Do you ever have clients that complain about your customer service?

I recently spent a few days with a friend who is also a Physician Assistant at a very busy medical practice.  Each day we were together, she spent an hour or two catching up on notes from the previous week that she hadn’t had time to enter because she was seeing patients.

On our third day together, she was showing me her medical computer program and the different buttons, one for actions and one for urgent!  (don’t worry, I didn’t have my glasses on, so I couldn’t read anything to violate anything HIPPA related!). …..

…..One of the urgent messages was from a patient she had seen last Wednesday for foot pain.  The patient was upset with her because she hadn’t gotten back to her with the results of the x-ray.  My friend  sent the patient out for an x-ray late Wednesday afternoon and the results weren’t provided until Thursday (which were negative)…..then my friend was off on Friday (spending time with me) so by Monday, she still hadn’t gotten back to the patient she saw on Wednesday.  Understandably, the patient was a little annoyed because there was no phone call letting her know if there was a problem or not.

Have you been in this situation?  You go see the doctor, and the doctor doesn’t call you back with the results and you sit and wonder? Or you call a client or another service provider and wait for hours (sometimes days) for a reply?  In today’s world of immediate gratification, we expect a response right away….not just from the doctor, but with most people we deal with.  We don’t always think there might be other clients that are more important or they might have taken a personal day….we just want a response.  And if we don’t get it, we complain or say negative things, which is something all business owners want to avoid!

Fast forward into our conversation and my friend says that they have 5,000 patients that they take care of and they have to prioritize (triage) who gets called back and when.  I’m thinking, WOW, how do you manage this….she’s been working off and on all weekend on her own time trying to catch up on notes  (that’s what salaried people do) and now she has someone complaining about her!

As we talked a little longer, I suggested that she needed to set expectations…..and perhaps her practice needs to create a plan to set patient expectations.  This is an essential function in every business ….let your clients know when you are available and when/how you will respond.  When you set these expectations, your clients can decide if they work for them or not, but at least you’ll minimize the complaining!

Here are some ideas on how the medical practice and even your business can set client expectations:

  • Hand out a card to each patient explaining the response time frame for the different tests administered – make this the responsibility of someone in admin just in case the physician or PA missed it
  • Make it a regular part of the physician/patient discussion to inform them when someone will be getting back to them with test results
  • Every time a client/patient leaves the office, discuss with them the next time they will hear from you and what they can do in the meantime if they have questions or concerns
  • Send an automated email after each meeting/visit to your clients/patients explaining when someone from the office/practice will be calling
  • Create a client/patient contract that they sign when they first become clients/patients outlining office procedures and expectations.

Think about your business….are there times when your customers are waiting to hear from you but because you are short staffed, you are waiting for a response from others or the fact that you are busy seeing clients all day long that you can’t respond right away?  With the influx of email today, it can be hard to manage all of the tasks involved in running a business, particularly getting back to clients immediately.

By setting expectations and reinforcing those expectations, you have a better chance of keeping your clients happy.

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Debbie DeChambeau

About Debbie Dechambeau

Debbie is a Marketing Strategist, Business Consultant, National Speaker and the founder of Select Business Marketing, an organization that helps business owners with marketing. Using the Duct Tape Marketing System, Debbie helps her clients identify and implement proven marketing strategies. She conducts workshops on marketing, social media and is best known for helping clients increase business through networking and referral marketing. Prior to creating Select Business Marketing, Debbie was the regional director for BNI and Executive Managing Director for eWomenNetwork. From high school through 1997, she sold business insurance. She is still a licensed insurance agent and Certified Insurance Counselor, although she does not sell insurance anymore, only consults.