The landscape for private practices in the allied health industry is rapidly changing. Private practices are now able to open their doors seemingly overnight creating more competition and disrupting the space especially when it comes to building relationships with your patients.
Now more than ever practice owners need to create a positive impression on the patient from the moment they enter your waiting room doors till they leave the building.
But how do we do this?
By drawing inspiration from the king of customer service experiences, the retail industry. By adopting a few key principles into the way you manage your business and interact with your patients you can begin to build lasting relationships as they return to you or refer you to friends and family.
First impressions matter
How are your staff interacting with patients? How are they greeted? Are the staff friendly, welcoming and warm or rushing around frantically leaving patients feeling ignored and in the way?
If your team are frequently under pressure or overcommitted it might be time to look at hiring. Your team need to have the ability to give your patients their time and complete attention. They should take a moment to make sure patients are aware of the restrooms, if there is a drinking station available, and be able to indicate if consultations are running to schedule.
If you are fortunate enough to have stayed at a high-end hotel or visited a premium retail outlet, you know first hand the impact a friendly and professional greeting can make to your overall impression of the business. This is why so many businesses are shifting to models that provide a concierge at the front of the building (banks, most government organisations, department stores).
Create a welcoming space
Take a few minutes to go and sit in your waiting room area as if you are a patient and have a look around.
Do you have tired, torn up magazines?
Does the waiting room have access to drinking water?
Can you easily locate the bathroom?
Do you have a mother’s room available?
What about some fun interactive toys for children to keep them entertained?
If you answered yes to all of the above, well done! Chances are that most waiting rooms could use some TLC.
Providing current magazines for patients to enjoy is a low-cost opportunity to create a lasting impression. Toss the old ones out into your recycling bin and restock on some crisp new publications.
Keep the space tidy and clean. If possible have the room heated in winter and cool in summer. Aim to make the time spent in this space as enjoyable as possible.
Adding a few slices of fresh lemon to a drinking station is a great way to add a special touch.
Don’t miss the opportunity to promote any specials on offer or other services you provide through quality marketing materials.
It’s pretty common for most patients to have no idea what your after-hours contact options are and usually, this is because no one has told them.
If you have emergency numbers available for outside your practice hours, I highly recommend that this is included on your appointment cards, your website and that you have a notice up in your waiting room.
If you do not provide after-hours contact options, it might be time to have a chat to a nearby practice who can provide that service to your patients. Providing the option of having a patient reach out for support regardless of the time of day goes a long way toward building long-term patient relationships.
Providing a great patient experience does not have to be difficult. Take some time to reflect on the businesses that have WOWed you the most and note what you can replicate in your practice to make sure your patients come back or refer your business onto friends.