Episode 125 – Amy Logan: What Your Patients Want; Customer Service Musts for Your Practice

Carrie Webber, Owner, The Jameson Group

Carrie Webber:

Welcome to The Jameson Files. I’m your host, Carrie Webber. And thank you for joining us once again for another episode, thanks to our Jameson files community for continuing to follow along with us. However, you listen to podcasts, whether that’s iTunes, Spotify, Google play, or if you’re following, following along with us on YouTube or on our Facebook page. Thanks so much if you’re with us live today on the Jameson Facebook page, happy St. Patrick’s day. And thank you for being with us during this busy time of the year. Today. I’m thrilled to have with me, my friend, my teammate, and an amazing student and teacher of the subject we’re talking about today, Amy Logan Parrish. So thank you for being with us.

Amy Logan Parrish:

Thanks for having me. It’s my lucky day on St. Patrick’s day to be here.

Fanatical Passion for Customer Service Excellence

Carrie Webber:

For those of you that may not know Amy, Amy is our chief development officer here at Jameson. She helps us lead our team in striving for excellence in the work that we do. and she also speaks on the subject that we’re going to be talking about today, which is customer service. This is a subject that both Amy and I are a little fanatically passionate about—not only for our own business, but in helping dental businesses, dental teams across the country learn how to improve their customer service, to see the value in pursuing excellence in customer service and the impact that it can have on their patients’ experiences with them and the practice’s health and success overall. 

What do your patients really want?

So the subject today is what your patients want. Customer service must for your practice. Now, Amy, I have lots of questions for you. and I think I know what most of your answers will be, but I’m looking forward to being pleasantly surprised in some of those questions. 

But first I thought we could start on what the patients want. There are some studies that we had discovered about patients’ perceptions and expectations in the medical realm in general. I think it’s safe to say a lot has come to the forefront in terms of customer service and care and has adapted through the past year, but a lot of the reasons why that’s getting such a positive response from patients remains the same over history. Meeting expectations, if not exceeding expectations has an impact on your practice or on your business. 

So let’s start with a few of the research organizations that we have found surveys and results from. Deloitte is one that does a lot of research in the medical realm about patients’ experiences, and the impact that has on the organizations that the physicians work for. They did a study on the value of the patient experience, and what they found was that hospitals that were receiving high ratings for patient  experience had higher profitability. Overall, they were earning disproportionately more than those organizations with lower ratings, and they also found that a highly-engaged staff boosted those overall experiences, which really supports what we at Jameson teach. Each and every member of your team can make or break your patients’ experience. So we’re not just making that up. That is founded in what they are discovering and conversations with patients with the consumer of what they want and need from their care. 

Now, in addition, in a separate research study by Deloitte, they were asking questions about what patients were looking for in their experience with physicians. And the results came back that they again were looking for customer service-oriented care. They wanted high touch. They wanted that engagement with their doctors, with their team members. They wanted high quality. And not just in the care itself. In the tools and the technology in the facility, they wanted and were seeking out high quality. And they wanted highly interactive, which also supports the use of technology, the use of photography, the use of elevated communication skills. 

These things are coming back to us from the mouths of patients now in a separate study by Accenture in 2020. They were asking patients about how COVID had impacted the patient’s overall experiences in healthcare. And the patient’s responses were that their perception of their healthcare experiences during COVID were equal, if not better than their pre-COVID experiences. What they found in their responses was that they were really ringing the bell on receiving better, quicker, more personalized responses and more convenient access to their doctors through new communication channels.

So it sounds like all of the efforts you were doing in 2020 to elevate or to stay in contact with your patients or to be more touchless in your communication with patients in the season of COVID has, as a result, shifted expectations from the patients. They realize they can now receive care or be served more conveniently, and they like that. They approve of it. 

So those are the results that I have found in my studies, which I thought were pretty fascinating. If you’re trying to look at places in your practice that you can improve, think about what patients are saying themselves about what exceeds their expectations, what they find to be satisfactory, and also what they want. So what have you found, Amy? I know that you do the same kind of curious research.

Empathetic customer service is most valued.

Amy Logan Parrish:

Well, anything with customer service always triggers us, like, Oh, what are they saying? And I had seen a great article in Forbes at the end of last year where they had done some COVID research. When Forbes researched customer service teams, they learned that customers valued empathetic service above all other customer service attributes during the pandemic. Just like our customers. Our patients value people that are delivering service and understanding that the person on the other end of the phone or the other end of that app is someone with real thoughts, real emotions—people that were going through the same thing. And I thought that was so powerful because many times that’s the bottom line of customer service, right? 

