Ronda Nelson: Well, hello, my friend. Welcome to The Clinical Entrepreneur podcast. I’m really grateful that you took the time out of your busy life and your busy schedule to share it with me. I want to chat with you today about something that I really, really love talking about. That is the experience that your patients have at your office. They come in to get help with their healthcare issues, to pick up their supplements, to get a chiropractic adjustment or an acupuncture appointment, or to see you to get some kind of a prescription refill, whatever your specialty is, whatever your discipline is, that patient is there to interact with you. However, there is a big gap from when they get out of their car to when they interact with you.
Meaning they have to experience getting to your office, getting out of the car, getting into your physical office, and then interacting with your staff, sitting in the waiting room, all of these different touchpoints along the way that are so vital. This is to simply make sure that each one of them is not only well mapped out, but also that there’s some intention behind making that experience feel very wonderful for them, making them feel welcomed, and making them feel valued, like an important part of your community. We often take that for granted because we know they’re going to come in, we know they’re going to work with us, talk to us, they’re going to interact with our staff, but we don’t spend enough time really putting thought and effort into how to develop this part of what we do as clinicians.
Therefore, to make your patient feel welcomed and valued, you of course appreciate them, but this is taking it to a whole different level. Today’s patients are savvy and they’re very informed. They know what their options are, they know that they have five different chiropractors, five different acupuncturists, five different DOs, five different dentists, five different health coaches, all within half a mile radius. They have options and they have choices. And today’s patients make their choices about where they’re going to go largely by online reviews, which is significant, online presence, i.e., your website. When they’ve got these choices, they get to find out real fast which place they’re going to resonate with. And when they pick up the phone, and they call your office and someone answers the phone, “Dr. So and so’s office, can I help you?” That’s not going to leave a very good impression.
I just recently had that happen, I was looking for a professional, and I called three places. The first place, it went straight to voicemail. The second one, it went straight to voicemail. The third one, the lady acted like she had no idea what I was talking about. And she said, “uh, uh, uh, I’ll have to get back to you.” And then, the fourth place, I had a real person answer the phone. She was intelligent. She knew what she was talking about. She sent me through to the person I needed to talk to, and boom, that’s who I did business with.
So, what I’m talking about here is, how do you make that contact point for your patient be so tactically pleasurable for them? Like they just felt valued and welcomed and loved and taken care of right from the beginning, like the lady that answered the phone with me. She said, “How can I help you?” And I explained my problem, she said, “I gotcha. I know, right, what to do.” If you can provide that kind of care in your office, so that the patient really does feel welcomed and valued and loved as an individual, that is a vital part of creating a successful practice because it’s memorable and it’s remarkable in today’s age.
If you can create that memorable, remarkable experience for your patients at every single point along the way, you’re going to have patients for life, my friend, they’re going to stick around forever. 77% of people do online research and read their reviews prior to choosing their provider, their healthcare provider, across all types of providers. Once they find a practice, if they’re not treated well, they’ll leave. The other three places that I called for what I was doing earlier this week, and when I got voicemail twice, like what? You don’t have enough people to even answer the phone. How are you going to take care of me? It’s true, I was thinking about me. I have a problem, and I need them to solve my problem. It’s easy, but clearly, it wasn’t for them. So, I moved on. I was a red hot buyer, and I moved on, and they lost the deal on that.
It’s very critical that we just think about how do we make it super friendly for the patients when they make that contact with us. There are so many studies about patient satisfaction. I mean, in the industry, they spend millions and millions of dollars on these studies to find out what makes these patients happy. And unfortunately, there are some ways that we can make them unhappy really, really fast. In fact, one of the ways you’re going to know that they’re unhappy is they’re going to leave you a negative review, almost 30%, that’s like one in three people will leave their healthcare provider feeling disrespected, and of that, half of them will leave a negative review.
Now, what can we do to change that around? To create that, just some simple changes to create that environment where the patient goes, “Wow, that was really nice. I really enjoyed working with that office or coming into that particular place of business or the receptionist was super nice. That was a great experience.” The first thing that you’re going to do is have your staff smile often because the patient’s perception of skill is directly related to how often you smile. Now, I recently sent out a practice growth strategy, I send them out every single Monday. And I was talking about how important it is that your receptionist or your front desk person, whoever’s answering the phone, is physically smiling when they answer the phone. We all know this, it changes the way your words come across.
