By Rachael Click, OD
Showing gratitude for your chance to serve patients will generate a positive patient experience and better relations with your vendor partners.
SHOW GRATITUDE. Show patients and business partners that you are grateful to serve them.
BANISH “ENTITLEMENT.”Recognize theopposite of attitude of gratitude and avoid it.
GET STAFF ON BOARD. Continually reinforceattitude of gratitude with staff .
The stresses of running an optometric practice and seeing patients can make it easy to overlook how lucky we are to have the chance to better people’s lives. For that reason, my staff and I do our best to practice what I call an “attitude of gratitude.” This expression, which I heard from a makeup saleswoman as a motto forher sales team, fits the work ethic of our office perfectly. We don’t serve patients because we have to, but because we genuinely want to help them. Here are some of the ways we put this motto into practice.
Approach Patient Challenges With Gratitude
I try to use the “attitude of gratitude” motto as much as possible with myself personally and professionally. Whenever my staff has a question regarding a patient scenario, I often say to take the approach of attitude of gratitude. One example of this is how we handle late patients. I always try to see them and I ask the staff to acknowledge that they are late, but thank them for still coming and reassure them I will work them in as quickly as I can. When I get into the exam room, I always thank them for their patience and allowing me to work them in. It is quite amazing that by turning the situation around, how much happier the outcome is. While we might not always mention the words “attitude of gratitude,” we always talk about the path of least resistance with patients. We want our office to be a friendly office and we don’t mind our patients taking advantage of us.
Don’t Forget Business Partners
For our vendors, we bake Christmas cookies in the holiday season. Each team member picks one or two cookie recipes to make and we bake them together as a team at my house. It is a great team building exercise, but also the recipients love the assortment of cookies.
Recognize Opposite of Attitude of Gratitude–And Avoid It
I am seeking to avoid an attitude of entitlement and complacency. There are a lot of optometric practices available for patients to seek service. I think the only way we remain competitive against the big retail practices is our attitude of gratitude. We know patients can go anywhere, and we are happy they chose us. I always thank every single patient for coming in regardless of the appointment type.
GET STAFF ON BOARD
Review Attitude of Gratitude in Staff Meetings
Every week to start our business meeting we read our mission statement and give patient examples of how we did a good job or where we need to improve. We review the scenarios together as a team and come up with scripts or solutions to use in the future. For instance, we recently had a patient who wanted their product fees refunded and then immediately pay for it on the HAS VISA Advantage Card. It had been about a month since the purchase and we don’t normally do that after that long of a time period.
However, we explained our policy and told her we would make a one-time exception for her. She ended up even offering to pay the service fees for the refund because of how much we helped her out. We didn’t charge her, but rather thanked her for her understanding. She was so grateful that she expressed her loyalty. She started the conversation as very rude and then when we expressed gratitude, her attitude changed completely. I don’t know how often we are able to change people’s attitude, but we generally do not have a lot of rude patients to begin with, and I think its because of our “attitude of gratitude.”
I find that staff attitude has everything to do with everything. As doctors, we can be amazing and the most likeable person, but if a staff member has a bad attitude about anything, regardless of how small, people will feel taken advantage of and go elsewhere. The staff is the face of the office.
Doctor Has to Maintain Attitude of Gratitude, Too
My experience of rudeness has been either because people are worried or they don’t understand something. I always enter the exam room with a hand shake, a welcome statement and end with a thank you. For the most part, I have found that if I can let a patient express their feelings and thank them for sharing them with me, then most situations are maintained. A lot of things I hear in the exam room are things people are embarrassed to mention, so if I can take that fear away and enable them to talk about the awkward stuff, then it builds trust.
A most recent example was a middle-aged male who had one of the first appointments in the day. We recently implemented a phone system that texts people reminders before their appointment. This text message woke up the patient and he was very upset. He was yelling at the staff and me. He said he didn’t want to come because he was so mad, but he really likes us and needed more contacts. After I let him vent, I thanked him for telling me this as it is a new system and that I will turn off the text messages for him. He left very happy.
Consider Patient Feedback in Context
Reviews are funny things. To me it seems as if people are only willing to comment on the extremes. Patients have definitely commented on the happiness and niceness of the office. Ironically, the bad reviews we have received are from people who aren’t patients. We either didn’t take their insurance or walked in off the street to purchase glasses and decided to purchase elsewhere. What I think is even more ironic, is that when that has happened to us we instantly had a fantastic review from patients (that we haven’t seen in a while) who comment on how wonderful their experience is at the office. It’s almost as if they are standing up for us.
Take Time to Acknowledge Patients at End of Office Visit
When I first opened the office, I used to write a hand written thank-you note to all new patients. It was three or four sentences that simply said thank you for trusting me and that I look forward to their return. As the business has grown, I lost the time to personally write the notes, but I do take the time to shake everyone’s hand and say thank you. I really like seeing people’s positive response to this. I think the young kids love it, too.
We also have a Share the Care program. We send a thank you gift certificate to use in optical for everyone that is referred to us by a patient.
Attitude of Gratitude: Implement It in Your Office
Thank you is in order to everyone who comes into the office. Attitude is a conscious choice to concentrate on the things you have rather than the things you don’t have. An attitude of gratitude is not necessarily monetary, but knowing that you are doing good work.
Avoid negativity and comparing yourself to others–and make sure when you speak to patients you are being genuine in wanting to help them rather than just sell to them.
Make the patient you are working with feel as if they are the only ones in the room. Then try to take the time to listen and come up with a plan that works for them and not necessarily us. Put the patient first and then the practice will succeed.
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