How to create an emotional bank account with your patients

As a physician, have you ever had an opportunity to ease the concerns of a dissatisfied or unhappy patient? I use the term “opportunity” because these occurrences offer you the opportunity to turn a worried or unhappy patient into a disciple for your practice.

Consider these occurrences the same as making regular deposits into an “emotional bank account” for your patients, which can create a pool of goodwill that can insulate you from unhappy patients and bad reviews.

An emotional bank account simply refers to built up goodwill that you create with your patients. You can make deposits into this account by performing simple, regular tasks that make your patients feel appreciated and cared for. For example:

  • Consider sending out an occasional survey to find out how your patients feel treated in your clinic. Ask them if the staff is friendly. Do they have to wait too long? Does the staff actually LISTEN to them?
  • After treatment, you might want to follow up with a personal phone call to check on their condition, or at least have your nurse make the call. After my first crown with my current dentist, he personally called me that evening to check on me. Wow! What an idea; that had never happened to me before. He not only got a lifelong patient, but now my wife and kids go to him as well.
  • Start a patient email newsletter. This is easily and inexpensively done, and keeps your patients connected to your practice.

These few ideas can go a long way towards building up a positive balance in your patient’s emotional bank account. Now let’s talk about withdrawals…

We know that most physicians want to do the right thing; unfortunately, sometimes the right thing simply falls through the cracks. Whenever a patient feels ignored or slighted, this counts as a withdrawal from the account. If a patient happens to be misdiagnosed, or worse, this is a withdrawal. If a patient has to wait an extraordinarily long time to see you without explanation or apology, this also counts as a withdrawal.

If your account has a zero balance when these withdrawals take place you’re in trouble. You risk losing a patient, and we know that you rarely lose just 1 patient: you’re also losing family members, friends, and referrals. There are a variety of additional ways to make deposits into your patient’s account. Just keep an open mind and use your imagination.

A word about your staff:

Do you know how your staff treats your patient? We usually think we know, but often our perception is not entirely accurate. A patient’s interaction with your staff is every bit as important as their time with you when it comes to patient satisfaction and their willingness to refer friends and family to your practice. Explore opportunities to reward your staff for superior customer service. Perhaps a “catch me doing something right” employee recognition program based on patient input or that of a secret shopper. The reward could be a cash bonus, gift certificate or even an extra ½ day off work. Always remember how important staff attitude is to your success.