Welcome to question of the day #283

Eyetools question of the day #283

My practice has been open for a few weeks and things are going well. I want to make sure my customers and patients have the best possible experience. I want to be the best practice in my area so people choose to come to my practice and not the competition. Do you have any tips?

It is common for practice owners to worry about customer and patient satisfaction. Poor customer and patient satisfaction can lead to the death of a practice and it needs attention.

You might think that you and your staff have good patient and customer service skills but you may have become so used to how your staff behaves and speak that you might not see or hear aspects of service that can be improved.

Ask a friend, colleague, or relative to arrange for a mystery patient to make an appointment at the practice and attend for an eye examination. This is often referred to as a ‘mystery shopper exercise’ and is common in many types of commerce and health care. Offer the mystery patient a shopping voucher or a discount on spectacles or sunglasses as an incentive.

Prepare a report form, which should cover those aspects of your practice you want information on the appointment process, the greeting by staff on arrival, the waiting area, the general practice environment, the greeting by the eye specialist, the eye examination, the behaviour, tone and words used by all the staff and anything else you want to know about.

The report form can have free text boxes headed with questions related to this area or consist of scales with tick boxes. In my experience, free text gives far better information than tick boxes. You could ask the mystery patient to list three things that were done well and three things that could be improved. You could also ask how easy it was to find the practice and to park a car near the practice.

Some report forms cover three main areas:

Evaluation of the business’ location and ambiance

Quality of customer service

Service/product availability and quality.

Ask the patient to complete this form very soon after making the appointment and very soon after attending for the eye examination and then to return it to you.

None of the staff, including you, should know the identity of the mystery patient, the time and date they made the appointment or when they attended the eye examination.

Once you have the report you can show the other staff as long as there is nothing in it that will upset anyone. If there is there, you can let the staff have a summary of the report.

Look out for information in the form that you can use to improve patient and customer service. For example, a comment such as ‘the person making my appointment seemed rushed’ may mean that whoever is taking phone calls is too busy and the people phoning in can sense this. Another comment might be that ‘the chair I was asked to sit in while waiting was very uncomfortable’ something you would not know because it is unlikely that you have ever sat in a waiting area chair. Another comment might be that ‘it would be nice to be offered a drink of water while waiting, or some up-to-date magazines to read.

Mystery patients, if briefed properly, can provide you with a lot of useful information about patient and customer service for very little cost. I suggest carrying out a mystery patient exercise every four months. You may even consider offering staff bonuses based on the information received from mystery patient exercises.

Good luck in your endeavor to be the best practice in your area.