In allied health, each interaction holds the potential to create lasting positive impressions, but there’s also a risk of making mistakes that alienate clients. Even the most diligent practitioners can occasionally overlook the nuances that differentiate a good client experience from a truly memorable one.
Every client encounter is a balance of trust, respect, and empathy.
Why Focus on Customer Service?
What sets one allied health practice apart from another isn’t just the qualifications or the facilities – it’s often the “soft skills” of your team.
Customer service differentiates your practice.
Differentiation isn’t about being dramatically different; it’s about adding value in the places that matter most. Think of it as the unique fingerprint of your practice – elements that make clients think, “The staff here understand me; I’m going to get the help I need.”
Get and Maintain Referrals
Word-of-mouth remains a powerful marketing tool in allied health.
When clients have positive experiences, they become walking ambassadors for your practice. Positive stories of their encounters with your team help to attract new clients and reinforce the loyalty of existing ones.
Improve Retention Rates
Happy clients are loyal clients.
When clients feel valued and see tangible improvements in their health, they’re less likely to seek alternatives.
Reduce Staff Turnover
Beyond client retention, there’s another crucial element: your team retention. A healthy team culture improves job satisfaction, and a great client experience follows.
When your team feels they’re making a difference and are appreciated for it, they’re less likely to move on, reducing turnover.
Ready to transform the way you connect? Let’s unpack 5 common customer service mistakes in allied health – and how to avoid them!
Mistake #1: Lack of Empathy
Empathy in allied healthcare isn’t about foregoing boundaries; it’s about striking a reliable balance between compassion and adherence to policy and procedures. Whether you’re a solo practitioner or leading a large team, this balance is non-negotiable, but it’s not always easy.
An overemphasis on assertiveness may paint a picture of a cold, uncaring practice, pushing clients away. On the other hand, there’s a danger in having a team member who is too empathetic. This may lead to a situation where a team member isn’t collecting payments, which can cause harm to the business.
How to manage this in your practice
Practices with larger teams may choose to appoint a gatekeeper – a dedicated individual who can take the lead on policy enforcement and collection. Train this person to approach these tasks tactfully, ensuring that the business side of your practice runs smoothly without compromising client care.
It’s essential to look for candidates who exhibit both empathy and assertiveness; hire staff who can connect with clients yet know when to stand their ground on policies and procedures.
Mistake #2: Not Listening to Clients
Every client brings with them health concerns and their own insights, perspectives, and suggestions. When clients don’t feel heard, it can lead to diminished trust in the healthcare provider. Yet, truly listening to clients is an art many practices overlook.
Taking heed of client feedback can lead to invaluable improvements, making the service more streamlined and efficient. In such instances, swift action demonstrates that you value their input.
You’ll also encounter suggestions or requests that, for various reasons, might be challenging or impractical to implement. In these instances, the key lies not in the action (or inaction) itself but in the manner of communication.
Employ the ‘Listen to Understand’ principle:
1. Restate and Validate
After hearing the client out, restate their concerns or suggestions in your own words. This ensures you’ve grasped their perspective and reinforces to the client that you’re actively listening.
2. Offer a Thoughtful Response
Engage in an active dialogue. Responding thoughtfully is more than just giving a mechanical answer. It involves delving into the client’s concerns and genuinely trying to understand.
3. Provide Transparent Communication
If a client’s request can’t be met, honesty is the best policy.
Be clear about the reasons, ensuring you explain things comprehensibly and compassionately. Offer alternative solutions or suggest ways they can navigate around the issue in order to maintain the relationship.
Mistake #3: Not Training Your Admin Team
Your admin team sets the first impression and crafts the initial client experience, so don’t underestimate the need for thorough customer service training.
A common pitfall is to make assumptions about a new team member’s knowledge or rely on what you assume to be ‘common sense’. Take something as seemingly straightforward as phone etiquette. What seems to you like an obvious way to answer a call might differ vastly from someone else’s approach.
Overlooking training can lead to inconsistent experiences, which can rapidly undermine a client’s trust in your practice.
Have a clearly defined and agreed-upon performance expectations.
This acts as a guideline, ensuring your admin staff aren’t left in the dark regarding the standard of service expected.
Targeted training can make all the difference.
Set Clear Expectations
Clearly outline the do’s and don’ts, the specific processes to follow, and the standards to uphold.
Educate Clients on Practice Policies & Procedures
Ensure that clients are equipped with essential knowledge like appointment scheduling protocols, payment procedures, and the ins and outs of cancellation policies. Eliminate ambiguities to foster a smoother client journey.
