Satisfaction surveys conducted in most service industries show that the vast majority of customers are “satisfied” with the service they receive. In eyecare, for example, over 90 per cent of contact lens patients claim to be satisfied. In Customer Satisfaction is Worthless: Customer Loyalty is Priceless, by Jeffrey Gitomer (Bard Press, 1998) a Ladder of Customer Service is outlined. This shows satisfied customers rarely talk about their service provider with friends and relatives and have no strong bond with the service provider that will cause them to come back if a cheaper or more convenient alternative appears.
To exceed a patient’s expectation and create a story that can be told and re-told to family and friends something ‘above and beyond’ their previous experience has to occure.
Loyal Customers are Invaluable
Truly loyal customers, by contrast, who have been delighted with their experience, always return and proactively encourage others to visit you. They are an invaluable asset that generates revenue for a lifetime. They generate a high level of word of mouth advertising that is far cheaper and more powerful than paid advertising in attracting new customers.
Practices that generate loyalty regularly exceed customer expectations. Instead of processing them namelessly through a system as efficiently as possible, they provide a service well above the average for the eyecare industry.
Exceeding Patient Expectations
It is easy for a patient to pass through the practice feeling their expectations were met, without there being a ‘wow’ moment.
The visit was the same as before, it was routine, but nothing memorable happened. To exceed a patient’s expectation and create a story that can be told and re-told to family and friends something ‘above and beyond’ their previous experience has to occur.
The patient needs to be ‘wowed’ with unexpected gestures that demonstrate a commitment to solve the patients’ problems and find solutions to meet their needs.
Putting the Patient First
Many businesses that provide only a satisfactory level of service do so because they gear their customer handling process to the convenience of the business and its employees and the customer needs are secondary. They communicate and enforce policies that tell customers what cannot be done for them, rather than positively encouraging what is mutually beneficial to the customer and the business.
To create loyalty Gitomer suggests the following guidelines:
• Be friendly first. Every customer transaction should begin with a friendly smile, a friendly welcome, a positive offer to help. Refer to the customer by name. Every transaction should end with a friendly thank-you.
• The first words set the tone. The first words must convey that the customer’s need is your most important priority and you are there to help. The first words should never convey that the customer represents a task to be completed with a minimum of trouble.
• Address customer wants in their terms. Customers buy emotional benefits, not rational product features. Be sure to link the product features to patient needs.
• Treat every customer to create 10+ year loyalty. Every decision and action should consider the long term and increase the likelihood the patient will return and refer family and friends to you.
• When service fails, fix the problem and offer something extra. After immediately resolving a service failure, offer the patient something unexpected to erase the memory of the problem and turn a positive into a negative.
To create a loyal customer you need to make the patient experience memorable. Consider how to make every patient’s visit memorable, so that when they leave your practice, they’ll tell someone else about how great their experience was.