I study customer service and marketing in use by all kinds of companies, within the eye care industry and in my personal life. I learn a lot and it gives me ideas that can help my practice. One of my favorite fast food restaurants is Chic-fil-A. I was placing an order there recently and I said “Thank you” for something. The clerk used a phrase that I’ve heard many times by the staff at Chic-fil-A restaurants all over the country: “It is my pleasure.” This phrase is not unique to Chic-fil-A, of course. The Ritz Carlton organization made it famous and many other business use it as well, but I was impressed at how universally well-trained the servers at Chic-fil-A are. After all, most of the servers that I work with appear to be under age 20. And yet, they do not seem to forget and revert back to the more frequent response today when a customer says thank you, which is “no problem” or the popular alternative: “no worries”. And they sound natural when saying “my pleasure”; not forced or scripted, even though it obviously is.
Well, this made me think about my own staff and how they sound to patients and how well we use our manners. In my opinion, society today has gotten away from using what I was taught as good manners. It has become somewhat out of date or certainly not regarded as all that important. But when people hear kind words that convey respect and consideration, they notice and it makes them feel good.
Many optometrists and office managers never take the time to train their staff on the intricate details of good manners, yet that is precisely what some of the best companies do. If it has been a while since you talked about using the right words with your employees, why not make it the topic of your next staff meeting?
I’ll provide a list of items to cover in your manners check, but we all probably know these preferred phrases. The important thing is to take the training seriously and practice it enough so it becomes internalized by your staff… like they must do at Chic-fil-A.
When someone says “thank you”, I like the sound of “my pleasure” as a response, whether over the phone or in person. Of course, “you’re welcome” always works too, but that really won’t be noticed as anything special. I would avoid responses like “sure” or “no problem”.
I think it is a nice touch to use people’s names even when you don’t have to. I teach my staff to use Mr., Mrs., and Miss and the last name if the person is older than you. We use first names if the person is about our age or younger. But the important thing is to use the name. It builds relationships and people love to hear their own name. We make an effort to pronounce names correctly and to make a record of it for others.
I think the use of the words “I’m sorry” are conspicuously absent from common speech today and especially in health care offices. I prefer my staff to own our mistakes. When a patient or consumer thinks something was not handled well, an apology turns the tone around almost instantly.
There are many other phrases that will enhance the patient’s experience in your office. Having staff members introduce themselves by name and shaking hands when appropriate. I like the use of “may I place you on a brief hold?” instead of just “hold please”. It’s perfectly fine to use words like "yes sir" or "yes ma’am".
It is up to the leaders of your practice to initiate a training program on good manners and make it part of your office culture. It will help grow your practice.
Best wishes for continued success,
Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Editor, Optometric Management Tip of the Week