We’ve all heard, “the customer is always right” and “customer is king.” We know that good customer service is critical to our success. But, are we making it a priority? Are we doing it well? Are we effectively managing our relationships or just running ourselves ragged trying to make everyone happy? I’m going to challenge you to rethink customer service.
A reminder about why customer service is so important:
- It is 6-7 times costlier to attract a new customer than it is to retain an existing customer.
- It takes 12 positive customer experiences to make up for one negative experience.
- A 10% increase in customer retention results in a 30% increase in the value of the company.
Now, let’s define true customer service. It’s not just about making your customers happy, it’s about intently managing all your relationships by identifying critical relationships, understanding expectations, avoiding conflict, and (if it happens) addressing difficult issues.
Service isn’t just directed at customers/patients. It’s about managing all our business relationships. Ask yourself: “What are my MOST critical work relationships?” You’ll probably include: patients, referral sources, vendors, insurance companies, colleagues, and community in your list. As you would expect, all of these deserve your attention!
One of my favorite quotes is, “We have to meet or exceed our CUSTOMERS’ expectations, or change them.” Expectations drive relationships. For successful relationships, we need to understand expectations, decide how to meet or exceed them, and when expectations are unreasonable, change them.
Identifying expectations is tricky. We know there are basic expectations: integrity, politeness, honesty, etc. And then, there are those unique to each individual and situation. It’s vital we set a good example by communicating our expectations and creating a forum for others to do the same. If we know where the goal post is, we are more likely to reach it. And, if we find it’s 100 miles past where we’re willing to go, we need to redefine the relationship.
Conflict is costly. So, avoiding it should always be our aim. We can do that through: listening, clarifying the issues, being thorough in intake and follow through, and taking time to communicate. Basically, be clear about what you need/intend to do, do what you said you would, and follow through so those affected know what you did.
ADDRESSING DIFFICULT ISSUES
Despite our best efforts, conflict happens. I rely on the PRESTO process: Prepare, Relate, Explore Interests, Suggest Option, Tailor Agreement, Operationalize. When communicating with someone with whom there’s a conflict, I prepare by understanding the situation. I try to understand the other person’s position. I explore our interests to see if we can find a mutual solution. I create an agreement by which we can both abide. Finally, I determine if there’s something about the process that needs to change to avoid future conflicts. Learning from mistakes often means making changes.
Customer service is a process. It’s an everyday endeavor that requires us to focus on all of our important relationships. It takes effort, but it’s ultimately worth it.
Together, we can build a better practice.