To perceive Patients as Customers is a ‘big ask’ but unless the change occurs the surgery would go into bad reputation with serious consequences.
It is, therefore, crucial that GPs, Nurses and healthcare staff must change to treat patients as Customers. They all should do their own internal review of their attitudes and change to meet the new requirements for the welfare of the patients/customers and thereby the surgery. Good quality customer service gives the edge over competitors – surgeries within the catchment area. Regardless of industry, the following key principals of good customer service always make business sense.
6.1.1 Giving good service to existing customers (patients)
Satisfied patients stay with a surgery longer and spread the word to friends and contacts in the community, which will attract new patients.
6.1.2 Customer service costs real money
Real costs are associated with providing good customer service. Surgeries in ‘leafy suburbs’ with better facilities and decor generally benefit from more customer satisfaction.
Answering machines with long extended messages are more impersonal and may alienate the patients. So aim for short messages followed by a receptionist’s response to the call would satisfy the patients, as they feel happy that they are talking to someone.
6.1.3 Understanding customers’ needs and aim to meet them
To meet customers’ needs, the surgery must know what those needs were. To understand the customer’s needs, surgery should listen to the “voice of the customer” and take action accordingly.
Customer listening can be done in many ways, for example, feedback forms and satisfaction surveys.
6.1.4 Good process and product design is important
Good quality customer service is only one factor in meeting customer needs. The overall processes should meet customers’ needs more often. Adherence to good clinical governance is crucial in this aspect.
6.1.5 Customer service must be consistent
Customers expect consistent quality of customer service. Not only clinical excellence is important but also the behaviour of the receptionists, nurses and staff, in general, play a key part of the service.
6.1.6 Employees are also Customers
The quality management movement should highlight the concept of internal and external customers. Traditionally the focus is usually on external customers with little thought given to how internal departments interacted. Improving relationships with internal customers and suppliers assists delivery of better customer service to external customers, through reduced lead-times, increased quality and better communication.
The circular relationship between employees, customers and Partners need to be understood. Under-staffed, under-trained employees will not deliver good quality customer service, driving customers away. Equal effort must be made in attracting, motivating and retaining employees as is made for customers, ultimately delivering improved returns to the partners. Better returns to partners mean more money is available to invest in employees and so the circle continues.
6.1.7 Open all communications channels
The customer wants to contact you in many ways – face to face, by mail, phone, fax, and email – and will expect all of these communication channels to be open and easily inter-mingled.
This presents a technical challenge, as it requires an integrated, streamlined solution providing the employee with the information they need to effectively service the customer.
6.1.8 Every customer contact is a chance to shine
If a customer has a reason for a complaint, then SR and PMgr should be able to resolve the complaint swiftly, possibly enhancing the customer’s perception of the surgery. Feeding back this information allows corrective action to be made, stopping further occurrences of the error.
6.1.9 People expect good customer service everywhere.
Patients become frustrated when their expectations are not met, and increasingly demand higher service quality in more areas of their lives.
Providing outstanding customer service at the right price is the focus of most surgeries. It is worth remembering that we all experience customer service every day. We can learn from these and apply them in our own line of work, whatever it may be. The quality of good customer service will make the surgery stand out from other surgeries and for the right reasons!