Starbucks might be a world away from healthcare, but its approach to customer services offers a valuable lesson for practice owners. Patrons worldwide are acquainted with Starbucks’s ordering protocol, yet each coffee cup, adorned with a name scribble, feels special. The balance between consistency and a personal touch should be the focus of any allied health practice.
A well-trained admin team ensures operational efficiency and encapsulates your practice’s values and vision.
Did you know that Power Diary has an in-platform Practice Operations Manual? You can configure it to suit your practice or create and upload your own policies to ensure everyone works from the same playbook.
Mistake #4: Not Being Proactive in Addressing Pain Points
Every client interaction carries with it an invisible inventory of expectations and concerns.
These “pain points” can drastically shape the client experience and, if not identified and addressed proactively, can lead to dissatisfaction.
Anticipate these potential hurdles:
One of the most common pain points revolves around scheduling.
Whether it’s the availability of preferred slots, handling urgent appointment requests, or managing late cancellations, each scenario demands a proactive response.
You can make the appointment process smoother by implementing systems like online booking with real-time appointment availability, or receive instant notifications for any recently opened slots.
Money can be a sensitive topic.
To avoid surprises or discomfort for clients, share transparent information about fee structures and payment expectations before the initial appointment.
This information can include details on consultation charges, any potential additional costs, and acceptable modes of payment.
The actual visit to practice, especially the on-site check-in, is a potential source of confusion for clients.
Ensure clients are aware of any forms or paperwork that need prior completion.
By making forms available online and sending reminders, you can mitigate the last-minute rush to collect crucial information.
A Domino Effect of Miscommunication
A lack of effective communication can lead to a cascade of problems.
For example, imagine a client misses their appointment due to unclear communication (such as lack of a confirmation email with an intake form link), is unaware of no-show fees, and then arrives for a rescheduled appointment finding that they now owe for two sessions, plus they have a pile of forms to complete.
This domino effect strains the client relationship and impacts the operational flow of the practice.
Being proactive is about eliminating potential pitfalls before the client even encounters them. It’s about understanding their journey, foreseeing challenges, and crafting a path that’s as obstacle-free as possible.
Mistake #5: Not Owning Up to Mistakes
As Nikki Giovanni once noted, “Mistakes are a fact of life. It’s the response to the error that counts.”
Customer service mistakes happen. The real test of a practice’s integrity and commitment to its clients lies in addressing mistakes with transparency and responsibility.
The first step in addressing a mistake is acknowledgement.
Teach your team to own up to the oversight, not as a sign of weakness but as a hallmark of commitment to excellence. This act of responsibility fosters trust, assuring clients that their well-being is always at the forefront.
Value Accuracy Over Speed
While swift responses can be appreciated, clients value accuracy more.
Suppose a client poses a question or a concern, and the answer isn’t readily available. In that case, it’s more constructive to promise a well-researched response rather than an immediate, possibly inaccurate one.
The essence here is clear communication: assure the client that their query will be looked into and followed up on.
Communicate Training & Transitions
It’s common for new team members, especially those in frontline roles like reception, to be unfamiliar with certain protocols or details.
In such scenarios, it’s both authentic and effective for them to communicate their status. Empower them to set the right expectations by letting the client know they’re in training and will follow up with the correct information.
A client can discern genuine intent.
If you mention you’ll note something down for future action, ensure you actually do it. Physical cues, like pausing during a phone call to record details, are a good way to communicate your intentions.
Phrases like, “Just a moment please, I’m making a note,” keep the client informed and reinforce the commitment to resolution.
Hiccups can be part of any administrative process. However, by embracing these moments with honesty, transparency, and a commitment to resolution, allied health practices can transform challenges into opportunities for building deeper trust and rapport with clients.
Power Diary Tools that Support the Client Experience
Support your customer service efforts with powerful practice management software.
Power Diary features that support customer service include:
- Practice Operations Manual: Create standard systems and processes for your practice to help it run smoothly. Provide a roadmap to ensure you respond to all situations with consistency.
- Calendar Management: Power Diary’s intuitive calendar system makes it easy to book and reschedule appointments.
- Communication Tools: Power Diary offers email and SMS features, both for bulk and individual 1-to-1 messages. Messages can include communication regarding a practitioner running late or individual follow-ups with people on the waiting list.
- Waiting List Management: This feature reduces frustration and allows clients to feel attended to, even if they can’t access an appointment immediately.
To truly elevate your customer service experience, leveraging the right tools is essential. Power Diary offers a suite of features designed to enhance client interactions and streamline administrative processes.
So, why wait? Explore Power Diary through a Free Trial today – no credit card required!