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I recently overheard a dialogue between two people about the same medical practice but it was as if they were talking about two different practices.

My friend, Nancy was going on and on about how wonderful the care was with the staff with Amanda. Amanda could not believe what she was hearing as her experience with the same practice was quite different.

Nancy shared that everything was exceptional. From the first contact with the appointment desk to the interactions with the nursing staff, she felt the experience exceeded expectations because they genuinely took a lot of interest in her.

“Did you say your nurse’s name was Veronica?” Amanda asked.

“Yes,” Nancy replied.

“At the office located just off the exit 75?” Amanda continued with a puzzled look on his face.

“Yes, it is the same doctor you use,” Nancy stated.

“She just really rubs me the wrong way! All I want to do is to get my appointment over with so I can get on with my day but she insists on chit-chat, asking me questions about my family and sharing updates on her kids and her recent vacations. Who needs that?!”

Did the same provider deliver two different experiences or was it just perception?

This conversation reminded me of a very important point. If we want to achieve successful results with patients, we must always be conscious of how to adjust our behavior to meet the unique preferences of the other persons. This is critical in providing excellent patient care and customer service.

While it is very important to have clear service standards, such as answering phone calls within three rings, greeting customers as they enter the office, and answering emails within 24 hours, they alone are not enough if the goal is to deliver exceptional patient care, because each patient is unique and requires a different level of service.

Instead of repeating the same customer service behaviors over and over with patients who have their unique characteristics and preferences, every employee must learn how to adjust their customer service style from one patient to the next. If we do not do this, some patients are left disappointed, even when the customer service standards have been met. This is the reason Amanda was not happy with the same attentive service he received from Veronica, but Nancy was extremely happy. Expecting healthcare employees to adjust their customer service style with every single patient can at a first glance seem like an unreasonable expectation. However, when the employees have the right tools, it is not. When they learn a simple, four-step process, it becomes second nature for them for more successful interactions with customers – and everyone else.

Step 1: Understand that patients are different and have different preferences for HOW they want to be treated

Your patients can be divided into four main communication styles, D, I, S and C. Learning and understanding these four styles is easy and fun. When employees become familiar with the different styles, they also learn that the patients even have different views on HOW excellent customer service and patient care should be delivered. For example, Amanda, a D-style, wants minimal interaction. “Just take care of it!” she demands. Nancy defines excellent customer service in terms of the amount of attention to details. Understanding these important differences is vital in providing personalized and exceptional service.

Step 2: Develop confident self-awareness

Everyone interacting with patients needs to understand HOW they naturally tend to communicate, interact and take care of them. By creating a very clear understanding of their natural, and most comfortable, customer service styles, employees discover they tend to service all of their patients in a similar way. This makes a lot of sense because this also happens to be the way they want to receive customer service. We typically treat others the way we want to be treated.

Step 3: Learn to identify patients’ communication styles

With some practice, this becomes second nature for healthcare employees. They will automatically start paying attention to things such as eye contact, body language, what your patients say, the type of questions they ask, etc.

Step 4: Modify customer service style based on the patient’s style

This is the most important step. Once your employees have identified the patient’s style and are aware of how they themselves naturally tend to service patients, they will be able to make conscious decisions about HOW to adjust their own styles. Instead of being on “autopilot,” employees make slight adjustments to how they provide service to your patients.

The end result of this process is that every patient will be provided with service that is adjusted to his/her preferences. How is that for personalized service? You will increase your patient satisfaction index and your recurring revenue by responding to each patient’s unique needs and desires.

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