A patient’s perception of your skill, or the skill of the person that they’re interacting with, is related to how often they smile. In fact, we know smiles boost endorphins, all those nice, feel-good chemicals. They reduce stress, lower your heart rate, lower blood pressure, there are so many great benefits to smiling. And even if the patient comes in, they may have been in traffic, they may have just fought with their spouse, they may have left work in a hurry to get to your office, whatever it is, when you can connect with them and just smile, it just makes everything better. Always. So, that’s number one. Smile often.
Number two, use their name often. Refer to them by name. I think that’s one of my pet peeves, when you meet someone in a waiting area, if you just say, “Okay, come on back.” That’s terrible. What we want to do is say, “Hi, Mary. We’re ready for you. Let’s go. Come on back.” There’s nothing more beautiful to a person than the sound of their name. It’s the most beautiful word in the world. So, teach your staff and you how to use their name more often. In fact, they’ve done the research and found that hearing your own name makes the pleasure centers in the brain light up like a firework. Just hearing their name gives them that feedback, that pleasurable feedback. Even as you’re working with the patient in your office as you’re chatting with them, don’t be afraid to use their name in the middle of, as you’re talking, “Well, Mary, you know, and oh, Mary, that’s such a great point.” Don’t be afraid to intertwine their name in your conversation, it will light their brain up nicely.
Number three, listen carefully. Here’s the statistic, patients are interrupted on average within 12 to 18 seconds of beginning to talk. This is the truth, and more than 23% of patients feel like they aren’t able to say everything they want. Well, what’s the clue for us? The clue is we need to listen more than we speak. I recommend that you let them talk about half the time, and then you talk half the time. Make a conscious effort to split up the conversation where you let them talk because patients just want to tell their story, and very often, they’ve not been listened to. And that’s why they’re working with you because you, as an alternative holistic wellness practitioner, you have options that may be a conventional Western practitioner doesn’t have. And by giving them those options, they want to know that you know what you’re talking about. And the only way that they’re going to feel confident about that is if you hear their story. So, let them talk, just let them talk, and then listen carefully, spend 50% of your time listening and 50% letting them talk.
Number four, stay on schedule. The research shows that a large majority of patients are really frustrated when they have to wait for their appointment. However, there’s a caveat. They all said, if there was communication about why they have to wait, the majority of them felt so much better, their stress level, their anxiety, and their frustration greatly reduced. So, how long will the wait be? Just say, I’m not sure, I think we should be done within about 10 minutes. Rather than leaving someone sitting in your waiting room with no communication. Just let them know and have your front desk person say, “Hey, it should be only another five or ten minutes.” And then, otherwise, if you don’t even know how much time it might be, just apologize for the wait, “I am so sorry, you’ve had to wait this long. We don’t typically have this happen. I’m so sorry. Is there anything I can get for you?” Just be accommodating and try and make them again feel welcomed and valuable.
And then obviously, we sometimes overlook this but make sure your waiting room is very engaging and that there are things to look at on the wall, the pictures are nice, it’s not too sterile, it’s friendly, it’s warm, it’s homey, and it’s interesting. Whereas the flip side of that would be a waiting room that doesn’t look too great, it hasn’t been updated in a while. Maybe you have some funny smell in the carpet because somebody spilled milk and no one cleaned the carpet. So, you might just overlook some of those things, but those are things that the patient isn’t going to overlook. Make sure it’s clean and tidy, and it just feels welcoming and warm. Now, that leads me to my next point, which is to spruce up your waiting room. Sometimes a quick trip to Home Goods can make a huge difference. You just get a few throw pillows, a few little plants, little fake plants to put up, a fake candle or two, a few new pictures, a carpet shampooer, and that should be a home run for you.
Now, if you have upholstery that needs to be repaired, or it’s really dirty, you may need to upgrade and spend some money on some furnishings, but make sure your waiting area is at least pleasant. This reduces anxiety for them, and it makes the wait time feel shorter than it actually is. And if it’s especially beautiful, and you’ve got all these things kind of going on at the same time, your front desk is communicating well, you’re staying on schedule, you listen well, these are all things that allow the patient to then leave and say, “Oh my gosh, I had the most amazing appointment with Dr. so and so. You have got to go that, those guys over there, they are amazing.” That’s how you get new referrals, that’s how you get new patients. Make that customer feel so, so welcome. That patient should feel like they are at home, and you are anticipating everything they need. And you’ve met every need, they are so happy in your office.
