The Psychology of 5-Star Customer Service – Crush your Competition by Thinking Differently

Our CEO writes for the BentsonCopple reSource. This is the Q4 article that will be coming out soon. We hope you enjoy:

5-Star Customer Service and Psychology experts have said for many years that without expertise in consumer psychology there is no customer service at the business.  Let’s dive deep into why.  5-Star Customer Service is defined as your business getting what it wants from its clientele, meanwhile your clientele believes they got what they wanted from your business. It is a vastly misunderstood term and a large reason why only a handful of companies achieve it. 5-Star Customer Service applies to literally every single aspect of your practice. From the verbiage and design of your website, to the new patient phone call, the financial presentation and everything in between. It is the ultimate form of internal marketing that produces a larger return on investment than all other marketing efforts combined. However, it remains the least invested in by business owners, especially doctors that own their own practice.

The latest Harris Interactive Study says that 88% of consumers choose and remain with a business because of the quality of their customer service rather than the quality of their goods and/or services. This study was conducted both in and out of healthcare (Restaurants, Ortho Practices, Spas, etc.) and if you have heard me speak around the country this is a study I have been referring to frequently the past few months.

The study referenced above proves true what I have been teaching business owners for two decades and really why my company New Patient Group exists. It is the fact people purchase your goods/services because of how you make them feel … Not because of how superior your goods/services actually are. Meeting expectations means you fail. You must exceed what the consumer expects at every given touch point they have with your organization. Needless to say, that is difficult to do and there is no amount of outside advertising on the planet that helps a business accomplish it. It is all about management, employees and what is occurring inside an organization that counts. Starbucks is the perfect example. Their coffee is below average on its best day, yet they rule the “coffee world.” People have fully bought into their experience and how they feel being a part of it. The coffee just happens to come with the purchase. This was not accomplished via outside advertising. This was accomplished via hardcore employee and management customer service training and then accountability to ensure the ongoing training was implemented for life. It is all about changing the “factory settings” employees come with as employees in healthcare do not come with 5-Star Customer Service training or expertise. In fact, most of them simply view it as more work instead of an opportunity to crush the competition. Therefore, every practice in existence loses opportunities via every aspect of the patient appointment – From the new patient call all the way to when money is presented.

Now, I am not trying to say the clinical abilities you offer your patients is not important. They are and I have great respect for your clinical skill. What I am saying is this. In today’s competitive landscape, the best clinician gets beat by the best experience. Right or wrong, it is reality. This will only prove more true in the future giving your organization a unique opportunity to thrive if it focuses its attention on the right things.

There are many reasons why people choose an experience over the quality of the goods/services they are purchasing.  I believe the biggest one is few people are true experts at what it is they are purchasing at any given time. Let me prove this with a simple example. If you are searching for a carpet cleaning company to steam your carpets how much of an expert are you at steaming carpets and the technologies they utilize? Do you truly know how to properly examine your carpets when they leave to see if they really accomplished what you paid for?  The answer is you are probably not an expert at those things. Few people are. You read reviews. You read information online. You ask a friend what she thinks. None of those makes you an expert but you certainly remember the experience that carpet company provided. In fact, they could have done a horrible job from industry standard, but because you are not an expert you would not even know. However, you will use them again if your experience was great.

The point is that few people are experts at what they are buying but 100% of people know how they were treated. This could not be more true as it relates to your patients. They look at your online reviews. They ask people what they think of you. They probably read about Invisalign, Braces, etc. before they come into your practice. However, the reality is they have no expertise in what they are purchasing from you. In addition, they value different things than you and your team do. This is why your receptionist never answers a call that says, “Yes, I am searching for an orthodontist that is the best rotator of bicuspids and the highest educated with the best x-ray machine … Can you tell me more?” "I am searching for the best material for a crown?" Those calls do not happen but they would if the people buying from you were actually experts in orthodontics, dentistry, etc.

The tricky part; especially with today’s consumer (today’s consumer is people of all ages and not just millennials … an article for another time), is the fact customer service means something different to each person. Therefore, what you might consider a great experience might not be to someone else.  Allow me to use a restaurant example to illustrate this point. When I go to dinner I am doing so for the experience. I want to take my time. I want to have a glass of wine, order some appetizers, eat them slowly and hang out for quite a while before even looking at the menu. My wife is the same way … thank goodness. However, her family is the opposite. When they sit down they want to order the moment the waiter comes to the table and get out as quickly as possible. The point is the fact my wife’s family views a great experience as something different than my wife and I. This absolutely pertains to your practice and your patients. I am not saying try to be everything to everyone either as that is a sure way to lose (another article for another time). What I am saying is you need become a consumer expert in what customer service actually means – Not what is has always meant in healthcare.  This, among other reasons, is why you need two have at least two types of experiences for new patients (we actually teach our clients three) and your receptionist must be taught how to identify if they are my wife’s family or mine over the new patient phone call. It is as easy as this:

“Mr. Wright, we are proud to offer two great experiences here at the practice … We have our wine and dine and that is for people that want to spend more time with the doctor, be shown around the office and really get to know our team … The other is our VIP Express and that will get you in and out quicker and is simply more streamlined than the wine and dine. Both are great and both are setup so you can started with your treatment day one … Which would you prefer?”

