The do’s and don’ts of customer service

June 21, 2018
Good service starts before patients walk through the door.
Good service starts before patients walk through the door.

Excerpted from page 50 of the June 2018 edition of AOA Focus.

At every visit, an optometric practice's staff make first and last impressions on patients.

"Customer service is the difference between a happy and a dissatisfied patient," says Mary Schmidt, ABOC, CPO, president of EyeSystems, a California-based consulting firm that focuses on professional staffing and training at optometric practices.

"It is what will set your practice apart from others and discourage patients turning to online care," Schmidt says.

Schmidt will bring her considerable insight to the continuing education lineup at Optometry's Meeting® 2018, June 20-24 in Denver, where she will lead three courses on Wednesday, June 20, including "Customer Service: Absolute Don'ts."

Good customer service

Schmidt speaks from experience. She got her professional start in 1979 as a paraoptometric at a practice where she managed the optical area, prescreened patients and assisted at the front desk. She subsequently served as an ophthalmology practice manager and practice administrator for a staff of 18. Before opening her consulting firm in 2000, she was director of education for a national practice management company where she directed training programs for the development of optometric staff.

"Shockingly, 68% of patients who leave a practice leave because of a bad experience with a staff member," Schmidt says. "Often it is not a screaming match or poor service. It was the attitude, lack of interest or indifference to a patients' situation that causes the departure. It's my experience that, when staff members truly understand the importance of their roles, they step up to that expectation."

Leadership, and hiring the right people, is key, Schmidt says. The course is aimed at practice leaders: managers, assistant managers and supervisors who can help set a positive standard for patient care and exhibit professionalism. They also may have input into hiring, developing and promoting/terminating staff.

She adds, "The No. 1 motivator for staff is a great relationship with their immediate supervisor. If you have great leaders who truly understand staff development, you can create a great patient experience."

How can doctors help staff develop their skills?

Enroll paraoptometrics—at no additional costs—as AOA associate members. As associate members, paraoptometrics can access many AOA educational and training programs. They also are eligible for discounts on educational materials and registration fees for Optometry's Meeting 2018 and other benefits. Doctors may enroll their staff members online but will need a paraoptometric's legal name, date of birth and unique email address.

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