What can eye care leaders like you learn from other industries and businesses? Plenty! You just have to know where to look. In an earlier post, we looked to The Walt Disney Company and discussed how to use Disney’s “Guestology” concept to create magical patient experiences. Today, we will discuss a company known for its customer service—The Ritz-Carlton. Plus, we’ll share tips for adapting their philosophy to boost patient satisfaction at your eye care practice.
What Gracious Customer Service Really Looks Like
The Ritz-Carlton is “a place where the genuine care and comfort of our guests is our highest mission.” So say the Gold Standards, a set of principles that embody the luxury hotel’s philosophy of customer service. Joe Quitoni, corporate director of culture transformation at The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center, elaborated on some of these standards during his keynote address at 2016’s Vision Expo East.
Customer Service from Beginning to End
Every stay at The Ritz-Carlton begins with a warm welcome and ends with a fond farewell, both using the guest’s name. So if you’re front desk staff is still greeting patients by asking them to “sign in here,” you are doing it wrong. Greet patients by name before they sign in—they’ll feel valued when they realize you remember their name. At the end of the visit, sincerely thank the patient.
Consider taking the “fond farewell” one step further, recommends Mary E. Schmidt, ABOC, CPO, who spoke about customer service at 2016’s SECO conference. A follow-up phone call after the visit serves two purposes, she says. You can thank the patient once more, and uncover any potential issues before they fester. If something happened but the patient didn’t bring it up at the visit, “you don’t want them to be thinking about you negatively for twelve months. Follow-up can fix it earlier,” she notes. If you can’t do this for every patient, start with certain groups, like first-time patients or those spending over a certain dollar amount, she advises.
You are More than Your Job Description.
At The Ritz-Carlton, employees aren’t simply bell hops or housekeepers. They are living embodiments of the Gold Standards. In fact, employees (referred to as Ladies and Gentlemen) carry those standards—printed on a laminated, wallet-sized card—on their person at all times. They are there to make guests feel at home. One way they do this is by anticipating guests’ needs—even those that go unexpressed—and fulfilling them.
At your practice, the front desk isn’t just about answering phones and scheduling appointments, but also making patients feel as “at home” as possible. This could be as simple as keeping small, inexpensive toys in the exam rooms for antsy children, or making sure you have a backup pair of contact lenses on hand when a patient arrives for their annual checkup. That way, if their prescription has changed, they can go home with a fresh pair while they wait for the new ones on order, explains Schmidt.
Make It Right.
For employees at The Ritz-Carlton, guest complaints aren’t just complaints—they’re also opportunities. Every employee is empowered to resolve guest complaints on the spot, eliminating the need to “get a manager.” Issues are resolved much faster, and guests are impressed. In case a sincere apology or non-monetary solution isn’t enough, each employee is allotted a dollar amount each day to use how they choose in resolving guest issues. Those issues are then reported—by filing a QIA, or Quality Incident Action—with the aim of preventing similar problems in the future.
Know Your Values.
The hospitality industry has a notoriously high turnover rate (about 55 percent on average). The Ritz-Carlton has managed to reduce theirs to 28 percent, thanks to its “candidate assessment system.” It’s a system for assessing candidate in terms of the qualities The Ritz-Carlton believes are required for success. These qualities are directly related to the Gold Standards, which includes a list of 12 service values.
Use a personality assessment to shore up your hiring technique. That’s one way to be sure candidates align with your practice’s values and culture. But also consider creating your own list of service values and sharing them with potential hires during interviews. Do not hire anyone who is not on board with your own service values.
Service Standards for Your Practice
Having trouble coming up with your own service standards? Some of The Ritz-Carlton’s are ready-made for eye care practices. Here are a few examples:
- I build strong relationships and create guests for life.
- I create a work environment of teamwork and lateral service so that the needs of our guests and each other are met.
- I protect the privacy and security of our guests, my fellow employees and the company’s confidential information and assets.
- I am responsible for uncompromising levels of cleanliness and creating a safe and accident-free environment.