You know that the key to a successful healthcare practice is a great client experience, and you want to provide great service consistently. But what does that mean in practice?
Let’s say a client has a complaint about a recent visit. Are you confident that everyone in your team would handle it the same way? Or is it more likely that one employee might feel the situation warrants a refund, while another doesn’t believe it requires follow-up at all? It’s even possible that the same team member might handle an issue differently from one day to the next, depending on their stress levels and workload.
When it comes to customer service in healthcare, consistency is vital and you can’t leave the interpretation of what is and isn’t great service to individual employees. It’s not realistic, and it’s not fair to your team. And that’s where a customer service policy comes in. Clear customer service policies ensure that your team knows exactly how to react when an issue arises.
But how exactly does having great customer service policies translate to creating loyal and happy clients?
When all of your employees follow the same policy, staff know what they can offer, and clients know to expect consistent, great customer service from your practice – regardless of who they talk to or what channel they use to reach out.
Let’s get into the details of why you need a customer service policy in healthcare, and how to create an effective one for your practice.
What is a Customer Service Policy?
A customer service policy is a document that guides the way employees and practitioners approach customer service.
96% of customers leave a brand because of bad customer service. Clients expect a consistent experience regardless of who they’re dealing with, what the issue is, or what channel they use to express their needs.
For all your employees and practitioners to provide consistent service, you must set guidelines. That’s what your customer service policy is for.
3 Reasons Great Customer Service Policies Benefit Your Practice and Your Clients
1. They bring clarity to your goals
You have goals for your practice’s customer service. They may include things like resolving client concerns quickly or providing professional, friendly, and empathetic service.
A customer service policy connects those big goals to concrete actions your employees should take in the day-to-day tasks of running a practice. A well-written policy will remove questions that leave room for individual interpretation. For example, if it’s important to you to resolve issues quickly, you need to define a timeline. Does ‘quick’ mean getting back to a client in an hour or a week? Putting these expectations into writing means that everyone is on the same page. This gives you peace of mind and empowers your team to make the right decisions every time.
2. They shine a light on important benchmarks
Your customer service policy contains important benchmarks for response and resolution times, as well as guidelines on other important processes such as escalation and collaboration. When you evaluate the performance of your team, you can do so using the standards of good service defined in the policy.
3. They empower your team to deliver great customer service
When employees know exactly what they’re supposed to do, they’re less likely to cut corners or make poor judgement calls. There’s less room for interpretation and error when you have a cohesive strategy for rolling out great customer service in all areas of the practice.
5 Steps to Developing a Reliable, Effective Customer Service Policy
1. Consider the big picture
What is the mission of your practice? How do you define excellent service? What are the client touch-points and do you offer a great experience at each one?
Let’s get practical
Start your customer service policies with a mission statement, this could be one or two lines summarizing how you want to treat your clients.
For example, this practice strives for excellence and professionalism in providing customer service, both inside and outside the practice, within the limits of available, well-managed resources.
2. Identify and address client needs
Your customer service policy should address the real needs and expectations of your clients. Don’t guess, research.
Let’s get practical
Kick-off the process by talking to your team. They already know a lot about common client concerns and pain points. Then, send out client surveys to learn more about what your clients want and what frustrates them.
For example, if they feel unsatisfied with the response time to their telephone contact or the consistency of their interactions with your practice, address those things in the policy.
3. Set realistic expectations
Promising your clients everything they want sounds nice in theory, but your customer service policy needs to be realistic in terms of what you can provide. The document will be meaningless to your employees and your clients if the promises it makes aren’t achievable.
Let’s get practical
Find out how your team is doing now by answering questions such as:
- What’s your average response time?
- Which channels can clients use to contact you?
Set goals that are optimistic but within reach and if you’re not happy with what you can currently deliver, consider the technology you’re using. Your practice management software affects what you can promise to your clients, so use technology to improve what you can deliver.
4. Cover all your bases in detail
The bulk of your customer service policy should be guidelines for how your employees will act in specific circumstances.
Let’s get practical
Include these sections:
- Your company values – These can be part of your customer service mission statement.
- Promised response and resolution time – Will you get back to your clients in one hour or six? How soon will you resolve an issue? How do issues get escalated?
- Guidelines for professionalism – When your employees interact with clients, how should they behave? This could include guidelines for professional dress, accepting and giving gifts, or giving advice.
- Practice-specific policies -.For example, how do staff deal with emergency or priority cases? How will you collect feedback (including specifications on how you’ll collect it and how often), How can clients contact you? And how will you respond to negative feedback?
- What to do when clients are unhappy – If the client isn’t satisfied, how do your staff resolve the complaint? What do staff do for verbal and written complaints? What steps can they take themselves and how do they escalate if necessary?
- Guidelines for dealing with challenging behaviours – How do staff approach a hostile client? How do staff keep themselves and others safe?
5. Implement the policy
Every employee and practitioner should have access to your customer service policy.
Let’s get practical
- Put it in your internal database so team members can check it quickly. Post physical copies in your workspaces. You can also publish it on your website where clients can read it.
- Training for employees should include the policy. These are your team’s main priorities, and you should take the time to make sure your employees understand every item.
- Once your policy is in place, monitor your success. Are the client surveys showing improved satisfaction with your service?
- If you aren’t reaching the goals defined in your customer service policy, it could mean that your employees are underperforming or need more training. Alternatively, it could mean that the guidelines aren’t realistic given your resources and technology. If it’s the latter, investigate what your team needs to meet their objectives.
A customer service policy is a living document. Update it if anything changes and plan to review the policy yearly.
Customer Service Policy Pro Tips
For your policy to be effective, it should be clear and impactful. Here are some tips that will help you craft the perfect policy:
- Be specific – For example, guaranteeing an email reply within 5 working days is better than saying you’ll provide fast service.
- Keep focused – Prioritize the goals that will have the biggest impact on the client experience.
- Make it easy to understand – Whether the reader is a brand-new employee or a client, your policy should be clear and straightforward.
A customer service policy is a simple way to hold your practice employees and practitioners to a consistently high standard.
The ideas in your customer service policy shouldn’t come out of anywhere – base them on your practice’s goals with input from your team and outline concrete ways to reach those goals.
Consider your technology investments and how they can improve your customer service and track your success. Keeping promises made to your clients will be easier with the right tools.
Need some help getting started?
All existing and new customers can now access Power Diary’s Practice Manual which includes a pre-written Customer Service Policy template that can quickly and easily be adapted for your practice. You get the full pre-written documentation when you start a free trial with Power Diary!