If your operator cannot speak clearly and professionally on the phone, or is rude and gives your caller an attitude, that could be the end of that patient. Patients can be treated almost anywhere, but they chose to contact your office, and they should be treated with patience. Secondly, if a live operator is answering the calls they can be on another line, away from their desk or on vacation. If the operator isn't available, is there a secondary plan for how phones are answered?
The best solution is to have the auto attendant greeting professionally recorded. This way if you prefer the live operator answer but they are unavailable you can use the professional auto attendant greeting instead. The professional auto attendant would replace the non-professional recording.
2- Patient Time is Important
Patients should be treated as if they were customers purchasing a service. They should be thanked for their interest, and told that they are appreciated. It can be easy for a simple phone call to go poorly. With all the calls between insurance companies, previous doctors, and now the current doctor - patients can be completely overwhelmed. It's vital to recognize that patients are already nervous and anxious to hear back from and speak with doctors regarding their health.
When going from call to call, patients can start to feel undervalued. Part of keeping the patient experience great is making every effort on your side to assure the correct information is provided. Patients need to be shown that their time is valued and reassured that they are receiving the best possible care. When callers are on hold, that time shouldn't be spent with the caller waiting in silence. If your patient is on hold in silence, they can feel abandoned and unappreciated.
Create Message on Hold programs to inform patients on how procedures work, where they can get more information, and other forms of contact. The Message on Hold recordings will educate the callers while calming them with appropriate music that reinforces your brand image. Callers will be less likely to notice how long they are on hold if there is something playing that catches their interest. Guidelines can be created too, so that future programs all follow the same set of rules.
3- In Office Visit
You've done all the preliminary administrative tasks, and now your patient is finally in the office for their visit. Be sure the office staff is treating them well by giving the patients adequate attention. Patients waiting to see doctors tend to get very nervous, especially in the waiting room. The patient is still taking in all the activities at this point, especially if this is their first time visiting this establishment.
If the patient is there for a procedure they are probably extremely nervous. Healthcare offices can help lessen anxiety by providing patients with quick explainer videos about the procedure, and what will happen. The videos can be posted online and emailed directly to the patient before they come in for their procedure. Videos can be made about what will happen in the upcoming days after the procedure. In addition to videos, overhead music to relax and ease tension can be beneficial in the waiting room.
With more information being consumed online, it's vital that your organization create a clear brand image, while encouraging great patient experiences. From your online presence to your telephone experience, patients need to be assured that they are receiving the best care and treatment available to them. If your practice follows the above guidelines, and every interaction is pleasant for the patient, there is no reason why anyone should leave a poor review.