best how to surpass your patient's expectations?
THE EXECUTIVE EDITOR Jim Thomas
consultant proclaims, "You can't just meet expectations, you have to exceed them."
It's the mantra of anyone involved in customer or patient relations. Unfortunately,
it's a vague directive, much like a coach telling a basketball player to "get your
head in the game." It provides few clues of what to do or how to do it.
Did you succeed?
We need these clues. It's not unusual to exceed
one set of expectations while missing those of the patient. Here's an example: Mr.
Presby is told his glasses will be ready on Friday, but lo and behold, they arrive
from the lab on Wednesday. The office phones Mr. Presby to let him know that his
glasses came in two days ahead of schedule. The staff agrees that the early
arrival exceeds their expectations. But did it exceed the patient's?
That depends. If it's convenient for
the patient to stop by the office and he values the early arrival, then yes, the
practice has probably exceeded his expectations. But what if Mr. Presby is a busy
sales rep who fully booked his Wednesday and Thursday appointment schedule so that
he could take time to pick up his glasses on Friday? In this case, the early arrival
may not affect expectations because it provided little value to this particular
There's no single proven set
of rules for exceeding expectations as they differ from patient to patient. Worse,
patients may set arbitrary criteria for service ("I want my glasses as soon as possible")
that don't necessarily reflect realistic expectations. It's also likely that patients
may not even know what to expect.
Some practices exceed expectations
by creating a leading-edge office that includes the latest equipment and technology,
waiting rooms that look like finely furnished living rooms, beverage services or
daycare for children. These practices typically employ attentive, knowledgeable
staff who understand the difference between "following the rules" and providing
The rules of engagement
Another way to exceed is to create a practice
atmosphere that engages the patient. Just as you diagnose Mr. Presby's needs for
vision correction, you would also learn the issues that surround service and care
for him and other patients.
Note that the road "to exceed" isn't
always paved with costs. I would wager that a simple follow-up phone call after
a patient receives glasses, contact lenses or medication surpasses the experiences
shared by the vast majority of patients.
Optometric Management, Issue: October 2006