By Kathy Roy Gaughran
Senior Marketing Strategist
A close friend of mine shared a personal story that’s worth re-telling. It illustrates a real-world patient experience that moved the measure of satisfaction from “simply satisfied” to “raving fan” status.
Although this story comes from the dental profession, the core concept will easily transfer to other healthcare specialties. Consider how you can apply this concept in your practice. The invested cost will be modest, but the payback in patient satisfaction is enormous.
First, a bit of backstory helps set the stage.
In many professions, some patients dread going to the doctor…even when they like the provider, the staff and the office. Dental care providers, as a good example, are well aware that patient feelings can range from simple stress or a mild apprehension to an outright anxiety and intense fear.
Most dental procedures aren’t painful, but anxiety is a common concern. Dentists, oral surgeons and dental specialist often address the issue in their marketing and advertising, and in how they interact with patients in the office. These upfront efforts can successfully ease patient concerns, build a trusting relationship, and lead to case acceptance.
And so it was with my friend; a satisfied dental patient. When she elected to have dental implant surgery recently, she turned to a maxillofacial surgeon and prosthodontist practice that she knew and trusted. The prospect of oral surgery, however, includes some degree of apprehension before the procedure. And, following the procedure, there’s some degree of discomfort.
The day after…
Many patients say that dental implants are not “as bad” as they had feared. Nevertheless, there was some discomfort, and my friend elected to recuperate at home.
The day after the procedure, the doctors sent a bouquet of flowers, some reusable ice packs, and a handwritten greeting card to my friend at her home.
On the day she was feeling uncomfortable (actually, crummy), the thoughtful and unexpected gesture was greatly appreciated. She felt that the doctors cared. The flowers—an emotional touch—lifted her spirits. And the ice packs—a practical touch—were welcome and effective.
My friend had been a satisfied patient prior to her surgery. But the thoughtful and timely “day after” gifts were “above and beyond.” Satisfaction escalated to “raving-fan” status.
This patient experience story illustrates that healthcare customer service does not end when the procedure is booked or done. Both the patient and the practice acknowledge that this is about a helping a person, not “selling a procedure.”
Will the flowers, ice packs and card inspire the patient to “buy more implants?” Well, probably not – but that’s not the point. The unexpected gesture of flowers and card was an extension of the doctor-patient relationship. And it cemented the positive rapport between patient and practice. What’s more, this individual will become a loyal and empowered champion of the practice.
She will quickly, easily and frequently recommend the practice enthusiastically. And in this case, the patient may become a source for a personal testimonial. (I’m not the only person to have heard her story.)
Here’s why this idea is effective. First, it was unexpected. A positive surprise delivers a measure of delight and appreciation. And on another level, it also says that the professional practice is concerned about their patients as individuals, and not just completing another day’s work, procedure or retail sale.
This practice demonstrated that they had a continuing relationship with, and a genuine concern for, the patient.
For related reading, see:
- The Surprising Science Behind Patient Satisfaction
- The Forgotten Step That Makes All the Difference to Patient Experience
- 10 Big Ideas to Move Patient Experience From Good to Great
- Designing the Patient Experience: Getting to the Next-Level