Aesthetic patients are no longer satisfied to have things done the same way they have been done for decades. They want a plastic surgeon willing to change his philosophy or technique as new concepts evolve that offer benefits and advantages over traditional methods.
Look at your results and service offerings objectively and constantly improve how you are doing things. Plastic surgeons are faced with the need to educate their patients, set realistic expectations, and choose the right technique for patients at the right time.
THE RIGHT STAFF
During the consultation phase, it is key to get patients to focus on what bothers her or him most. By urging patients to prioritize—for example, face versus body or cheeks versus lips, etc—you can map out a long-term plan for each patient that is safe, sensible, and affordable.
Your staff can also be your most valuable asset or your worst nightmare if you are not a good manager. Plastic surgeons should reassess whether they have the right people on board. There is no formal training course that can show people how to be friendly, warm, or caring. It is either in their DNA or not. Establishing a patient-centric ethos in your practice and monitoring it closely is mandatory now that every single patient and referral counts.
Cosmetic patients want and expect better service than in the past, and they know they can get it. More practices are implementing a service excellence program to reward staff members for meeting or exceeding the needs and expectations of patients. Smart practices will use the responses they receive to plan their service strategy and make improvements accordingly.
Surveys in some practices have revealed a pattern of chronic long waiting times, staff rudeness, a recurring bottleneck at the front desk when making payments, and HIPAA violations. The feedback you get may encourage you to adjust your internal systems to respond to the issues raised, and can be a valuable aid for staff training and internal marketing programs.
The “customer is always right” mantra ingrained in service-oriented organizations such as Nordstrom and the Ritz-Carlton has paid off in big dividends. These brands and others are synonymous with exceptional, five-star customer relations that has built loyalty.
Intensive customer service training involves learning that the most important customer is the one standing in front of you and to always look her in the eye, and not to let your gaze wander while she is griping about something seemingly unimportant to you but that has great significance to her at that moment.
SATISFY YOUR PATIENTS
The simple rule in all service businesses is that if you keep your clients happy, you will have repeat business. Keeping patients happy isn’t exactly the same for a plastic surgeon as serving up a great filet mignon, but the similarities are greater than the differences. In fact, keeping patients happy involves more than just the surgeon.
The whole team is an integral part of what makes your practice flourish. Treat each patient as if he or she is your favorite customer; treat them as you would like a member of your family to be treated.
Train your staff to put enthusiasm in their voices when patients call, even if it is for the 10th time in a week asking about when their bruises will go away. It is challenging to be cheerful all the time, but nobody wants to deal with cranky, grouchy people with bad attitudes and short tempers. Everyone appreciates courtesy, especially paying patients, and it is not unreasonable for them to expect a “thank you” when you take their American Express card.
Sometimes, the smallest little nicety can make the biggest impact of all. For example, lending an ear of concern when listening to a patient’s problem, or sending a flowering plant to a patient who had a hematoma, or a handwritten note from the surgeon to the patient who referred a friend, go far to establish that you do not take your patients for granted.
However, there will be times when you just cannot please someone, but if patients feel that you and your staff are concerned about their care then your practice will grow and patients are more likely to be satisfied.
The three primary goals when interacting with patients: provide quality care, make care accessible, and treat patients with courtesy and respect. Work at cultivating an environment that embraces quality improvement.
Patients place convenience at the top of their list of what makes them satisfied. Although these issues may be more important to patients than to plastic surgeons, to think that your patients’ desires are less important than your own is just not realistic in this day and age. Your patients are the final arbiter of the level of their experience of care.
Wendy Lewis is president of Wendy Lewis & Co Ltd Global Aesthetics Consultancy, author of 10 books, and a regular contributor to PSP. Reach her at and follow her on twitter.com/cosmeticmed.