Editor's Picks

Good Doctor but Bad Customer Service. Why?

sub·par | Dictionary result for /səbˈpär/adjective: meaning — below an average level.

Dr. Kyra Bobinet, CEO of engagedIN and Keynote at the 2018 Concierge Medicine FORUM in Atlanta, GA. ATTEND THE 2019 CMT FORUM this fall — LEARN MORE …

By Michael Tetreault, Editor and Guest Contributor, Megan Horn

We asked Patients, “If Your Doctor Went Out of Business, How Much/Little Would You Care?”

  • 49% said “Not At All. Glad They’re Gone. I Wanted A New One Anyway.”
  • 41% said “It Would Be Inconvenient But I Didn’t Have A Relationship/Care Either Way With Physician.”
  • and only 10% said “Call The Mayor! Save This Business! They Would Absolutely Be Missed! Don’t Let This Medical Office Close! We Have To Save It!”

A Patients attention span is determined by the quality of the presenter. When you invited friends over to your house for an important conversation, do you not tidy up the place? Do you not remove every obstacle, seen or otherwise, that might impede or distract from what you have to say to them? Of course we do.

With all the talk about how many Patients are not following a Doctor’s orders, the diminished attention spans of people today, eliminating distractions both inside and outside the office should be a clarion call for all of us today to change the experience of going to a Doctor. If the next time you went out to eat and the table at the restaurant was dirty from the prior customer(s) and no one did anything about it but proceeded to serve you anyway and act like nothing is wrong … would you come back?

“If I’m paying any amount of a monthly [or annual] subscription to see my doctor, you better know my name when I arrive and I sure shouldn’t have to tap on the glass when I walk-in. And please, move the phone to the back of the office so I don’t have to hear your staff calling in prescriptions or making specialist referral calls.” ~M.C., True Story, Actual Patient, (C) Concierge Medicine Today, 2017

Exceptional Patient Experience + Exceptional Patient Service = a Better Patient Care Setting.

Question: Does this equation work in healthcare?

Answer: Yes, most of the time. But it all depends on the leadership of the Doctor in the practice and execution.

This equation is used by Concierge Medicine Doctors and is how Doctors in these care delivery environments welcome, inform, and serve every person who walks in your door. Providing a remarkable experience for your Patient depends on a number of factors: staff; paint color; smell; sight; sound; expertise; experience; signage; facilities; parking and the overall “feel” of the practice. Concierge Medicine’s goal, in every interaction with a Patient, is to listen, be a friend, treat the person with dignity, kindness, respect for schedule and exceed their expectations … meanwhile, have a backdrop of excellent hospitality.

Some will say … ‘Healthcare is more complicated than that.’

Sure, I hear you. But when you get served an answer to your urgent healthcare question, who, how and where do you want that question answered?

If you got a steak [or fish] on a plate perfectly cooked, do you want the healthy side items on the plate that usually accompany the main course, or are you comfortable with just the primary meat on the plate. The meat and potatoes of the treatment and exam can be complex, yes, absolutely. There’s no substitute for a great Doctor’s opinion and recommendations. But there’s more to a Doctor’s office than just that and we all know it. Furthermore, I’m here to tell you that that is exactly why people are opting for and searching for Concierge Medicine.  Don’t believe me, fine. I’ll let the true stories we hear from real, actively seeking Patients tell you the story …

  • “I Feel Like A Number.” ~Matt, Anaheim, CA; Feb. 2019

  • “We have had 2 doctors close their practice in the last 6 months.” ~Cathy, Portland, OR, Feb. 2019

  • “I’m tired of long wait lists and lines when I do go to the doctors. I am transitioning from one state to another and need to get in to see a doctor.” ~G.B., Maryland, Feb. 2019

  • “Unable to get appointments in a timely manner.” ~A.J., Atlanta, GA, Jan. 2019

  • “My Doctor Asks Me Less Than 5 Questions, I Feel Like A Number and they spend less than 15-Min. w/ me per visit.” ~G.F., BUELLTON, CA, January, 2019

