Article Date: 10/1/2007

Set Sail for Customer Service
business advisor

Set Sail for Customer Service

Take these cruising lessons dockside to improve staff/patient interaction.

JERRY HAYES, O.D.

I recently had the pleasure of going on a luxury cruise to Asia. It was interesting to compare the customer service of the cruise line with that of private-practice optometrists and their staffs.

Greetings!

Within minutes of boarding, a smiling and smartly dressed crew greeted my wife and I and called us by name. After they ushered us to our well-appointed stateroom, a cheery housekeeper appeared to answer questions and see whether we had any special requests.

I was truly impressed by the white glove-service and personal attention that followed us through the first few days of our cruise. It was obvious the staff was well-trained and very focused on trying to provide good customer service.

Showmanship

As was the ship's custom, passengers were invited to dine with various ship executives, such as the captain and tour director. One evening, I got to sit with Joseph, the head of customer service. This led to a real "Aha" moment for me in terms of how committed the staff was to customer service.

Joseph explained that he had previously worked as a manager in the luxury-hotel industry.

"I liked working in hotels, but we have a real advantage here in terms of building a strong culture of customer service," he told me.

"How so?" I asked.

"Well, at the hotel, I only had my employees for eight to 12 hours a day. Here, they live on the ship for weeks at a time, which allows me to do a better job of training."

All I could think was, "What a great point. You can't just talk about customer service, you have to live it everyday."

Take-home points

With that in mind, here are five relatively simple, but not always easy, things you and your staff can do to improve your level of customer service:

Lead by example. The practice owner must lead by example. Do this by using every patient interaction in which you're involved to model the treatment you want patients to receive. This is the most important step, as you can't expect your staff to be polite and caring if you aren't.

Appoint a greeter. Make sure that you've designated someone to greet patients in a friendly and courteous manner as soon as they enter the reception area. It makes patients feel welcome.

Eye contact. Instruct your staff to look patients in the eye when talking and call them by name. It's a little thing that shows people you care.

The customer is still right. Instruct your staff to avoid arguing with patients, even when the patient might be wrong. Do some roll-playing and use lines like, "I see your point, Mrs. Jones. What can we do to address your concern?"

Follow-up. Follow every dispensing appointment with a phone call to see how the patient is doing with his eye wear. Like the old saying goes, if you like our service, please tell a friend, if you don't, please tell us, so we can rectify the problem.

Like you, I realize that many patients choose their eyecare providers based on who accepts their vision plans. But, whenever given a choice, people do business where they feel wanted and appreciated.

If a key employee of a billion-dollar cruise line feels that he must stress customer service to his staff morning, noon and night, should private-practice optometrists do any less? OM


THE FOUNDER OF THE HAYES CENTER FOR PRACTICE EXCELLENCE AT SOUTHERN COLLEGE OF OPTOMETRY IN MEMPHIS, DR. HAYES IS A REGULAR CONTRIBUTOR TO OM. E-MAIL HIM AT JHAYES@HAYESCONSULTING.COM.



Optometric Management, Issue: October 2007