In This Market Your Patients Should Feel Like a VIP

The pool of patient’s willing to buy your product is already small.  Outside influences (big box discount stores, online retailers, 3rd party insurer’s) are cutting into not only your profitability but the number of potential candidates for your services.  What should you do?

I was made a VIP for a company that I frequent quite often.  As a VIP I’m now entitled to:

  • Free next day shipping
  • Advanced access to new styles
  • My own special phone number to call
  • And so on…

Did I feel special? Well maybe not special, but I had an immediate positive reaction that my business was important to them. More importantly, not only did they appreciate my business, they were willing to reward me for my effort.

What Do You Do to Make Your Patient’s Feel Special?

Do you offer a VIP service for your patients?

  • A walk in time for repairs.
  • A hotline number for existing patients.
  • Free battery tester with a card on their birthday
  • New cleaning tools every six months

My entire years worth of purchases from this store doesn’t come close to cost of the average set of hearing aids so it isn’t just a matter of how much I’m spending with their company. They’re rewarding me because they know I can shop anywhere I want to and they want to make sure I come back to them.

Your patients may not be purchasing anything new for a few years, but they will at some point buy again. And they probably know someone who’s in the market for hearing aids right now.

Provide your patients with VIP services. And make sure your patients know that these VIP services are being provided to them in appreciate for the business they’ve done with you.

Time to Get Back to the Basics….Customer Service

You’ve attracted a new patient to your office. They are ready to be called into the back so you can begin the hearing test. How do you provide “High End Customer Service” at this point in the visit?

According to Malcolm Gladwell, author of “Blink, your mind takes about two seconds to jump to a series of conclusions. Those conclusions are important and occasionally spot on, but more importantly we all make them. Sub-consciously, your patient has already made a series of conclusions about you before you open your mouth.

Without knowing it, this is often a make or break moment. The first two seconds can set the tone for the entire visit. What you are trying to accomplish is to let the patient, who is at this point feeling very vulnerable, know that they can trust you.

5 Things You Can Do to Establish Trust

  • Do not be late. Being on time conveys reliability and if people know you’re reliable, they are more willing to trust you.
  • Make eye contact. This takes practice for some people. Too little can be just as bad as too much.
    Monitor how you feel. If you’re anxious about a personal matter, your patient will pick up on the anxiety. They have no idea why you’re anxious but they assume it relates to them.
  • Dress appropriately – this should be a no brainer, but we ‘ll include it anyway. A lab coat may be cliché, but if you’re fresh out of graduate school and look 18 years old, you could use all the help you can get to not look any younger than you already are. Remember, if you are 26 years old you are decades to a half a century or more, younger than your demographic.
  • Watch your body language. Smile. Smiling forces you to relax which in turn should help your patient to relax. Do not cross your arms in front of you or hold a patient’s chart in front of you. Everyone has nervous habits when meeting someone for the first time. Know what yours are and learn to control them.

What is the point of all this? You are trying to sell a hearing aid. The cliché, you never get a second chance to make a first impression is accurate. Overcoming objections is difficult enough. Don’t make it worse but needing to overcome both the patients reasons why they don’t need or want a hearing aid and their bad first impression of you.

The Best Way to Improve Client Relations & Manage Employees

We all know how important customer service is in every business. But how do you instill the importance of respecting customers into your employees? Company culture. Your company’s culture is a large factor in the behavior of employees on the job. If you feel you must always look over your employees shoulder, or micromanage them, they may not be the ones to blame. Marissa Levin of Inc. illustrates this concept in her article about a poorly managed restaurant.

“Not many other jobs teach a strong, collaborative work ethic like waiting tables. It is an amazing training ground for future jobs. It requires servers to work with all kinds of people, to adapt quickly, to read people accurately, and to work as a team. It requires high emotional intelligence.

Every team member  – servers, hostesses, bartenders, busboys, dishwashers, cooks – impacts the overall customer experience.

Owning a restaurant is also one of the hardest entrepreneurial ventures. 60 percent of new restaurants fail in the first year; 80 percent don’t make it to five years.

Two of the main reasons restaurants fail are bad people management, and spotty customer service.

