Even customer service, as vital to patients as it is, does not stand alone to create a stellar impression on patients. Your practice must excel in providing an intentional patient experience beyond the exam room.
Ever been to a restaurant that provided great food but a mediocre experience – maybe the music was too loud, the air-conditioning too high or you sat right next to the kitchen constantly being interrupted by traffic during your meal? When we spend money for services we want the whole experience to be consistent and positive. No matter how great your medical expertise or broad your service line, you may still be limiting your success by not fully dialing in the patient experience with a vibe that fits both the practice and the target demographic.
It’s easy for physicians to lose touch with this aspect of the practice because their focus is on their direct interaction with patients and the reasons for their visit, yet that is only a slice of the entire patient experience pie. The ambiance, or vibe, of your practice is worth your consideration because whether it’s intentional or not, patients are getting an impression and experience from the setting your practice provides - and it affects your success. Your practice must excel in providing an intentional patient experience beyond the exam room. Even customer service, as vital to patients as it is, does not stand alone to create a stellar impression on patients.
If your focus is building an aesthetic practice, you’ve got to compete with high-end spa-like facilities. Does that mean you have to be upscale in every aspect? If that is natural, go for it and be consistent with quality in everything from paper selection for promo pieces to décor, music and luxurious value-adds. If the thought of that makes you totally uncomfortable, you might need to rethink your strategic plan, service lines and target market. Some physicians require a sense of helping people with legitimate medical needs to be fully satisfied. If that’s you, consider how that will work with your current focus and how you will welcome those patients with appropriate marketing, practice ambiance and communication. Know yourself and your patients, decide the flavor of your practice and follow through with consistency.
Looking at your practice from a patient’s perspective, consider how to provide for their most basic needs on up to dream list items. Though you may not be able to offer free pedicures while they wait, you could ensure they have easy parking, a beautiful restroom, a pleasant welcome and a cold bottle of water (or hot coffee). For an aesthetic practice going after a luxury vibe, think quality giveaways, lots of special treatment and high-end décor. And remember, it never hurts to ask-brief patient surveys or hiring a consultant to either conduct a mystery patient service or assess your patient experience and interview a sample of patients are some ways to dig deeper.
An easy checklist tool is to ask yourself if you are appealing to patients’ five senses. Choosing appropriate music, comfortable upholstery, aromatherapy, cloth gowns and a beautiful water feature are just a few examples. Every patient interaction with your practice is an opportunity to impress and express, that means everything from signage, landscaping, room temperature and phone service to staff appearance and offerings in your reception area. Even quality printed promo materials can provide a tactile experience. Looking for ways to appeal to patient’s five senses will lead you to unique offerings that get them talking and coming back!
No matter what your practice style is, the vibe will be a stellar experience if you can go beyond basic by meeting often-unmet emotional needs of patients. Providing sound-masking music is an example. While contributing to the practice ambiance, it also provides privacy, meeting an emotional need as well as appealing to one of the five senses. Knowledge is power and patients want to feel in control, so give them the knowledge of who they are talking to and staff level of training by requiring name badges of your staff. Another example is when patients are proceeding with a procedure that has higher perceived risks. These patients need reassurance. Providing extra time for them to ask questions and have their fears alleviated by a staff member who is both knowledgeable in your services as well as emotionally intuitive can translate into referrals and repeat business simply for how you made them feel.
Even as a leader, a physician-owner or practice administrator cannot make it happen on their own. You need your entire staff on board in order to truly keep a consistent practice vibe. Why? First, because attitudes are contagious and keeping staff excited and proud to be practice ambassadors is crucial. Second, because your practice and patient experience is only as strong as your weakest link. It only takes one negative exchange to alter the patient experience. Though they may love their doctor, patients spend far more time dealing with your staff. People are the practice-get the right people on board and the wrong people off or you will burn out trying to drag them with you.
Though especially important for a cosmetic practice, a strictly-medical practice can also give patients something to rave about while embracing what makes them and their patients unique. In doing so, you’ll express appreciation and respect to patients while increasing perceived value of each patient visit. This should translate into repeat business and increased referrals. All of that, plus a workplace with a vibe you designed-you can’t beat that!