Skip to main content
  • Viewpoint: 5 More Tips to Improve Customer Service

    By Stephanie Collins Mangham, MBA, COA, OCSR, Mike Lyons, MHRIR, Megan Odell, MHHR, Melissa Hartig, MSHA

    Viewpoint is a column created by AAOE® specifically for ophthalmologists and leaders in practice management.
    In part two of a two-part series, the leadership team at Austin Retina Associates in Austin, Texas, share their tips on creating a successful customer service training. 

    Creating a stellar customer service training program requires a change in your practice culture beyond training staff in the basics. These include creating a practice culture that celebrates results, nurtures  empathy and gratitude, empowers staff and encourages continuous improvement approach. Here are five tips to boost your customer service training to the next level. 

    1. Measure and Report on the Results
    What gets recognized gets repeated and staff want to know if they’re hitting the mark. Collaborate with the front line team to set goals and objectives as well as outline ways to achieve them. Monitor your results weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly — and don’t forget to celebrate all of your wins along the way! 

    2. Reinforce a Mindset of Gratitude and Empathy
    During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, our practice saw a change in the intensity of our patients and their complaints. With prices rising, many people undergoing job changes, tension in the media, inconsistent pandemic policies and many other trials that we all live through on a daily basis, patients are more Science continues to support the power of a grateful mindset. When we connect with our gratitude and empathy for others, we tap into and boost our emotional intelligence. We recently asked our staff in a self-exploration exercise to put themselves in the shoes of a patient. We asked them to create a mental image of the patient’s frustrations and struggles. This can help us respond more compassionately to these challenges.

    For our leadership team, a weekly “appreciation minute” helps us benefit from the research-based benefits of gratitude that include positive emotions and capacity to handle adversity. Have each person on your team share something they’re grateful for that day — you will want to make it a regular feature of your staff meetings.

    3. Engage Staff With a Continuous Improvement Approach 
    Providing great service is not a matter of waking up one morning and changing everything in your office. It takes daily regular incremental improvements to get where you’re going. Tap into the feedback of your customers but — more importantly — the great ideas and suggestions from your staff on how to improve the patient experience.

    We recently had some staff let us know that some of the chairs in our office are not comfortable for patients with mobility issues, which is a major group of patients that we see. It’s important to act fast and decisively to resolve these issues. Your staff truly cares about the patients, and when they make a suggestion, it’s important to act on it for two reasons: It will reinforce the behavior of making a suggestion so that they will do it again and again. Secondly, the people who understand your customer experience the best are the people who are on your front lines. Have the trust in them that they will do the right thing for your customers.

    4. Empower Staff With a Budget
    The Ritz Carlton is famous for empowering its staff to solve any guest problem even if it costs up to $2,000. But you don’t have to replicate that budget to take advantage of this philosophy. Let your team members know that they have your full support if they need to spend a little bit of money to go the extra mile for a customer. Set a specific budget so they know what the boundaries are.

    We recently had some employees tell us about a patient who was having an upcoming birthday. Before her next visit, our staff took it upon themselves to buy her a card and decorate the front office area with birthday decorations. The cost to pull this off was minimal but the benefits were many. Our staff got the satisfaction of taking initiative to make a patient feel cared for. Our patient got to feel all the good vibes of being appreciated on her birthday. Lastly, the rest of our staff got to benefit by hearing about this great story which was a feel-good moment for all of our employees. It even serves to help reinforce your culture when you promote this behavior. The return on investment on this sort of gesture is astronomical.

    5. Hire for Service Skills and Passion
    To have the best service, you need to hire people with a service mentality. Ask questions to job candidates during your phone screening and interview process about how they have provided service in the past: What do they do to make sure that customers have a good experience? Can they tell you about a time that they went the extra mile for a customer? Can they give you examples of times they had to deal with an upset customer?

    All of these questions should be easy to answer for someone with a humble customer service mindset. If you fail to ask these kinds of questions, you may not like the type of person you end up hiring.

    View part one of this two-part series, 5 Tips to Improve Customer Service.

    About the Authors

    Stephanie Collins Mangham, MBA, COA, OCSR, CEO; Mike Lyons, MHRIR, human resources director; Megan Odell, MHHR, director of patient experience; and Melissa Hartig, MSHA financial director, are the leaders at Austin Retina Associates in Austin, Texas.