Imagine my surprise when I read about the deplorable behaviors of the wait-staff at one of Arlington, Virginia’s top Asian restaurants, Peter Chang.

The waiters added disparaging comments about the customers onto the check, and then forgot to delete them when they presented the check to the customer. When caught, they were not apologetic. They found it to be funny.

That’s not the shocking part of the story.

I was stunned to read that this behavior is accepted at this restaurant, and that the leadership team does nothing to stop it. There is no accountability for offensive behavior, which basically grants approval and permission for this behavior to continue.

This incident conveys that the organizational culture tolerates customer disrespect. Manager Qien Chang said that servers had been previously warned about leaving offensive comments on checks. “They always do that. I’ve told them so many times.”

Peter Chang’s culture is not a culture of accountability. It is a culture of disrespect.

In cultures of accountability, every team member commits to meeting or exceeding the company’s goals.  Employees understand their connection to the organization’s success.

I completely understand that the servers saw no real harm in their actions. And, really, it’s not their fault. They’ve been poorly trained by a management team that did not convey the importance of customer respect. This has nothing to do with age or experience. This is a direct reflection of leadership.

Ultimately, leadership dictates the core values and the culture of an organization. They must model the accepted behaviors, and institute firm consequences for those that challenge the values system.

Customer respect is a learned behavior, stemming from the top.  Qien Chang could learn a few things from Troy Guard, chef and owner of TAG Restaurant Group in Denver, CO. One of his 7 values is Caring. “This is so important–not just for the restaurant, but for life. You need to care for yourself, care for your team, care for your guests, care for your community.

If you don’t care, why should anyone else?”

The One Factor That Will Improve Your SEO, Conversions, & Your Bottom Line

What is the one factor that will improve your SEO, conversion rate, AND your bottom line?

Online Reviews.

Think of how many times you’ve made a purchasing decision lately without consulting online reviews. Have you made a reservation to a new restaurant recently without turning to Yelp or OpenTable? How about making vacation plans without even glancing at TripAdvisor? Whether you realized it or not, online reviews have become a cornerstone of modern purchasing decisions.

Consumers love online reviews.

And Google and other search engines love online reviews for one primary reason, consumers love online reviews.

Online reviews have major implications. They affect:

  • Your local SEO rankings
  • Your click through rates on search results
  • Consumers purchasing decisions

In the coming blogs, we will discuss the many facets of your business that online reviews affect. Let’s first look at how important your online reviews are to consumers.

How Important Are Reviews to Consumers?

Just how many people are actually going online to read reviews?

In a study done by ZenDesk, 66% of all consumers reported reading online reviews. This may not seem like an overwhelming amount until you realize that 2 out of every 3 people that call or come into your business have probably consulted your online reviews before making that decision. And this study was done in 2013.

Looking at Yelp alone, in 2013 they had roughly 40 million reviews since their launch in 2004. By the end of 2015 they had over 90 million. The popularity of online reviews has exponentially grown in only the past few years.

While I must admit, some reviews are downright comical, most consumers do not look up online business reviews just for entertainment. You must understand that by the time someone has started looking at reviews, they are now in the process of selecting a business to fulfill a need or want they have already identified, and they have usually narrowed the down (whether by preference, location, or some other deciding factor) the businesses they will consider to fulfill that need or want.

The critical thing to note is that the mental gap between reading a review and making a decision to purchase from a business is ridiculously small, and typically results in a yes/no decision almost immediately. So as a small business, your online reputation can directly influence your bottom line.

So how do online reviews affect consumers?

According to the same ZenDesk study, a whopping 90% of consumers reported being influenced by positive online reviews and 86% reported being influenced by negative online reviews.

The majority of consumers read, on average, only 6 reviews before forming an opinion of a business, and over 70% of consumers report that positive reviews make them trust a business more. Consumers are placing as much weight on reviews as they would personal referrals. And they trust them just as much as if it was a recommendation from their friends or family members.

Hopefully this puts into perspective just how important online reviews are in helping steer consumer purchasing decisions for the better or worse.

