Prescription for customer experience:
Have patience with your patients

Customer experience is a critical factor in customer retention and/or earning repeat business. Restaurants, stores, and other service-oriented businesses understand this basic tenet – or become a statistic within a year or so of opening. Yet professionals who should provide the best customer service are often the worst offenders: doctors.

There are really only three reasons you seek out a doctor’s care, none of which are pleasant. First, there is the annual physical. I don’t know anyone who greets this visit with open arms. At the other extreme, there is the ER visit. Whether you’re a weekend warrior with a broken toe or a trauma victim delivered by ambulance, this is not a place you want to be. For most, it is something in between: the unexpected office visit.

I’ve experienced all three types in recent years, and come away with very strong opinions about the customer service provided. My most recent was today, when a small but painful eye infection sent me to the doctor for an unplanned office visit. It was also the best customer experience I’ve had in several years, demonstrating many of the best practices we demand from other businesses – but rarely from our caretakers.

Show interest in the customer
My regular physician was out, so I saw the physician on call. I had seen him once before (a wretched fall), and he took time to ask me how my ankle was doing – a year after he treated me. (Customer research re: past experience with our practice.)

Conduct customer research
After examining my eye (the source of the visit), he asked me what I thought was going on. My first thought was “You’re the doctor – you tell me.” But he quickly added that I know my body better than he does. Have these symptoms happened before? Is there anything else awry? What is my body telling me? In other words, customer research – in the truest sense of the word.

I gave him a brief description of why I thought it was one of two things (provided customer data points) and stated what I hoped – not thought, but hoped – was the answer. He considered the data points and examined additional areas of the eye. (Additional customer research based on new data.)

Make a recommendation, supported by customer data
In the end, he agreed with my assessment, and provided a detailed reason why he agreed with me. (Postmortem, although in this case the “mortem” refers to the end of the visit.)

He concluded by giving me a detailed description of how to treat the symptoms without fulfilling the RX, reflecting my previously stated preference to not go stampeding to the prescription counter. (Acknowledging customer preferences and working to accommodate them.)

He also gave me a prescription to fill in two days if the non-pharmaceutical approach did not work out. (Anticipating and proactively addressing the customer’s future needs.)

Thank the customer for his/her business
He ended by thanking me for coming in, shaking my hand and providing a card with instructions to call anytime over the weekend if I had questions or felt worse. (Proactively offering customer support.)
Outside of telling me to go left instead of right to find the exit – which he quickly corrected (identify missteps and take action to correct immediately), it was the perfect customer experience. (Providing positive customer feedback, closing the loop on the visit.)

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