It’s people. People working with people. Humans relating to each other, finding common ground, and really working to help that person feel special, heard, and understood. And so I thought that was such a powerful study to go in along with all of the other ones that you’ve already found.

Carrie Webber:

You know, when I think of empathetic service, I think of the word “connection.” When you have had conversations with doctors or with practice leaders, not just this year, but over time when you’re on the road, what did they share with you? Maybe their main struggles and helping themselves and helping their team and their practice be consistent and delivering that excellence and striving for connection. Right?

Maintain a sense of urgency to deliver quality customer service.

Amy Logan Parrish:

Well, when you were talking about the Accenture study, it was so interesting because I was like, everybody did so much last year to provide all these amazing services. Everyone was able to pivot so quickly to deliver great things. They were able to do it though, right? Because we were in this intense moment. It’s a little bit like when you maybe start a new workout routine or a new diet. And for those first 10 days you are on it, right? You are eating all the protein, all the vegetables, no carbs. There’s no pasta to be found. And that’s how it was for us during the COVID pivot. We were like, I want to give you all of the great things that I can to make your experience easier.

And then what can happen is, just like me on a healthy workout regimen or a healthy diet, I start to get a little complacent. And so a lot of times what the doctors and team leaders will say is, “It’s hard to maintain that consistency because we don’t have that sense of urgency. And so it’s creating a sense of urgency within the team that everybody has a responsibility to this customer service piece. It is not only the owner, it’s not only people that work in the business office, we’re all responsible for it. And so, that’s the question, how do we create that environment? How do we keep that sense of urgency and that consistency, so that the strengths of the customer service we provide in our practice are maintained day after day?

And how do you know if you’re doing that? How do I know if it’s working? And I know we have several monitors that we like to see practices put in place to give you some of those insights. And these are just a few. But obviously, you want to make sure that you’re listening to your customers. And you know, if you want to know if something’s working, maybe all the things that you put in place last year, this might be a great time to take a survey of your patient family.

Ask your customers for feedback.

And now more than ever, it’s so easy to do that. I mean, I remember how we would do surveys at Jameson, and back in the day, we would literally pay. We put our surveys in the mail and put a stamp on it and send it to the doctors and say, please return! And now you can do it with something that’s in your office. You can have it on a clipboard, but you can also send out a link in a follow-up email. You can send a link for someone to click and complete the survey. You can put it on their phone. There’s so many easy ways you could take a poll. You can ask a question on your social media channels about, “Do you enjoy this or that.” But you need to be asking people what they like, what’s working for them, what they’d like to see different, what they need.

Make time to ask and listen to your patients. That’s how you can know if something’s working. You can also know if things are working by what kind of referrals you’re getting. I mean, do the patients that have been seeing you for years enjoy working with you? Do they tell their friends and family about you? Do they mention it online? Maybe they don’t send them to you directly, but they’ve said things like, “Oh, you should totally see my doctor, Dr. Maddock. She’s amazing.” And then, you know, she didn’t realize she gave a referral. She was just talking authentically, because that’s what her experience was. And so then someone comes in saying, “Oh yeah. Well, my friend Amy Parrish told me…”

What’s that look like? Have you tracked the number of referrals that you have from patients lately from your current patients to new patients? Have you tracked that? Are you comfortable with what that number is? Would you like it to be more, and if so, what does that look like for you? You know, sometimes that’s educating your current patient family about how to refer others to you. But other times it’s an opportunity to ask if we’re doing all the customer service that we could to create that environment?

Carrie Webber:

You know, that kind of points an arrow at monitoring in general, because a lot of practices monitor new patients, but may be inconsistent in monitoring where those new patients are coming from. That is important. We need to know what our internal efforts are doing, because we want the majority of our new patients to be coming to us by way of referral. But if we don’t know where these new patients are coming from, it’s very difficult to measure. It’s also important if you’re doing any type of external marketing. If my teammate, Nate or Dan or Casey, if they were here sitting with us today, they would tell you that the best way you can build upon the success of your external marketing efforts is to be monitoring where these patients are coming from and to have those types of tools available and have that process in place with your team when they’re taking those new patient calls. That’s very valuable information for you and your practice to measure exactly the success of your efforts.

And I loved the word complacency that you shared, because as I was thinking about that word, like, ah, that is the perfect word that we’re trying to battle because I kind of think of it in customer service in a lot of our efforts in our businesses and our practices, it’s almost like a tug of war between excellence and complacency. And we’re always going to have to be putting energy and effort to be on the winning side of our day to day practicing. We may think that we’re doing well in that arena in terms of customer service. We may assume that the patients are pleased. And boy, what a, what a painful discovery to find out otherwise, because we weren’t asking or because we’re not measuring our own efforts.

