This article was originally featured in the North Carolina Academy of Family Physicians Summer 2011 Newsletter.
Becoming Your Own Undercover Boss
By: Amanda Kanaan (WhiteCoat)
If you havenât seen the hit TV series âUndercover Bossâ, the Emmy-nominated show follows CEOs and top executives as they go undercover to work alongside their employees and examine the inner workings of their companies. Their experience reveals the good, the bad and downright ugly about their organizations but in the end always makes them better for it.
While it would be near impossible for you to go undercover in your own medical practice (unless you are one serious master of disguise) you can still think like an âUndercover Bossâ. For instance, what do you think a patientâs experience is like when they call your office? Better yet, what about when they visit your office? You may think you have an idea based on the interactions youâve personally witnessed, but what if the staff didnât know it were you standing within earâs reach?
I have seen practices spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on marketing their practice and others spend very little yet one theme remains the same; you may be able to initially get patients to your door, but you and your staff must be the ones to not only get them through the door but convince them to continue knocking time and again. You could spend your entire budget recruiting patients but those efforts are futile if your customer service is lacking. Yes, I said itâ¦customer service. It may sound like a term used when describing your favorite restaurant or a local bank but itâs just as applicable to your practice.
So how do you gain a glimpse into what your patients are really experiencing if going undercover isnât an option? In the business world itâs called âmystery shoppingâ; however hiring an outside professional to provide honest insight about a businessâ performance is just as effective in the health care world as well. The findings may pleasantly surprise you or they may even shock you. Either way the information will give you invaluable feedback into what your practice is doing well, and what you can do to improve upon the patient experience.
Too often when medical practices come to realize the importance of marketing they end up spending the wrong proportion of their resources on mediums like print advertising. While advertising can be a useful tool in certain situations, it is a waste of money in others. Whether you are brand new to marketing your practice or have been investing in it for years, itâs never too late to devise a campaign that centers around cost-effective techniques to market smarter not harder â and that begins with good customer service.
Start internally by using services such as mystery shopping to identify areas of improvement. After upgrading the patient experience, next strategize a plan for marketing your services to your current patient panel. I realize that may sound strange, but when a patient comes to see you itâs usually for a very specific reason. Because of this, patients may have no idea what ancillary services you offer such as sports medicine services, minor office surgeries, exercise stress testing or even Saturday hours.
Itâs still just as important to bring new patients into the practice, but marketing from the inside out ensures you have the infrastructure in place to not only attract new patients but to keep them long term. At the end of the day, marketing doesnât have to cost a small fortune to make an impact. However make no mistake about it, running a medical practice is a business, and at the heart of most successful business models is exceptional customer service. This philosophy, combined with the power of marketing, can result in increased patient satisfaction, increased patient volume, and increased profits for your practice.