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Customer service can make or break your practice

Plastic Surgery Practice Advisor, February 28, 2008
Customer service is more important for some practices--plastic surgery, for example--than others, but all physician practices neglect this crucial factor at their own risk. It is imperative that patients feel welcome in the practice, says Karen Husmann, MBA, practice administrator for The Aesthetic Center for Plastic Surgery in Houston.

She offers these tips for improving customer service:

Hire a good team. Forget motivating people. Hire motivated people and try not to de-motivate them, she says. The administrator cannot do it all. Hire the best nurses, the best receptionist, the best patient coordinator, and pay them well. Set up a bonus program that rewards all employees. Her practice's quarterly bonus program is based on profitability of the practice, base salary, and individual performance score on annual reviews.

Train staff members in "customer recovery." Empower them to "fix it" when a customer is unhappy. Give them the authority to waive a fee or offer free products, if possible.

Promote the right atmosphere. "When I interview individuals for employment, I tell them that, yes, we are a serious medical facility, but our mind-set is that of an exclusive, high-end boutique," Husmann says. "For those who cannot buy in to this, they are not hired." Also remember that it is the doctor who sets the tone, and the leaders/managers who mirror the behavior. If the leader is negative and pessimistic and views customers as problems, the staff members will follow suit.

Encourage a good interaction among staff members. Offer all-staff lunches when a customer compliments the staff and other fun events such as bowling night or movie night. Remember, Husmann says, customers will notice if you have a bunch of people in the office who like each other.


This story was adapted from one that first appeared in the February edition of Plastic Surgery Practice Advisor, a monthly newsletter by HealthLeaders Media.