3 Reasons Your Patients Hate Calling Your Office

When it comes to the healthcare industry, it’s not uncommon for clinics and medical practices to be scared of the words “customer service”. After all, patients aren’t the same as customers, and your first priority should always be to care for your patients and maintain or restore their health.  However, it’s also true that for a medical practice to be able to run efficiently and thrive, it needs to be able to provide top-notch customer service. The importance of the interactions between patients and non-medical staff at a practice can’t be underestimated.  Surveys show that patients decide to switch healthcare providers due to poor customer service with the same frequency as they switch other services, such as hotels, or restaurants. And it can all begin with patients who dread calling your practice to communicate with your and your staff. Here are some of the top reasons why patients can hate calling your office.

Reason #1: They find it difficult to schedule an appointment with you.

We’ve all been there. We call a healthcare provider looking to make an appointment — be it your primary care physician, your child’s pediatrician, your dentist, among others — and no one picks up the phone. It rings endlessly, and when someone finally picks up, actually making an appointment becomes a complicated process. Maybe it’s because your staff has trouble keeping up with your schedule and takes a long time to find a free spot for a new patient. Maybe they’re also performing other tasks and can’t devote their full attention to each caller. Whatever the cause, it’s very frustrating for patients who want to make an appointment and feel like they can’t do so efficiently. Statistics show that, on average, healthcare providers take more than twice as long as businesses in other fields to pick up the phone. It also takes approximately 8.1 minutes to schedule a health-related appointment, whereas doing the same in another field only takes 3.7 minutes. A 5-minute difference may not seem like a long time, but for a patient who is seeking medical care and already has a busy schedule, waiting 

Reason #2: Your staff is overworked and ill-mannered.

Being a patient is a very vulnerable position, and as healthcare providers, it’s incredibly important to acknowledge and respect that vulnerability. Patients seek your assistance during difficult times and come to you with different health concerns looking to feel better.  A patient, understanding, a kind approach is necessary if you want to provide good care for your patients and make sure they have a positive experience at your practice. But it should be noted that this attitude isn’t only required of physicians, nurses, and other healthcare staff.  Even if your patients receive good care from you or other physicians, dissatisfaction with the rest of your staff can significantly reduce your patients’ satisfaction and affect patient retention, decreasing your income and your practice’s ability to grow in the long term. For patients to feel safe and valued at your practice, it’s important that everyone who works there brings their best attitude to work everyday. This sounds logical, but we’re all human, and it can be difficult for your staff to maintain a calm, happy, respectful demeanor if they’re being tasked with more responsibilities than they can handle.  Healthcare is a highly demanding industry and unfortunately, members of your staff may sometimes feel like they’re always exhausted. In these cases, they can become ill-mannered, grumpy, and they may not be able to provide great service to your patients. This can result in unhappy patients, negative social media reviews, poor feedback, and a decrease in patient retention. Strategies such as hiring a virtual answering service can help reduce your staff’s workload by releasing them from certain responsibilities, which can lead to a happier and more efficient working environment.

Reason #3: Waiting times are too long.

Nobody wants to have to wait hours and hours for their doctor to arrive, or for previous appointments to finish up. Having to wait past beyond their appointed time can make patients feel disrespected and undervalued. Over time, patients may stop calling your office to make appointments and simply find another provider where they may be seen on time. Unfortunately, long waiting times are often the result of previous patients arriving late and creating a backlog. Sometimes patients simply forget about what time their consult is at, and arriving late means that every appointment afterwards will also start later than it should. Consider sending out automated reminders so that your patients never forget when to arrive for their appointments, creating a smoother flow of patients that will keep everyone happy.
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