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 By Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO, Editor December 12, 2007 - Tip #307 
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Action Steps for Improved Patient Loyalty

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Additional Information

Assuming you're with me in principle about the importance of "customer" service in building a successful practice, let's explore some real world steps you can take to improve patient satisfaction and loyalty.

Staff attitude

If any revitalization in the area of customer service is to occur, your staff must be in full support, so that is a great place to start. It doesn't matter if you have a staff of one or fifty, I would hold a special staff meeting to discuss the importance of customer service for any business. Discuss how great companies make their customers feel and ask staff to share their own personal experiences with great service. The owner and manager should discuss their own beliefs that practice success is highly dependent on patient satisfaction. Satisfied patients actually are not really good enough because satisfaction means one received the service and products that were expected. We need to exceed expectations. We need enthusiastic patients! Those are the ones who tell others about their experience at your office.

The highest level of satisfaction is best called loyalty. Maximum patient loyalty is our goal because of two important factors: retention and referrals. Loyal patients return to your practice on a regular basis and they refer friends and relatives as new patients.

Influence point analysis

A great way to launch your new initiative for building patient loyalty is to conduct what is called influence point analysis. An influence point is any interaction your practice has with a patient. The Walt Disney Company, a well-known master of customer service, refers to these points as moments of truth. Begin your project by taking a pen and pad of paper and writing down your influence points. The first one would likely be the initial phone call by the patient. Another one would be the greeting at the front desk when the patient arrives for an appointment. Continue through a hypothetical patient visit including dispensing visits and consider all the side points along the way. You'll find that you have some major influence points and some minor ones.

Analyze each influence point and get your staff's input on each one. Be objective.
  • Who in your practice handles each point?
  • How well is the point currently handled and what could be done to improve it?
  • What physical surroundings does the patient see at each point?
  • How much financial support is given to each point and would an additional investment help to improve it?
  • How do other eye care practices handle this point and can you learn from them?
  • Consider intangibles, such as smiling, using good manners, preferred use of words, cleanliness, punctuality, efficiency, and general integrity.
  • What impression is given through indirect influence points, like recall mailings, statements, advertising, and follow-up phone calls?
  • What can you do to prevent negative influence points, such as one dissatisfied patient telling many other people about a poor experience?
Monitor patient satisfaction

Have you asked your patients what they think of your services lately? Revisit tip #17 at this link http://www.optometric.com/mtotw/tip.asp?tip=17 for a simple post card survey that I use in my practice on a continuous basis.

Competitive advantages

As you analyze your practice and motivate your staff to become passionate about excellent service, ask yourself this tough question: Why should a patient select your practice for eye care when compared to all the other practices in the area? You should have several very strong reasons very quickly. Those reasons are called your competitive advantages and you must have them to reach high levels of success. If you have some difficulty coming up with these or if they seem a little weak, you need to develop your competitive advantages. Fortunately, you can buy them! Of course, financial investment in your practice must occur in a gradual fashion as you can afford it, but in some cases it just takes time and effort, not cash. Consider some of the ways that spending money on your practice can provide competitive advantages:
  • Increase your staff. Service and attitude often improves.
  • Purchase a patternless lens edger and provide better optical service.
  • Move to a larger and nicer office.
  • Remodel the reception area and optical.
  • Buy one advanced technology instrument - like a retinal camera or nerve fiber analyzer.
Why not make 2008 the year of great advancement in your practice? Start with great customer service.

Best wishes for continued success,

Read Past Tips Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Editor, Optometric Management Tip of the Week

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Send questions and comments to neil@gailmard.com.

Dr. Gailmard offers consulting services to eye care professionals through Prima Eye Group; information is available at www.primaeyegroup.com.
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