In the coming blogs, we will be discussing why reviews are a major aspect of your local SEO and how they affect it, how to gather more reviews in a business- and SEO-friendly way, and how to manage your online reputation.

Don’t Post These Signs In Your Waiting Room, Ever!

There are many signs that can be purchased in office supply stores, novelty shops, and even stores like Target that you may think will spice up your waiting room and make your patients laugh or make your office more orderly. But this may not be the case. The following 5 signs are examples of what NOT to buy! Here’s why…

1. “If you are grouchy, irritable or just plain mean, there will be a $10 charge for putting up with you.”

Ha, ha, ha…. The 3 Stooges, Roseanne Bahr, George Carlin…humor is best left to the paid professional.  Your attempt at humor will never amuse everyone so why bother?

2. “Please be aware that this office is under 24-hour surveillance.” 

Why?  If I’m your patient, I believe I may be asking myself if I really want to return to an office that has a need for 24-hour surveillance. 

3. “A No-Show fee of $35 will be billed to you if you do not give at least 24-hour notice prior to cancellation of your appointment.”

What you’re telling me is that time is money.  If I’m kept waiting, can I expect a credit on my account?

4. “The nature of our practice is to give our patients the utmost in care and service.  Please excuse any delays.”

If you have taken the time to turn this into a sign, then I guess I can safely assume that I, as the patient, will be kept waiting…a lot.  And this would be because you haven’t figured out how to provide the utmost in care and service in a timely fashion.

5. “We welcome your comments about our office and or staff.”

Really?  Would you like me to blurt it out right now, right here, in the middle of the waiting room?  If you feel a need to ask for the comments and suggestions, give them options on how.  Give the patient a form to complete and return at their discretion.

And while we’re on the topic of signs in the waiting room, if you must have them, pay attention to how they look.  There is no place in your waiting room for signs that are torn, dirty or mismatched. Signs should not be held up with pushpins, thumbtacks and/or duct tape.  Signs should serve a purpose.

Walk out into your waiting room right now.  What do your signs say about you, your staff and your office?

10 Ways Your Waiting Room Can Improve Customer Service

Our industry is changing, patients have more choices than ever before. Competing with box stores and online companies on price is futile. Customer service is going to be a bigger factor than ever before. Let’s start with the minute your patient enters your office. What can you do to improve their experience?

1. Provide a basket of reading glasses: What’s worse than having reading material but not being able to read it? Or needing to fill out paperwork but accidentally leaving your reading glasses at home.

2. A place for wet umbrellas: You don’t want patients lugging wet umbrellas all over your office, and they don’t want to be carrying them either! This is a win-win for both of you.

3. A basket of dollar store umbrellas and rain hats for rainy/snowy days: This is a memorable customer service moment for patients. The skies open, they’re unprepared but voila you get to play the hero. Purchase ones from the dollar store (rain hats are a good buy too) that way if they’re never returned, you won’t care.

4. A Keurig with real cups: Being able to choose your type of drink (not everyone is a coffee drinker) and drinking from a “real” cup provides a measure of comfort while you’re waiting in a sometimes intimidating place.

5. TV: TV’s are pretty standard in waiting rooms these days. Make sure yours is tuned in to something your patients will actually enjoy watching.

6. Wi-Fi: You already have it in your office, why not make a guest log-in for your patients so they can get something done or play a game while they wait? You can hang a small sign near the reception desk with the log in and password for your patients’ convenience.

7. Good tissues: Sometimes a patient needs to blow their nose, colds, seasonal allergies and so on. Don’t supply patients with cheap, scratchy tissues.

8. Reading material that is meant to entertain not educate your patients: Yes, having reading material about hearing loss/hearing aids shows you’re in the loop, but when spending time in a waiting room, people want to be entertained.

9. Coat rack: Don’t make your patients carry around their heavy winter coats or wet rain jackets.

10. Comfortable temperature: It’s tempting to want to keep costs low, along with the temperate in the winter or to keep a warmer office in the summer months. Make sure your patients are comfortable remember they have options.

Lastly, check, double check… triple check the demeanor of your staff. Your waiting room could provide a phenomenal patient experience, but one rude/unfriendly staff member will ruin the entire experience for your patient.

