I needed stamps for our patient birthday cards so my wife, Maria, and I stopped by the local post office during lunch today. Recent news reports indicate the USPS is almost broke. Revenues are down 22% in the last five years and this entity may be on track for a government bailout. At the very least, there is talk about eliminating delivery of the mail on Saturday.
As we stood in line, one thing was evident to me. Let me first say, I am sure there are a lot of hardworking people that work for the post office; but in most cases, the reputation of the USPS has become that they have no desire to help customers or make its customers feel welcome.
The USPS will tell you that use of the internet and competition are making it difficult to be profitable. I believe they stopped caring about customers and they thought people would never stop using them because there was no other choice than the USPS. As a result, they created a great opportunity for companies like FedEx and UPS to move in and gain market share years ago.
The whole experience made me wonder how patients feel when they enter our office. As we all know, you only get one chance to make a first impression. So how you treat patients calling or entering your office for the first time can set the tone for their customer experience.
Thank goodness, most of us work hard to make patient care and customer service a cornerstone to building our businesses; but it is important that we never stop making customer service a priority. I think there are three major skills to consider.
1. Using Positive Language: For example you could say, “When do you want to come in for an appointment?” vs. “Is an afternoon or morning appointment better for you?
2. Listening: You have to focus, listen for key facts and key feelings and make notes about what you have promised to your patients.
3. Confirming Satisfaction: You want to make sure you get it right. Being willing to go the extra mile to make the patient happy and satisfied is vital.
In the end, customer satisfaction has to be something that is worked on, discussed in staff meetings and becomes part of the culture of your office. When you take time to be with people, tell the truth, attend to even their tiniest needs, wants and understand them, you build patient loyalty and a successful business. The last thing you want to do is to wake up someday and realize that you have become the Post office of Optometry.
Keep in touch,
Dr. Roland Montemayor