How to turn your patients into brand ambassadors
No matter how talented you are as a doctor, if you don't connect with your patients and surround yourself with a strong staff, your practice will never reach the level you want. However, when you create solid relationships with your patients, they will remain loyal to you and serve as your brand ambassadors, spreading the word about your practice.
That's the message from Selina McGee, O.D., who will present the continuing education course "Customer Service Connections" Friday, June 26, at 9 p.m. CT during the AOA's 2020 Virtual Learning Livecast. The AOA 2020 Virtual Learning Livecast, June 24-27, is a real-time, interactive continuing education (CE) and professional development online event offering more than 60 live courses specifically for doctors of optometry, paraoptometric professionals and optometry students. Offering both COPE-approved CE for doctors and students, and CPC-approved (some ABO/NCLE-approved) courses for paraoptometric staff, this first-of-its-kind AOA event grants doctors 53 hours of education (up to 26 hours of CE credits), 19 paraoptometric hours and 12 hours of integrated, doctor-paraoptometric education.
Dr. McGee, owner of Precision Vision Edmond in Edmond, Oklahoma, says the rules for customer service in the 21st century have changed.
We now live in an "experience economy," Dr. McGee says, meaning that customers make purchasing decisions based on the experience of that service or transaction. "Optometry continues to move toward commoditization," she says. "If you don't do a good job of creating a patient experience, then you're going to be eaten up with all of the commodity in general. We have to change how we do things and deliver an experience, and it has to be the right kind of experience."
She points to Disney: "Everything they do is orchestrated. It's their culture; that's how they built it," she says. "We have to orchestrate how our patients have an experience, and that starts from your website to your first phone call to what happens when they come in the office and what happens when they leave the office. All of those pieces have to be very intentional."
Here are three lessons Dr. McGee shares as ways to improve your brand:
1. Institute a rigorous hiring system.
To build a practice of happy, loyal patients, you need a talented staff that buys into your culture. Dr. McGee requires job applicants to go through six steps just to complete an application. That weeds out the people looking for just any job, and it shows whether candidates can follow directions.
If they make it through the application process, the candidates take a personality test and emotional intelligence test. Next comes a phone interview, an in-person interview and a working interview with the entire team. The last step is checking at least three references.
2. Put your best staff person on the phone.
"A lot of doctors tend to put a new person in a position like answering the phone, but that is the most critical piece of your whole business," Dr. McGee says. "That should be the most well-trained person, not the least well-trained person." If patients or potential patients call and aren't satisfied with the phone interaction, they may look for another doctor.
3. Create a system of 7-9 "touch points" with patients.
Develop a process for connecting with patients throughout the year. "It's not enough for our patients to just show up at our doorstep once every year," Dr. McGee says. Instead, determine how and when you will reach out to patients. For example, text them a week after they picked up their glasses or contact lens prescription. Create targeted newsletters or a monthly blog, connect on social media and hand-write a thank-you card to new patients.
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Under new rules for the 21st Century Cures Act, doctors of optometry will need to prepare for changes going into effect April 5. Doctors should check in with their health IT vendor in order to make sure they meet the new requirements.