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How far will you bend?

Kasewurm, Gyl A. AuD

doi: 10.1097/01.HJ.0000395488.10864.66
Gyl's Guide to Managing for Success

Gyl A. Kasewurm, AuD, is Founder, President, and Owner of Professional Hearing Services in St. Joseph, MI, which receives more than 16,000 patient visits a year. Readers may contact Dr. Kasewurm at



It may be my imagination, but it seems that patients are now more demanding than ever. Some days I wonder how much further I may have to bend to make people happy.

Due to the advent of the “global economy” and the internet, patients have more choices than ever before for hearing products and services. The folks at Google reported in a recent seminar I attended that 54% of consumers search the Internet before purchasing a new product. As a result of the instant availability of information and increased product advertising, patient's expectations are higher than ever, and unless they are completely satisfied, it is easy for patients to take their business elsewhere. As a result, the importance of delivering exceptional customer service cannot be overstated.

According to the American Express Global Customer Service Barometer, 81% of consumers said that they are more likely to give a company repeat business after a good service experience, and they indicated that they will spend an average of 9% more when they believe a company provides excellent customer service. In today's economy, customer service can be the tool that separates you from your competition.

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Research reported by the customer service industry indicates that consumers make 11 decisions about you in the first seven seconds of contact. This underscores how critical it is to make a good first impression.

Patients should be greeted in a warm, friendly manner when they enter your office, not unlike the way you would greet a friend or family member. Since people appreciate hearing their name, it is beneficial to learn the names of patients and the individuals who usually accompany them. If you have a receptionist, make sure he or she understands the importance of giving every patient a warm welcome.

An ongoing training program is essential to keep employees informed and aware of the need for awesome customer service. Staff members can make or break a relationship with a patient, so let employees know you appreciate them and reinforce their value to the success of your business. Happy employees are key to keeping patients happy.

Make an attempt to acknowledge a patient's arrival within seconds of entering the office and let them know how happy you are to see them. Taking time to gather personal information and preferences like nicknames or preferred appointment times can help strengthen the relationship between you and your patients. If you make patients feel like part of a family, they are much less likely to leave your practice.

A focus on customer service includes answering the phone in a pleasant, upbeat voice. Remember, it's not what you say but how you say it. Take the necessary time to thoroughly answer a patient's questions. Make every effort not to put a patient on hold for any extended period of time. If you expect to be tied up for more than a minute, ask the patient if it's acceptable to call him or her back at a designated time and then make certain to fulfill that promise.

Try not to keep patients waiting for their appointments. Patients express more dissatisfaction with this issue than anything else. The busy baby boomer population is likely to go elsewhere if you fail to respect their time. If you doubt this, just look at the posts on one of the many online healthcare forums.

Short waits may be inevitable at times, but if a patient does have to wait, keep him or her informed of the anticipated wait time and offer the option of rescheduling. Patients usually don't mind waiting for a professional they like and trust, but no one likes an unexpected and unplanned delay in their schedule.

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Complaints are unavoidable in business. When they do occur, try to resolve the patient's concerns quickly and completely.

Since we know that repairs are bound to occur when dealing with hearing aids, it's a good idea to offer in-house repair services. Many hearing aids can easily be repaired onsite and patients will appreciate the quick and efficient service. If you have to send the hearing aid to the manufacturer for repair, offer the patient a loaner while the aid is being fixed.

Rather than complain, dissatisfied patients tend to take their business elsewhere without ever giving you the opportunity to respond. When a patient does share a concern, do whatever you can to satisfy the issue and exceed the patient's expectations. Never promise something you can't deliver.

While positive recommendations are important, people often give more weight to the negative. It has been reported that an unhappy patient will share their feelings with five times more people than a happy patient. Because patients widely broadcast their views in person and online, every interaction is critical to maintaining a good relationship with patients, and these relationships are key to maintaining a successful practice. So if you wonder how far you have to bend for your patients, the answer is as far as it takes to make and keep them happy.

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