Article Date: 10/1/2010

Redefining the "Wow" Factor

Redefining the "Wow" Factor

Should you try to create loyal patients through a single, memorable moment?

Jim Thomas

There's nothing wrong with the "wow" factor — that is, creating a transaction or moment that greatly exceeds patient expectations. But if your primary goal is to create loyal patients, then it might be best to look beyond "wow."

Here's why: Recent articles in the Harvard Business Review, The New Yorker and several blogs that focus on customer service argue that the best way build loyalty is to deliver fundamentally sound service whenever the customer encounters a problem with the vendor.

"Loyalty has a lot more to do with how well companies deliver on their basic, even plain-vanilla promises than on how dazzling the service experience might be," write authors Matthew Dixon, Karen Freeman and Nicholas Toman in the article, "Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers," (Harvard Business Review, July 2010).

In a recent interview on the Harvard "IdeaCast" podcast, Mr. Dixon reports that key drivers of disloyalty include:

► repeatedly transferring the customer to different members of the staff;
► asking the customer to repeat the same information to different members of the staff;
► treating the customer generically that is, not offering him a personalized solution to his problem;
► forcing the customer to switch out of his channel of choice (for example, when the patient fails in an attempt to make an appointment through the practice website — his preferred channel — he then must phone the office).

The key to loyalty, then, is to reduce the amount of effort a customer must undertake to resolve an issue.

Nothing personal

Mr. Dixon says it's wrong to assume that customers want their issues resolved through live interaction with a "real person." Regardless of the method of contact (website, telephone answering tree or receptionist), the key is to resolve the customer's issue "in a timely fashion, ideally one interaction."

In practice, then, successful leaders will be those that, where possible, provide the staff with the tools necessary to resolve customer/patient issues — if not in one transaction then in a single referral or transfer to another person in the practice.

A one-point-of-contact resolution provides additional benefits to the practice: It minimizes the number of staffers who are required to participate in the problem-solving process. That means that while customer service levels and loyalty increase, costs do not. OM

Optometric Management, Issue: October 2010