Do You Know the ROI of Your Website?

For a great deal of your website, much like public relations (PR), the return on investment (ROI) is not easily quantified. Metrics do exist, but for the most part they provide erroneous data.

PR should tell a story, lots of stories, ideally stories that are told and shared by one potential customer to another or by one satisfied customer to a potential customer. The value and credibility when one person provides information about your practice to someone else is immeasurable.

It is possible to use a page on your company website that replicates conventional “call to action” marketing pieces. The ROI of these pieces can be measured.

However, a portion of your company’s website pages should serve to replace and/or replicate your outbound marketing systems, for example:

Yellow Pages – “Googling” a business for their address and/or phone number has replaced the old yellow pages book as a source for directory information.
Brochure – Your website is an opportunity to provide information about your practice with the advantage of being able to present considerably more information than the average office brochure with the added ability of frequent updates and edits as your company evolves.
A customer’s first impression of you and your business used to be via the yellow pages. Their expectations were fairly low and they were never really able to form an impression about your business. The Internet has changed the potential customers “first impression” experience and more importantly it has changed their “first impression” expectations.

We also suggest that clients use their website to reinforce a sale after the sale has been made to prevent buyer’s remorse. You’ve just spent 60 – 90 minutes with your patient. Hopefully, but not realistically, you’ve answered every question they have and allayed every fear they may have after they leave your business. Your website can help to answer unasked questions and allay latent fears that any consumer, who just spent thousands of dollars, is bound to have.

Are You Providing Your Patients With the Best Customer Service?

Customer service is not solely one area of your business. Always remember that you are in business to serve your patients. Without them, you won’t be in business much longer. Being able and willing to deal with all kinds of customers. Having them walk away from an interaction satisfied, if not happy, should be your ultimate customer service goal. The nine points below will help you with that goal and improve your overall customer service experience.

1. Patience is a Virtue

Understand that patients often reach out to you when they are confused or upset. Although it is not you personally that they are frustrated with, it may seem that way. It can be especially frustrating when a patient cannot understand concepts that seem simple to you. Remember to be patient with every customer and help them to the best of your ability. You’re the patient’s rock, and you need to hold it together even when they can’t.

2. Be Attentive, Actively Listen

Listening is one of the simplest secrets of customer service. Listening means hearing what your patients are saying out loud, as well as what they are communicating non-verbally. Watch for signs that they are displeased, as well as what they say to you directly. Patients want to be heard just as much as they want their problems solved.

3. Knowledge is Power

Remember you’re not selling products and services, you’re selling good feelings and solutions to problems. In order to provide good customer service, you need to know what you’re selling, inside and out. Make sure you know how your products work. Be aware of the most common questions patients ask about your products, and know how to articulate the answers.

4. Positive Language Changes Everything

An example illustrates this best. Let’s say a customer contacts you with an interest in a particular product, but that product happens to be backordered until next month. Small changes that utilize “positive language” can greatly affect how the customer hears your response…
• Without positive language: “I can’t get you that product until next month; it is back-ordered and unavailable at this time.”
• With positive language: “That product will be available next month. I can place the order for you right now and make sure that it is sent to you as                     soon as it reaches our warehouse.”
The second example states the exact same thing as the first, but focuses on how you will resolve the customers problem of getting the backordered product, instead of focusing on the problem that the product is backordered.

5. Closing is Key

And I don’t mean “closing” a sale. A patient’s feelings at the end of a customer service interaction can determine their feelings about your products, service, or company as a whole. Make sure to end every customer service conversation with confirmed satisfaction (or as close to it as you can achieve) and with the customer feeling that everything has been taken care of (or will be). Being scooted out of the office before all of their problems have been addressed is the last thing that patients want. Be sure to take the time to confirm with customers that each and every issue they had on deck has been entirely resolved.

6. Appreciate Your Customers

Patients are very sensitive and know whether or not you really care about them. Treat them as individuals. Always use their name and find ways to compliment them, but be sincere. People value sincerity. It creates good feelings and trust. Think about ways to generate good feelings about doing business with you, and thank them every chance you get.

