It is ironic to me that if you poll 20 optometrists and ask what differentiates them from their competition, the vast majority of the doctors would say, “Our customer service.” Yet when you ask them what sets them apart from their competition and makes their customer service unique, there is really nothing unique to the experience that they are delivering.
As competition gets more and more fierce in a recessed economy, it is more important than ever to do something that differentiates you from your competition. I have come to appreciate two things regarding customer service:
1. In order to set yourself apart and drive new referrals and business into your practice, you must figure out a way to exceed your customer’s expectations.
2. Most of the time, the things that exceed a patient’s expectations can cost you next to nothing!
Leave a Patient Pleasantly Surprised!
Think about the amount of money we spend on newspaper advertising and website design. While these things are important to marketing our practices, they really do nothing to deliver satisfaction to our patients. More importantly, we spend much more money trying to capture new patients rather than allocate time and resources to build customer loyalty and satisfaction with our current patients. It is far lass expensive to keep an existing patient loyal than to mine for new patients through advertising. Take my practice, for example. When I look closely at where my new patients come from, the vast majority are the result of a direct referral from an established patient. Just think what could happen to word of mouth and patient referrals if more time and attention were devoted to assuring all established patients found their customer experience exceeded within the practice every single time!
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Get Out of the Box
The most successful companies are those that have discovered a way to “get out of the box” and create a unique customer experience. Apple and Southwest Airlines are two examples of companies who have done an outstanding job creating a unique customer experience for their clientele. Southwest Airlines has managed to create a fun, friendly, unpredictable environment that their customers have grown to love. Flight attendants are always pleasant and, as a flyer, you never know what to expect as you could get a flight crew to break out in song or a lighthearted joke that lets their customers know they are appreciated and that it was a pleasure to serve them.
I challenge you to ask yourself if your staff do things to make your patients feel appreciated and are successful creating the feeling that they really love their job and love serving the patients within the practice.
Many times, the things that create that fantastic customer experience are nothing more than a little originality and personalization. Southwest has found their niche by making their airline fun and unpredictable.
What is your niche when delivering eyecare and service to the patients within your practice, and what experience are you leaving your patients with? Hopefully, that niche will help you to create the ultimate patient experience and a legacy for your practice.
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