We’ve got to be putting forth the continuous energy to improve customer service as one of the systems of our practice integral to our success. So when you think about dental practices and the patient experience and customer service, what are maybe one or two areas that people who are listening might be asking, “Well, what do I need to work on? You know, where could I focus my intention to really see an improvement or to be better?” Are there a couple of areas that you are passionate for practices to put as a priority?

Get everyone on your team on the same page.

Amy Logan Parrish:

Well, yes, the list could go on and on. The first thing I would say is start at the beginning. If you are like, “How do I get better? What is it that we can do?” I would start at the beginning. Customer service often gets the rap because, sure, everybody knows, “Let’s be friendly. Let’s be kind.” And that’s great, but starting at the beginning is so important. So as a team talk about what customer service means to you. The doctor needs to share what that means to them. And then everyone on the team needs to work out how to contribute to that effort. That’s a great place to start because customer service can mean a lot of different things to different people, and if we don’t have that baseline about where we’re all going, we can’t go there together. 

The other thing that we have done that I know has been very powerful for us, and I know Carrie would attest to that is that when we have new members of our team join us, we have them meet with our owners. So for your doctors, a new team member on the first day of employment could meet with them for X amount of time. For us, it’s an hour. For you, it might be 15 minutes. It might be 30 minutes. But start their official journey as a part of your practice about, “This is why you are here. And here is our expectation of that.”

That has been really powerful for the owners to do that with all the new team members, because there’s no confusion about how we’re going to deliver great customer service, how you’re going to represent the brand that is XYZ practice, how to do a good job in this position.

Now nobody has to guess what the expectation is. Customer service is being delivered by an engaged staff and an engaged team. Well, I’m more engaged, when I have a better understanding of what that looks like to you, I can deliver in a better way. And so start at the beginning with what customer service should look like. And then, as you have new team members joining, you make that a priority to start them off right. It all begins at the beginning.

Customer Service on the Telephone

We did not mention our best friend, the “marketing tool to the world” as Dr.John Jameson would say—the telephone. If you want to get started on what customer service looks like, that is a great place to sit down and examine. The telephone is the window to the world. And as the person that answers the telephone at Jameson Management, I know that I take a lot of calls of people that might be looking for information that doesn’t even relate to us, perhaps. And I know that I might be sending them on to another preferred partner or another resource in dentistry, and they may never do work with us. And yet I want them to be able to say that they were treated well and given the information they needed in a timely and prompt manner and that we were friendly and gracious and all the things that we want to be to represent our brand.

It’s the same for you. Whoever answers that telephone at that moment, that team member is the face of the practice to the caller. We tend to become incredibly complacent because there is so much happening around us, but we cannot be complacent because the power of that telephone is so important. Your verbal skills, the way we communicate, the way Carrie and I talk to each other when we are not at work and hanging out, that’s different from the way I would speak with a client on the telephone. I’m going to try to eliminate a lot of my filler words, and I’m not going to say, “Hey, hang on a sec, I’m gonna place you on a brief hold.”

Maybe you have team members that are working in the business office, answering the telephone, and they’re new to your practice or new to dentistry, and maybe have never had telephone skills training. Let’s invest in that for them, because that allows them to ultimately fulfill your vision, the practice’s goals, and serve the patients better. 

Carrie Webber:

And all of the things that Amy’s talking about are based on having a heightened sense of awareness. Where are you right now in terms of a business team member? How are you handling yourself on the telephone? Are you getting too wrapped up in how busy the day is?

And the thing that I want to encourage you to do, if you’re the practice leader, if you’re the doctor, or even if you’re that business team member—improve the skills that Amy emphasized. Sit down together and identify what ideal is as a team. What do you want to see as a patient’s experience from the very beginning of their first interaction with you all the way through that journey? Where can you be better? Then work on that, having a safe space where you can bring up, perhaps even personally, “I know I can be doing this better, but I don’t know how.” 

Take it to the next level.

I just had a conversation with a young professional, that was new to her role, and she said, “I know I can be doing this better. I’m young. I want to be taken seriously. I want to be more successful in this.” So that awareness and her willingness and openness to be taught, to be coached, even if it’s just by teammates … without a shadow of a doubt, she’s going to get better because that awareness is there. She knows what she wants to work on, where she could improve, and she wants people to help her improve. 

