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?”

3 Sales Strategies to Steer Your Patient Away from Price

It may seem as though price is one of the largest factors when making sales, but, interestingly, studies show that the typical salesperson is a lot more concerned about price than the typical customer is. Yet new salespeople still seem to love to talk about price!  All that talking about price focuses your patient’s attention on it, even if they weren’t overly concerned with cost at the beginning of the interaction. Hearing aids can be very expensive and it may be hard not to touch on the price, but there are many ways to take your patient’s attention away from price and focus it elsewhere that will help you make the sale.

Smart salespeople handle price as if it were a minor consideration. Of course, when your patient makes it an issue, you need to deal with it effectively. But even then, effective salespeople try to minimize its importance.

Follow these three Hubspot tips during your next sale to minimize the importance of price while still maintaining a healthy margin.

1) Focus on benefits, not features or price.

The best way to convey to your patient that your product is the most appropriate solution to their problem (regardless of price) is to focus all your attention on the benefits. Never assume that a prospect fully understands the benefit of a feature — always point it out and expand on it. The more benefits you apply to the patient’s needs or wants, the more often you’re able to show them what’s in it for them if they choose to partner with you.

2) Build value and then work to deliver it.

When you create value in the eyes of your buyer, the product or service you’re offering becomes more desirable, and price becomes less important. By establishing value early on, you can actually make a higher price work for you as a competitive advantage. Sensible buyers realize that with most purchases, you get what you pay for, and when you do present your price, it can make a statement about the quality of your product.

Use the appointment as an opportunity to pinpoint exactly what the patient considers valuable in a solution, and adjust your offerings to meet that criteria. Price becomes less of an issue when a prospect sees that their problem will be solved.

Are you providing your patients with the best customer service? Here are 9 ways to up your customer service game.

3) Present your price confidently — and stick to it.

Success in sales will be driven by two essential factors: margin and volume. In order to maintain your profit margin, it’s necessary to present your price with confidence and stand firm on it. And to deal with price-cutting attempts, you’ll need to get comfortable responding to the phrase “your price is too high.” Try following up with these replies:

  • “Let me tell you why our price is where it is.” At this point, repeat each of the benefits your product provides and the emotional costs your prospect will save by partnering with you.
  • “Let me explain how each of the things we’ve discussed will help you.” Expand on the benefits they’ll receive and the emotional relief you’ll provide them.
  • “We can work to give you a better price. But to do that, we’ll have to remove some of the components we’ve discussed. Which would you like to eliminate?” Your prospect will likely not want to remove or reduce any of the benefits you’ve provided. When you use this as your last option, you’d be surprised at how often a prospect will find a way to make the price work.

By focusing less on price and more on the value you are able to provide your patient, you can keep your buyer’s attention on what they’re ultimately concerned with — finding the right solution. After that, it’s just details.

Are ALL of your employees selling efficiently? Even if they’re not “salespeople,” they should be selling, read more about why here.

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.

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.

Niche Marketing

What exactly does niche marketing mean?

According to Wikipedia (as good a source as any for a definition).

“A niche market is the subset of the market on which a specific product is focusing. So the market niche defines the specific product features aimed at satisfying specific market needs, as well as the price range, production quality and the demographics that it is intended to impact. It is also a small market segment.”

Niches do not exist but are created by identifying needs, wants, and requirements that are being addressed poorly or not at all by other firms, and developing and delivering goods or services to satisfy them. As a strategy, niche marketing is aimed at being a big fish in a small pond instead of being a small fish in a big pond.

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Why Should You Create a Niche?

You don’t have the time or the resources to be everything to everyone. For the majority of people reading this article, your revenue is generated from the sale of hearing aids.  However within that fairly narrow field it is possible to figure out what appeals to the demographic you serve in your immediate area and give it to them.

If you’re in an area that values customer service (and is wiling to pay for it) above all else, then provide great customer service.  Services like on demand appointments, high-end waiting room furniture, a Keurig in the waiting room…in other words, pamper the would be customer.  If you’re in an extremely budget conscious area then price your products and structure your practice accordingly.

Choose a niche, don’t waste your time and your money trying to attract every hearing impaired patient to your office.  It’s impossible to be all things to all people so stop trying.