7. “Yes” Is a Powerful Word

Always look for ways to help your patients, and look for ways to make doing business with you easy.  When customers have a request (as long as it is reasonable) tell them that you can do it, and figure out how afterwards. Always do what you say you are going to do, but don’t over promise. If something is absolutely out of your control, send them to someone who can actually do something about it. The worst thing you can do is say yes to a request and then go back on your promise.

This is why you shouldn’t use the “under promise & over deliver” strategy for customer service.

8. Collect Feedback & Use It!

You may be surprised what you learn about your patients and their needs when you ask them what they think of your business, products, and services. You can use surveys, feedback forms and questionnaires. You can also make it a common practice to ask customers first-hand for feedback when they are in the office. But you need to do something with the feedback you receive in order to make it useful in your customer service process. Take time to regularly review feedback, identify areas for improvement, and make specific changes in your business.

9. Your Employees Are Customers

It’s important to make sure all of your employees, not just your customer-facing employees, understand the way they should talk to, interact with, and problem solve for customers. Provide employee training that gives your staff the tools they need to carry good customer service through the entire patient experience. If you treat your employees with great service, they will be more equipped to model that for your customers. Employees are your internal customers and need a regular dose of appreciation. Thank them and find ways to let them know how important they are. Treat your employees with respect and chances are they will have a higher regard for patients. Appreciation stems from the top. Treating patients and employees well is equally important.

Should You Under Promise & Over Deliver?

“Under promise and over deliver” is a common sales concept that most people have heard of but what does it really mean?  And is it something you should aspire to?

As defined by McGraw-Hill, “under promise and over deliver” is a service strategy in which service providers strive for excellent customer service and satisfaction by doing more than they say they will for the customer or exceeding customer expectations.

Is This a Good Idea?

No.

At first, this strategy seems to have merit. Over-delivering on customer expectations would raise customer satisfaction and be good for business. But when you delve deeper, there are two main reasons why this is not a good business practice.

  • To under promise and over deliver, you must first under promise. This means that through your advertising mix you are communicating a lower level of service or product benefits. Right off the bat, this will reduce the number of customers your business is attracting. Potential clients don’t know that your plan is to over deliver on your promises, how would they? This, in turn, also dramatically increases your customer acquisition costs.
  • Customers’ expectations are not static. Think about it. Say you order a pizza from your local pizza place. They promise to have your pizza to you in 45 minutes, but it comes to you in 30 minutes. You’re really happy with this outcome, and you’re motivated to order again. When you order again, the same thing happens. Now your expectations evolve and rise. With your next and all future orders, you’re going to expect your pizza in 30 minutes based on prior experience, even though they promise it in 45. You’ll quickly go from being highly satisfied with their service to simply satisfied or possibly dissatisfied when your new expectations are not met, even though they’ve technically “over-delivered” with every order.

There are no long-term benefits of under-promising and over-delivering. It is a strategy that limits customer growth and provides only short-term customer satisfaction benefits.

If you believe in the merits of the product you are selling or the service you deliver, then expound on the capabilities of the product or the advantages of the service. To keep customers highly satisfied, you must continue to deliver more value because their expectations will keep increasing. If you set the tone from the start of under-promising and over-delivering, then your customer is going to expect that same experience of getting more than promised with every interaction.  You are setting yourself up to fail and for your customer to be disappointed. A better method might be to deliver on your promises.

Don’t make a promise you can’t keep and keep the ones you make.

What Do You Want To Know?

I sat down to write the blog for this week and came to the conclusion that maybe it’s time for me to ask you what you want to know?

What do you want to know?  Here are a few ideas I had for this week, but am I headed in the right direction?  Is this what you really want in the way of information?

  • Would you like to better understand the actual processes behind digital marketing?
  • Are you interested in expanding your marketing capabilities digitally but are sure how expensive it might be?
  • Do you want to better understand the different ways to market your business online?
  • Do you want to know what’s trending and forecasted to trend in 2014?
  • Do you want to know more about outsourcing options for your business?

If I’m going to spend time researching topics and then writing about those topics, I’d rather spend my time wisely.

Please send your suggestions to rpoole@oraclehearing.com