You know, my, one of my favorite teachers is Horst Schulze, the former CEO and president of the Ritz-Carlton. I love how they have fanatically pursued excellence, not just in how they work to continuously deliver high levels of customer service in their organization, but how they continue to study what the consumer wants. And, and then they take what they learn and they apply it to their businesses and apply it to the training. And just, as you said, the setting of expectations with their employees and their team of what that looks like, what high customer service in their organization and the Ritz-Carlton looks like. And that’s what everybody pursues. 

Chick-fil-A is another one that people talk about a lot. And I have some friends that when they were younger worked at Chick-fil-A and I’ll actually ask them questions like, “How did they train you? How did you learn to deliver that kind of excellence that they have such a high reputation for?” And my friend that I asked said, “Well, they had videos and everything, but it was just that everybody did that. Everyone on the team, that’s just what you did. And so it was being mirrored by example, everywhere to the point that the unit, if you didn’t step up and deliver that high level customer service that they’re known for, you stood out in the wrong way. So they were probably attracting people that wanted to provide that kind of service, first of all. They were hiring people with that type of potential within them. But then also they were rising to the occasion of what was being reflected as the example of excellence in that organization. The same can be true for you.

So we’ve talked about some areas to focus on. We’ve talked about some ways to measure if you are achieving the kind of excellence and the goals you have for customer service. But how do we as practice leaders, as business leaders, carry that flag of continuous excellence in service? How do we keep that a priority in the development of our team, and how do we continue to successfully win the battle against that complacency? What do we need to instill in our businesses?

It’s all about taking time for your top priorities.

Amy Logan Parrish:

What priority is customer service going to be in your practice? And when you make it a priority, what does that look like? I can say it’s a priority for us, but if I don’t live that out here, what are my teammates thinking? So every month we have a meeting called Leap, and it’s our team-wide meeting from all across the country. And every month when we start those meetings, we go back to our mission and our purpose and our core values. And then we always have something where we talk about customer service. It might be five minutes of sharing a great client success story. It might be five minutes of talking about a new service we’re going to roll out and how that can help people. But we make time for it.

So where are you making time? Are you putting it as an agenda item on your team meetings every month? Are you having those brain trust meetings that we encourage you to do that are longer meetings, maybe quarterly, where you sit down to talk about big things? Maybe goal setting for the year, or you got new equipment, and you’re going to have a  talk and training about that. Customer service should be on your agenda every time. You make it a priority, and that helps it to become consistent. And when it becomes consistent, it starts to manifest itself in lots of different ways. It manifests itself because the whole team is now going in the same direction. And so everybody’s contributing to what that looks like. 

It’s what Ken Blanchard, in Raving Fans, called “that little bit more, every single time.” So where are all those moments for your little bit more that you can do? And then when the whole team is doing it, not only the doctor, not only one person that maybe is like the champion of customer service, but everybody is taking that on. That is how you keep it consistent and make it happen.

That’s what we talked about in the research from Forbes: empathy. When you’re creating that kind of connection. I know that most of the people that do follow us and work with us have great customer service. So for so many of you, it isn’t saying, “We’re not doing well.” You are. This is about making that time to keep that fanatical curiosity up and to become obsessive about the details. 

And another great book that we love on customer service, Broken Windows, Broken Business, by Michael Levine says something like, “The devil may be in the details, but the details paved the way to success.” When you’re not thinking about customer service in those terms, it can be easily something that goes by the wayside. 

And hey, every day is not going to be your top customer service day. I mean, everybody has a day, right? Everybody has a moment that they’re like, “Oh, I wish I could have done that again.” But when you have that awareness, that’s the difference. You’ll say, “I want to do that better.” And you will the next time, but it’s becoming aware of that. 

So wrapping up, ask yourself two questions. How can we make it as easy as possible for our patients to receive what they want or need, and then ask yourself this. If I were a patient in our practice, would the experience I receive here be exceptional? Would I consider it exceptional in my mind’s eye? If the answer is no to anything about that, those are areas that you can improve and focus your energy. So be about the business of, as Amy said, making time for the excellence you ultimately want to see in your practice and your relationships with your patients and watch your practice grow and thrive in the healthiest and happiest way. 

If you want to learn more from me or from Amy on customer service and the patient experience, you can find us both on the patient experience pathway on Jameson’s Grow online learning platform. We’d love to continue being fanatical students about customer service. So I hope you’ll join us. 

Thank you for joining us on this episode of the Jameson podcast. Visit us online at jmsn.com. You can subscribe to this podcast on iTunes, Google Play, and Spotify. Do you have questions or topics you’d like for us to answer or cover on the next podcast? Email us at [email protected].

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