  • “I need a Doctor who has a deeper understanding of complex medical condition interactions.” ~Student, Dallas, TX, Jan. 2019

  • “The Staff Is Difficult To Work With.” ~R.Y., Newark, January 2019

How are you incentivizing your best customers? Want your customers coming back? Start treating them like royalty. You want them eating everything you make, because when they do, they are going to go out and talk about it and probably even come back to buy more. Not only will you increase customer satisfaction, you also will get your best customers to try something new. They figure, if it’s good enough for their friend, it’s good enough for them.

Customer No-Service, ever heard of it?

It’s a play on words about how in today’s customer-friendly culture, we’re getting used to no-service at all. Too often all we hear about are customer no-service stories where Doctors, hospital staff, medical providers and the like go out of way their not to serve customers.

I told a group of a couple hundred Doctors recently “Remember, 50% of your business is simply based on whether or not the man or woman say ‘I just didn’t like that Doctor!’

I’ve had hypothetical conversation after conversation over the years with entrepreneurial Concierge Doctors about whether or not Doctors should call a Patient a Customer, or a Customer a Patient. Usually for educational business moments, it’s okay to say customer so long as the context is there.

Today, patient experience is one of those old, dusted off the shelf and given a new coat of paint hot buzzwords in the healthcare marketplace. Hospitals, doctors, specialty clinics, chiropractic offices and the like are all putting more time, money and effort into into building a better patient experience for their consumers. The primary reason for all of this, retention. With retention comes repeat customers, referrals and new patients.

So, finally, no longer are price and quality the only areas where Doctors compete, it is now also patient and customer experience.

Frankly, I’m glad to see it. And, Concierge Medicine is at the top of this move. For years, we’ve seen and heard and experienced ourselves how and why and what Doctors are doing to improve the patient experience.

I love this clip from the 2018 CMT Concierge Medicine FORUM last year from our “Welcome to Wonderland” Industry Innovators Panel … take a look below …

“I need to tip my hat to Gerhard Brandner, a captain of Frontier Airlines, for an opposite kind of story.
Amid ugly storms in the Midwest, the plane Gerhard was piloting from Washington, D.C., to Denver got diverted in Cheyenne. You know the drill: The plane is sitting and sitting and people are getting hungrier and hungrier as they wait for the weather to pass and the backlog of other diverted planes to resume their travels. So what does the good captain do? According to KDRV, he pulls his credit card out of his wallet and buys 50 pizzas for everyone on the plane!”[1]

Good service, friendly staff, a smiling Doctor … when patient expectations are met word of mouth travels fast! And as the Patient [e.g. Customer] becomes even more empowered. They feel empowered to share and spread the word with their friends too! All of these good vibe patient relations strategies emphasize and increase the importance of a Doctor leading by example and displaying an excellent customer experience. We’re seeing data that Doctors that invest in customer experience training for staff also boast higher profits. With that said, more Doctors are taking customer experience and customer service seriously.

What Can I Do Now To Improve Customer Service + Patient Experience In My Practice? How to Build A Strong Patient/Customer Experience

So what cues and/or advice do Concierge Medicine Doctors and these high-touch, tailored care environments say others can do to move the needle in the right direction. Well, here’s some helpful strategies to consider.

Hallway Scent Deodorizer

They’re so simple, you plug them in. Try it. See what happens. If they smell bad or people complain [or compliment], keep them around, or don’t. But try something new.

Attn All Staff, ‘No Front Office Snacking, Lunch-ing or Munching.’

It goes without saying, but we’ve all seen it.

Concierge Doctors take the Main Stage at the 2018 Concierge Medicine FORUM in Atlanta, GA, a three day conference bringing 30+ speakers, Physician faculty, nearly two dozen breakouts, lead-in workshops and more. Consider attending our 2019 CMT FORUM this fall — LEARN MORE HERE — http://www.ConciergeMedicineFORUM.com

Engage with people in waiting rooms

People hate waiting. We do.

