The summer months can be a good time to catch up on strategies you want to implement in your business. Specifically, customer service strategies. Service and relationships are the difference makers in most businesses, and this is certainly true in the vision care industry.

How your co-workers interact with patients is really important. Collectively, everyone needs training whether it’s your receptionist, optician or technician.

To be honest, the bar is set pretty low. Which fortunately or unfortunately means being average makes you look good, and being great makes people talk to their friends about your practice.

Recently, I’ve been paying attention to just how sub-par organizations are when it comes to customer service. I travel a lot, so I’m no stranger to airlines, hotels and car rental agencies. The customer experience at most airlines, to put it nicely, isn’t good. Tickets are expensive, the check-in process could be a lot better, security . . . well, what can I say? And, seating arrangements are claustrophobic. Luckily, the hotel and car rental experience is much better than the aforementioned.

Being on the road means I eat at my fair share of restaurants. Customer service ranges from over the top to making me turn and walk out the front door. And, don’t slight that ill-mannered waiter; he’s still expecting his 20%.

What about your local grocery store? Probably not so good there either, often you have three options at check-out: the painfully shy high school student, the 20-year check-out veteran with an attitude or self check out. Who decided this was a good idea?

Have you been to a big box retailer recently? Pick any you’re familiar with and you’ve got a 50-50 chance of dealing with Ms. Sweetie Pie or Ms. Lemon Face. One can absolutely make your day, while the other will have you muttering as you leave the store.

All I’m trying to illustrate is that your patients (and you) are routinely exposed to poor customer service. Customer service is an “every employee” thing, and business owners who understand the value of great customer service set their companies apart.

It all starts with the person answering your phone.

A friend of mine owns a tech company. I met his receptionist Michelle years ago. She has a unique title, Director of First Impressions. It’s a great title, and it shows the importance this company puts on front-line interaction with everyone who calls.

After getting to know Michelle, I believe she’s a natural, has a great phone voice, friendly personality and the knowledge to either help you or get you to another person who will.

If you don’t have a “natural,” it’s okay. These skills can be coached and improved upon. And, as I mentioned before, it’s not just the person answering the phone; it’s up to every person who has contact with patients to ensure a good experience.

I found a great post on Help Scout written by Gregory Ciotti titled “15 Customer Skills that Every Employee Needs.” I’ll list them here, and I encourage you to read the entire post on Help Scout.
1. Patience
2. Attentiveness
3. Clear Communication Skills
4. Knowledge of the Product
5. Ability to Use Positive Language
6. Acting Skills
7. Time Management Skills
8. Ability to Read Customers
9. A Calming Presence
10. Goal Oriented Focus
11. Ability to Handle Surprises
12. Tenacity
13. Persuasion Skills
14. Closing Ability
15. Willingness to Learn

A lot of you do a good job, and getting to the next level is difficult. But with commitment, dedication and training you will get to the next level, and your practice will grow.

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