Running a practice can be a wonderful yet terrifying experience. There are many different aspects that must be considered. One area that is often overlooked is office policies. Policies about daysoff, being late, and customer care are all necessary to run a successful eye care practice. But as some of you may know, these policies can hinder the service for your patients. Neil Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO, has seen this happen time and time again, and in his practice, he keeps customer service top-of-mind.
The Gailmard Eye Center
Dr. Gailmard runs the successful Gailmard Eye Center in Indiana. In practice for over 40 years, he’s learned how to balance customer satisfaction with the business aspect of running an office. Gailmard explains for Optometric Management that while policies are an important piece of a practice, there’s nothing wrong with bending the rules occasionally for an unhappy patient. “…my staff is trained to listen and let patients win if they are unhappy with how we handle something. This easy-going approach is based on my strong belief that excellent customer service is extremely important for practice growth and success.”
Though his staff would rather stay firm in office policies, Dr. Gailmard knows his practice’s success is dependent on what his patients think. Because most patients follow the office policies, the rules usually make running the practice simple. But for the small percentage that might have an issue, Gailmard suggests allowing these policies to slide.
“The 2% of the time represents such a small amount of revenue that it just does not make sense to fight about it. The office still runs smoothly with this group of patients as well, because we just let them win.”
Dr. Gailmard is steadfast in this ideal, putting a bit of weight on his staff. Judgment calls are stressful, but Gailmard puts a heavy emphasis on patient experience and the power of word-of-mouth marketing. Gailmard has a few suggestions for staff members implementing this level of customer service into your practice.
- Always state the policy first. As mentioned, most patients accept these and move on.
- If the patient doesn’t accept the statement, listen, be empathetic, and correct the situation. Talk with a doctor, manager, or someone in charge if necessary, then explain to the patient that you’ll make an exception.
Some have an issue with the approach of Dr. Gailmard, saying that “complainers” shouldn’t get their way, or that being lenient allows people to take advantage of you. Gailmard understands that these issues can happen, but he believes in patient satisfaction. Everyone’s been upset before, whether it’s a true or perceived injustice. To Gailmard, it’s more important for patients to leave feeling like their woes were solved.
As for those who may exploit his kindness, Gailmard says, “I let people take advantage of me all the way to the bank.” Happy patients will share their stories with other people, and they’ll most likely leave out any hint that they took advantage of the practice. This leaves those people with the exact idea that Gailmard wants to convey: patient satisfaction comes first. While profits may take a small hit at first, the long-term goodwill the practice will gain is well worth it.
Do you share Dr. Gailmard’s ideal when it comes to patient satisfaction? Or do you feel it is too lenient? How are office policies handled in your practice?