Remember that show, Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist that aired during the nineties? One of the funniest characters was the front-office girl, Laura. Simply stated, Laura was aloof. She absolutely hated talking to patients. Whether it was on the phone or in person, she couldn’t stand it. At one point she even had a sign made up that read: “Do Not Talk To The Administrative Assistant”.
As Homer Simpson would say, “it’s funny because it’s true!” We’ve all encountered people like Laura at the doctor’s office, the hotel front desk, and the law firm’s waiting room. Although it’s funny to watch Laura treat patients with utter disdain, it’s less funny when we experience it.
As business owners and office managers, it’s important to realize that our customers have these feelings too. Take a look at the negative reviews of service-based businesses on Yelp. Many times, complaints about the staff outnumber complaints about the actual service. The good news is, most of these customer satisfaction issues involve communication, and communication can always be improved. Let’s take a look at some of the most common Yelp complaints and some simple communication strategies that address them:
Improving Customer Satisfaction Before the First Appointment
“I called to make an appointment but was put on hold for five minutes.”
If your call volume is getting too high to handle, it’s time to get a different phone system, or more staff. Meanwhile, instead of putting customers on hold for a long time, have your staff send more callers to voice mail, or take down their name and number and call them back.
[bctt tweet=”Communication Tip 1: #CustomerSatisfaction improves when we value our customers’ time.”]
“I finally got through to someone, but they rushed me off the phone.”
Make sure your staff understands how to make a caller feel valued. If your staff needs better phone etiquette, get some training materials and teach them how to handle calls. Then, be sure to test your staff every few months. Have a friend call your office to set up an appointment and ask questions.
[bctt tweet=”Communication Tip 2: #CustomerSatisfaction gets better when we take the time to communicate.”]
“I chose Dr. Johnson, but I never see him, just his assistant.”
Nobody likes bait and switch. Here’s a similar Yelp complaint: “I tried to make an appointment with Dr. Gilbert but I was told her first available appointment is in two months.” If you are too busy to see new customers, please let them know and give them the option of choosing someone else.
[bctt tweet=”Communication Tip 3: #CustomerSatisfaction increases when we communicate honestly.”]
“I got lost because I had the wrong address.”
Remember customers will find you on local business listings such as Google, online white pages, industry directories and review sites. Updating your website is not enough. Make sure that all your online information, such as address, directions, office hours, services and availability is kept up-to-date.
[bctt tweet=”Communication Tip 4: #CustomerSatisfaction improves when we communicate accurately.”]
Improving Customer Satisfaction at the Front Desk
“The office staff is unfriendly/doesn’t care/doesn’t make eye contact.”
This is one of the most common complaints on Yelp, it appears in small-business reviews as well as giant-company reviews and seems to be industry independent. By all means, do not hire grumpy people to be your welcoming committee! The front-office personnel serves as the face of the company. Teach your office staff to smile and make eye contact (even when they’re not on the clock).
[bctt tweet=”Communication Tip 5: #CustomerSatisfaction grows when we make our customers feel welcome.”]
“They mentioned my (financial/personal/health) problem in front of the entire waiting room! I was horrified!”
Nobody wants the gossiping neighbor in the waiting room to hear that they are having financial problems, marital problems or a rash. In fact, many HIPAA complaints have to do with comments made in ear shot of other patients. In 2013, a dental practice was reported to HHS for using red stickers and stamping the word “AIDS” on the outside of patient folders. Even if you’re not in the healthcare industry, teach your staff the importance of privacy.
[bctt tweet=”Communication Tip 6: #CustomerSatisfaction lifts when we communicate discreetly.”]
“The front office staff was too busy to talk to me.”
We’ve all been there, we wait in line for what seems forever to get to the receptionist and when it’s finally our turn she rushes us along, without meeting our needs, so that she can answer the phone. Teach your front office staff that the person standing in front of them is MORE important than anyone else (yes, even the person on the phone). If your front office staff is too busy to talk to customers, you need to make some changes. Hire more staff or outsource some tasks.
[bctt tweet=”Communication Tip 7: #CustomerSatisfaction progresses when we take the time to communicate.”]
Improving Customer Satisfaction when There’s a Problem
“I missed/changed/cancelled my appointment and the person who answered the phone was obnoxious.”
Here’s an excerpt from a Yelp review: When my dad was dying, I had to change my eye exam 3 times. The very rude receptionist, who did not know my situation, told me that perhaps I should just cancel the appointment and contact them when my life had “settled down”. When my life “settled down” I took my business elsewhere. If you have a no-show problem, don’t take it out on the customers, tackle it. Automate your appointment reminders and make sure they go out even when your staff is away.
[bctt tweet=”Communication Tip 8: #CustomerSatisfaction rises when we communicate compassion.”]
“I have a complaint but I have to make (and pay for) an appointment if I want to talk about it.”
If you make yourself unreachable and your manager makes a mistake, who is your customer supposed to complain to? They will vent to friends or possibly on Yelp. Show that you care. Create an open-door policy. Create a complaint form on your website that gets copied to YOU. Address complaints with your staff.
[bctt tweet=”Communication Tip 9: #CustomerSatisfaction recovers when we show an open-door communication policy.”]
“They screwed up my order/prescription/bill, and never once apologized.”
From the White House Office of Consumer Affairs: “happy customers who get their issue resolved tell about 4-6 people about their experience”. The truth of the matter is: all businesses make mistakes. Teach your staff to apologize for mistakes and inconveniences. Empower your staff to give refunds, discounts or freebies to make customers feel better. Do not let your staff blame your supplier, the delivery man, the insurance company, or worse, the customer.
[bctt tweet=”Communication Tip 10: #CustomerSatisfaction lifts when we stop making excuses and fix our mistakes.”]
“This company sucks, so I’m writing a bad review.”
Dr. Katz and Laura were lucky that Yelp was not founded until 2004. In your case, if you find a negative review online, don’t panic. Address the review openly and offer to make things right. Let everyone see that this particular customer is very important to you. Be genuinely concerned about improving this customer’s outcome. Try to use the review as a learning experience and as a public-relations opportunity.
[bctt tweet=”Communication Tip 11: #CustomerSatisfaction soars when we show that we want to make customers happy.”]