Now, that is a customized experience and exactly what today’s consumer wants. Everyone does outside advertising but few operate the way I am describing above. This is why it gives your practice a chance to dominate because everything I am speaking about in this article can be applied to literally every aspect of your organization. Let’s look at a few psychology terms that will help you view customer service differently and exactly what experts apply to their business.

  • The Halo Effect

The Halo Effect is the psychology behind the cognitive bias in which our overall impression of a person and/or a business influences how we feel and think about the entire whole.  If you like part of the whole the psychology says you will automatically like the entire whole. If you dislike part of the whole the psychology says you will automatically dislike the entire whole. If you have a bad meal at a restaurant you might automatically think all their food is bad. If you purchase a car that doesn’t work well you might automatically think all the cars made by that company do not work well.  

For your practice, the Halo Effect begins the moment a consumer has initial contact with your organization. That could be the moment they reach your website, the moment they call or if they happen to just walk into your practice without going to your website or calling. This, among hundreds of other reasons, is why 5-Star Customer Service applies to every aspect of your organization and why your employees must be trained to be consumer experts. If the initial new patient phone call does not go well that has an automatic impact on how that caller views your entire organization. If their visit to your website is “blah” (same cut/paste content on your site that hundreds of others have. Stock image photos instead of it all being about you and your team, etc.) that is exactly how they are likely to view your entire organization. This could even keep them from calling you to begin with. The point is every touch point a patient has with you and your team can impact how they perceive your entire operation. This is why employee training, and accountability to that training, is so important and so powerful.

  • The Power of Reciprocity

Reciprocity is the social norm of responding to a positive action with another positive action. It is the psychology of how people are more likely to return the favor when you provide something of value to them first. The more value you offer up front the more likely it will be returned to you in the end. Reciprocity can be anything. It can be the amount of time you spend with someone, the expertise you offer, a present and/or hundreds more. There are two types of reciprocity. Trumpeted and Surprise. Trumpeted Reciprocity is when you tell someone you are doing something for them and Surprise Reciprocity is when you surprise someone with something free and valuable. This Christmas I am going to buy my mother a car. She has needed one for a long time and she has been on her own since my dad passed away. I have gone back and forth whether or not I am going to tell her so she can go with me to pick it out or surprise her with a new one on Christmas morning. Both are acts of reciprocity. If I go the first route than I accomplish Trumpeted Reciprocity and if I go the second route I accomplish Surprise Reciprocity. Both work well in a business.

  • Surprise Reciprocity. New Patient Phone Call. Following a new patient call the caller needs to feel wowed. They literally need to be so amazed that the treatment has already been sold. This “wow factor” is an act of reciprocity because this is not something people feel when they get off the new patient phone call with practices. It is not that all calls go badly. However, what it does mean is that new patient calls do not go well enough to achieve the act of reciprocity. We know this because we do hundreds of mystery calls and in two decades we have not heard one that achieved this psychology principle. The doctors that think the new patient call is not a problem at their practice are always the practices where it is a problem. Why? The doctors that do not think it is a problem do not value the training enough to block time on the schedule to consistently do it.
  • Surprise Reciprocity. New Patient Welcome Gift. Many practices provide new patients with a gift. However, most do it at the incorrect time. This is another example why understanding psychology helps you achieve the definition of 5-Star Customer Service. The new patient welcome gift should be given to every new patient that enters your practice and should be done immediately upon them entering the door. Hence, value up front to increase the chances of a returned favor at the end, which is what reciprocity talks about.
  • Trumpeted reciprocity. You tell a patient you are going to do something and you do it! Regardless of what it is, you followed through on your word and it was done in the timeframe promised. This applies to all of your employees as well.
  • The Art of Edification

Edification is to instruct someone in a way that enlightens them or uplifts them morally, spiritually and/or intellectually. Everything I am talking about above is tied together with the ability of your employees to edify your organization in a way that speaks the “consumer language.” 5-Star Customer Service is all about verbiage and presentation skills. Let me give you an example and you can use this as a script for your receptionist as well. Caller asks, “What does the first appointment look like?”

What all receptionists (including yours) say to this question is basically the same, which is another reason why reciprocity is not achieved via the new patient call. They say something like, “Well, we will get you in here. You will complete some paperwork. We will take some photos and x-rays and you will meet the doctor.” What the caller is thinking is blah, blah blah. I hate x-rays as all I see is radiation in my mind. I hate paperwork and I will probably fill that out while sitting in a waiting room full of people.  Once again, this is why being a consumer expert is so important. This is what your receptionist should say if you want to provide a 5-Star Experience:

“I am so glad you asked as that is a great question … You are going to be treated like a rock star and greeted by Nancy, she is awesome and really ensures our new patients are amazed with their experience … We are going to show you around, get you comfortable with our state of the art technologies, you will be our doctor (he/she is hilarious and you will love her/him) and we will respect your time by having everything ready so you can get started day one!” That is how you bring the Halo Effect and Reciprocity together via the Art of Edification using the “consumer language.”

There has never been a time  where I hope you take to heart what you read in this article. Change your mindset on what you focus on to constantly be improving yourself and your people. When doing so it benefits both your patients and your organization, which is the definition of 5-Star Customer Service. Here is to your growth in 2019 and talk to everyone soon!


Brian Wright

CEO-New Patient Group

Consultant & Speaker – Align Technology, the Maker’s of Invisalign®

Author – BentsonCopple reSource

CoHost – Doctor Diamond Club Podcast (Coming Soon – Online Store)

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