Last, number six is to communicate effectively. Poor communication can be a deal-breaker with a patient, and it can be as simple as not sending the invoice on time, or waiting three days to send their supplement sheet, or not having the information that they sent once an email request asking for and you don’t get back to them for a week. Patients are very frustrated when communication is poor. We all like to be communicated with, but especially, as it has to do with your health, that is so, so important. With that, we also want to communicate expectations. Let them know what your hours are, let them know what the policies are around canceling and rescheduling, and if they miss an appointment or they miss three appointments, what happens? Be very clear about after-hours emails or text messages, or how you’re going to respond, or what your turnaround time is. Just be very clear, communicate effectively, set those expectations, and then you can have a much better experience with them as you move forward, interacting with them, ongoing about their healthcare.
And this is where texting can come in really handy because if you’ve got a text messaging service setup, you can text them little bits and tidbits of things that you think that they may want to know, but you can go back and listen to episode number 38, which was all about texting. Just go to RondaNelson.com/38, and you can listen or read that episode about texting where I talk about how you set that texting up, why it’s such a great addition to our practice. I would have never said that 10 years ago, but now, people really do rely on texting. And again, that can come back to the sixth point which is communication, sending a text reminder, sending a quick text after their appointment that just says, “thank you so much for coming in, we appreciate you, or we love seeing you, something along that line.” They don’t have to respond, but it’s like, oh, that was just so nice.
So, I’ll review these six things real quickly. Smile often. Use their name often. Listen, 50/50, let them talk, you talk. Listen carefully. Number four is to stay on schedule. Number five, spruce up your waiting room. And then, number six is to communicate effectively. That’s how we roll around here when it comes to making our patients feel welcome and very, very valued. This is part of creating an exceptional customer experience that they will not forget. This is an investment that, whatever dollar you invest in making this experience remarkable and memorable for them, you will get back that dollar multiplied again and again and again. Whether it be in patient referrals, patient satisfaction, or positive patient reviews, because when you make them feel important and welcomed and valued as an individual like they really matter to you. It’s the little details that make all the difference in the world for them, and they’ll shout your name from the rooftops, my friend. You’re going to be the person that they tell everybody about, you got to go see Dr. so and so.
Ronda Nelson: So, what’s the first thing that you think about when you consider how your patients might feel when interacting with your office? Did you get a little weird feeling in your gut like, uh-oh, got a problem? Probably need to fix that. If you did, then that’s a good indication that that’s the point you need to start working on. You need to get that fixed first, and then you can move on to improving some of the other things, but the most simple way to start is to have your front desk staff start smiling a little more, and especially use their name, call them by name. Hello, Mary. Hello, John. Welcome. So glad to see you. Because remember, their name is the most beautiful sounding word to their ears, and it lights up their brain with lots of positive chemicals and endorphins and good feels and we want that good feeling associated with them being at your office.
Another thing you could consider is asking them for their feedback. You may have your front desk person even asked for feedback. What is working for you really well? What do you love about interacting with our office? And what would you like to see us do differently? And let me tell you, they’ll tell you, because they’ll tell you what they’re not happy about. A great way is to just ask them for feedback, ask your patients for feedback. And you know, you might also ask your front desk person if they’ve ever received any complaints. Sometimes your staff may not want you to know but ask them. Have you ever heard any pushback or any little warbling about something not being right, or an email not getting followed up on in time? Your front desk person may not want you to know because it was their fault, and it’s okay, we all are human, we all make mistakes.
I’m so glad you’d hung out with me today. If you would, I would love it, if you take a few minutes and leave us a review. Leave me a review. Let me know how you like the podcast because your positive words about The Clinical Entrepreneur podcast helps us get the word out about how other practitioners can build a better practice and serve even more people in their community, and that’s really at the end of the day what it’s all about. I you’d like to learn more about how to grow a thriving and profitable practice, if you join our mailing list, you can do so at RondaNelson.com/PracticeGrowth, and I promise as usual, I will never spam you, and I will not blow up your inbox. What I will do is give you the tools and strategies and resources and tips to help guide you toward building a stronger, better thriving, and profitable practice that serves you well and allows you to really make the income that you deserve. So, go to RondaNelson.com/PracticeGrowth, fill out the form, and I will be in your inbox very soon, my friend. Alright, bye for now.
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