It’s one of the most ridiculous ideas in healthcare many Concierge Medicine Doctors say. It’s also one of the primary frustrations and cited reasons why a Patient detests going to the Doctors office. There’s usually a never-ending time frame and lack of common respect for ones schedule. Only in healthcare is this acceptable and expected and repeated.

So what do can you do if you have one? Lengthy wait times can frustrate every Patient and tee you up for a bad interaction minutes or hours later. This is worsened further due to apathy from staff who are only paid to service customers at the front desk or on the phone.

One of the ways you can show empathy and soften the beaches for a politer, friendlier and better patient-physician interaction moments later is to not ignore the people waiting for your time and expertise. Acknowledge them, smile. Say something. Crack a joke. Apologize to the group or individual or Mother with her kids for the wait and give her an ETA. Be kind, be empathetic. This effective communication and small, thoughtful interaction doesn’t need to clinical but simply relational, fast and friendly. Maybe, offer an kind word or an update on queue timing. Also consider passing out or providing a $5.00 Starbucks gift card as a standard with a hand written note to people in the waiting room who’ve wait more than 20-minutes — so that they could at least feel acknowledged and respected.

Clean/Sanitize Waiting Rooms, Entry Door Handles — go the extra mile. Make the effort.

Patients don’t trust that the cleaning crew or the staff are really doing a great job. We just don’t.

You’ve seen I know because our long-time reading-Physicians over the years have sent in your own stories … how when you come in the next morning and the carpet hasn’t been vacuumed or a trash can or two was missed in the clean up. You shake your head, file a report, a form or a call to the cleaning company and life goes on. Consider putting a sign, similar to what private preschools do in their lobbies notifying people that you have exceptional cleaning and sanitizing standards.

Rethink the Interior Design In Your Bathrooms.

Did you know that wife or Mother of the family is usually the Healthcare CEO of the family. When she goes to visit the bathroom, you really should put more emphasis on the design details of the female restroom than the male restroom. Why? Because you just never know what they’re going to say. You want to impress don’t you?

Clean Your Pens!

That forgotten little germ carrier! Sanitize your pens when you clean your counter, every time! And, put hand sanitizer on the counter.

Celebration is something Doctors often overlook.

The best thing you can do as a Doctor today is write three Thank You notes, and tomorrow, and the next day, and every day.

Treat your best Patients like the rock stars they are. 

In the fashion world, celebrities are given the most expensive gowns in which to walk the red carpet. At conferences, speakers and VIPs are given SWAG Bags. Maybe you aren’t selling to celebrities or hosting a conference at your practice, but you can treat your best customers like VIPs because they are very important people too! They’re the many voices walking through the doors of your practice and then leaving and telling others about their experience. What do you really want them to say about you after they leave? You really should treat consider treating them like the rock stars and VIPs they are!

Make Every Patient a VIP.

A lot of words in uninformed articles, less nowadays actually, but they’re still out there … but a few thousand words have been dedicated over the past 20+ years to the idea that Concierge Medicine is for the entitled, the rich, or even the famous. I get that. I understand that argument. We can agree to disagree. Why is it that only in a healthcare environment is sub-par customer service, below average staff training and lack-luster design acceptable, scaleable and then, rinsed off and repeated. [It’s rhetorical … ] 

Lets look at the neighborhood bar and grill as an example. They really do have something going for them. There, you don’t have an appointment or schedule a visit in advance. You walk up to the bar and order your favorite [healthy] beverage or [healthy] meal. After the bartender starts to know you or after you’ve ordered a few [healthy] meals, the bartender buys you one. You hear him say, “This one is on me.” 

Got tips, advice, comments you’d like to share about excellent customer/patient service you’ve seen or applied. Send us an email or come learn more this 2019 at the CMT FORUM, or in the comments below.


  1. https://clark.com/travel/frontier-air-captain-buys-pizza-stranded-passenger/