Superior customer service is not only a vital component in running a great practice, but also an easy way to elevate your reputation and separate your name from the masses. Yet, many incorrectly believe that investing in developing exceptional customer service should be less of a priority in this rough economy.

The Consumer Response
A recent survey by the American Express Global Customer Service Barometer indicated that 61% of respondents want quality customer service in today’s economic environment and will spend an average of 9% more when they believe a company provides excellent service.1 The same study also found 37% see an increased focus on providing quality service; 27% say businesses have not changed their attitude toward customer service and 28% say companies are now paying less attention to good service.1

Improving Customer Service
Considering those responses, it appears that regardless of the economic climate, elevating your level of customer service is still a viable and crucial strategy. I suggest starting by taking a step back and returning to the basics. Here is a checklist of important customer service areas:
• Point of entry: Most patients initially reach out to your practice via the telephone. Make sure your receptionists are well versed in your practice’s unique nuances and can convey those key points in a caring, friendly and expeditious manner. The Internet, and with it, your website, is becoming an increasingly popular point of entry into your practice. Make sure your site is fresh, easy to navigate and in sync with your strong customer service-focused message.
• Office visit: Make sure your patients’ visit to the practice is a smooth and stress-free experience. Keep your office clean and uncluttered. Focus on the seemingly small routines like updating the magazines, making the forms legible and easy to complete and stocking your inventory.
• Policies: If you find that the patients are not happy with some aspect of the services you provide or with certain policies that you have in effect, you need to change them. Easier said than done? That might be the case, but if you want to win at this game, you have to be customer focused. This includes making policies that favor patients, not the practice.
• Point of exit: Make sure your patients are leaving content with their experience. You want your patients to look forward to their next visit and eager to share their experience with friends and family. If you don’t see this happening, now is the time to analyze why not and immediately take any needed corrective action.

The End Result
While 91% of Americans say the level of customer service is important when deciding to do business with a company, only 24% believe companies value their business and will go the extra mile to keep it, according to the above-mentioned survey.1 This statistic alone highlights how important it is for practitioners to value great customer service. Those who are willing to go above and beyond to retain patient loyalty will see the return on their investment in increased referrals and new patients.

Although we may still be living in an unstable economy, we have an opportunity to impress and retain our patients by providing incomparable service—and there are still a lot of patients willing to pay for it.  

1. Americans Will Spend 9% More With Companies That Provide Excellent Service. 2010 Jul. Available at: (Accessed November 2010).