What are customers’ most common and biggest bellyaches about customer service? Consumer Reports National Research Center recently conducted a survey to find out. Consumers were asked about their experiences with customer service in the past year and what complaints they had. Here are their top answers (customers were allowed to choose multiple options):
Consumers – a practice’s patients – clearly have a lot of complaints. How can you eliminate these issues? Here are some suggestions:
- Make sure patients can easily reach a live person for assistance, whether by phone or by online chat. If you don’t have enough staff in-house for this, consider outsourcing customer service. Whatever you do, don’t hide your company’s customer service phone number.
- Interrupting a patient no matter how long they have been speaking for, is rude and disrespectful. Your staff should allow the caller to vent their frustrations entirely, before jumping in with the solution – regardless of how many times the patient has repeated himself. However, verbal nods such as “Yes”, “I understand your frustration”, “What can I do to help?” do not count as interruption; in fact, they are essential to the process of building rapport.
- Always take a phone number from the customer when starting a customer service call. This way, the rep can call the customer back if they get disconnected. Before transferring a call, tell the customer who or what department they are being transferred to, and give them a direct number to reach that person or department if they get cut off during the transfer.
- Empower your staff. Creating a knowledge base of practice information that will help your staff resolve common issues is a great way to ensure that every rep has the information they need to do their jobs. Hold regular meetings with reps to go over tough issues they faced and how to solve them so that reps can learn from each other.
- Simplify your automated phone system as much as possible. Ideally, don’t make customers go through more than one or two levels of number-punching to reach their destination. Is it really worth irritating your patients battling through mazes of voice prompts only to be disconnected with the news that all agents are busy?
- Diffuse a potentially stressful situation when a patient requests to speak with a manager – you can be sure that there is good reason. Why demand a patient describe their issue at hand to your front desk staff only to be finally put through to a practice manager where they will have to repeat the entire issue? Your patients need the security of knowing that if they need extra help, it is readily available to them. Fail to escalate a call and you risk alienating your customers and stifling their confidence in your practice.
The major problem with telephone annoyances is that, invariably, they compound like a rolling snowball. The more annoyed a patient is made, the less likely they are to eventually become a long-term client. Outsourcing to a third party agency who is able to successfully handle patients’ issues will keep your patients returning to you for future business.
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