Optometric Management Tip # 306   -   Wednesday, December 05, 2007
A Self-Assessment Quiz for Patient Satisfaction

Last week's tip introduced the importance of "customer" service in building a successful professional practice. I've often noticed that the biggest obstacle in practice management is not the concept, but the implementation. Typically, eye care practitioners are simply too busy to design and organize a plan for change. The practice owner may agree with an idea, but it just never happens. In this tip I'll discuss changing your office culture. In future tips I'll get you started with some implementation steps to improve patient satisfaction.

Soul searching

Excellent customer service must be at the core of your office culture in order for it to be sustainable. Office culture begins with the practice owners, doctors and managers. These individuals bring natural leadership to the organization and the way they think and act will drive the culture and behavior of staff members. If the doctor projects an aura that is perceived as aloof and arrogant (even if that image is unintentional or untrue), then employees will feel that the practice needs come first and that rude behavior is acceptable.

If the doctor/owner is obsessed with excellent customer service and patient satisfaction, then staff members will routinely want to deliver those traits (at least the good ones will). The emphasis on patient satisfaction must be extreme; the practice leaders must display a certain passion for it. Consider other companies that have demonstrated legendary customer service as examples to emulate: Ritz-Carlton hotels, Disney theme parks, Nordstrom's department stores, Lexus automobile dealerships and many more.

Here is a quiz for practice leaders. Take it and see where you stand as an advocate for great customer service. Each statement is either true or false. Count the number of times that you honestly feel the statement is true for you. Scoring Disclaimers

A quiz like this can't possibly take into consideration all the variables that enter into practice policies in the real world, so please don't take the examples or scoring too literally. There are always exceptions and unusual circumstances. The quiz is intended to demonstrate the general principals of excellent service and to encourage practitioners to look within, not to insist that we all handle the details exactly the same way. It is not scientific in any way.

I realize that refunding fees is controversial in a health care profession and many colleagues would disagree with such a policy. I believe that doing so is a smart move in the long run when no other effort is acceptable to remedy a problem, but I won't argue with those who feel it crosses a line. There is room for differences in our approach as long as the principles of great service are met.

Changing the culture in a practice may take some time, depending on how imbedded the current culture is, but it can change faster than one would think once the owners demonstrate a true commitment. A good place to start the new philosophy is at a staff meeting to discuss customer service and patient satisfaction. Get input from your staff on the topic. Tune in next week for more ideas on this vital aspect of practice building.

Best wishes for continued success,

Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Chief Optometric Editor, Optometric Management