As a physician, you’re nothing like a used car salesperson — nor would anybody suggest you behave like one. Your No. 1 priority is to provide the personalized care your patients need, not offer a transactional service. And merely suggesting you change your methods to align with customer service and sales tactics can be insulting to both you and the people you help.
That said, many of the best strategies for overcoming patient satisfaction challenges and improving the patient experience align with strategies used by companies to foster customer loyalty.
Here’s what that looks like in practice, and how you can begin implementing these concepts without diminishing the value of your care:
A great salesperson knows buyers prefer to do business with people they like, and even more when it’s someone with whom they can relate. By making an effort to get to know their prospects and showing interest in their lives, they can earn more respect.
As a physician, making small talk can seem absurd when you have a full schedule and other patients waiting for your attention. But you might be surprised how far asking about a patient’s children, job or hobbies can go towards earning their trust.
And, according to Dr. Brad Bowman, chief medical officer at Healthgrades, that can lead them to be more cooperative in their care plans in the future. “Patients are more likely to follow instructions downstream,” Dr. Bowman said in an article for Forbes. “Patients don’t just want to see a doctor, they want to be seen.”
Ask Lots of Questions
Whether it’s a patient hoping for clarity on an ailment, or a customer dropping off their car for service, clients have a lot more faith in providers who ask questions and listen to their responses.
As a physician, you’re used to making diagnoses based on a set of criteria — which usually includes a list of symptoms as well as diagnostics exams. But if you complete this process without delving into their experiences, patients may feel like you’re jumping to conclusions and failing to hear them out.
Even if you already have all the information you need to diagnose a patient, it’s still a good idea to run through a checklist of questions, give the patient time to talk and exercise active listening. Having those extra details may help in your care plan, but even if they don’t, making patients feel heard will achieve more buy-in to your diagnosis.
Tailor Your Approach to Each Patient
Although a real estate agent might show the same condo to a 30-year-old single professional and a 75-year-old retired couple, the agent would probably point out very different features. They know these buyers likely have very different needs and interests.
The same holds true when it comes to the way you approach your patients. Although two people may have the same diagnosis, the way you address it and the care plan you provide should be tailored to their lifestyle, behaviors and personality.
For example, while some patients may want you to be straightforward and concise, others may prefer a more collaborative experience. This concept can be applied to even the more routine things like needle sticks; some patients may not care about needle sticks, while others would prefer you use a topical patient comfort solution to help manage the pain associated with them.
Follow Up Often
When a customer makes a purchase (especially if it’s a large one), the brand often follows up to make sure they’re happy with their investment. This way, if someone is displeased, the brand can make amends and increase the likelihood the customer will.
As a physician, your follow-ups should be as much about making sure a patient is committed to their care plan as it is about gauging patient satisfaction. It’s crucial you regularly ask for feedback. This allows you the opportunity to resolve any concerns or frustrations before they choose to disregard the care plan, leave an online review or switch to another provider.
As a healthcare professional, you know the phrase “the customer is always right” doesn’t apply to your profession. You’re right to prioritize treating someone’s condition over earning five-star reviews. However, to sustain your practice and foster more productive relationships with your patients, it’s also important to consider the patient experience. By leveraging these customer service approaches, you can help improve patient satisfaction and maybe even grow your practice.