We all know the surface customer service issues that many medical practices share with the Department of Motor Vehicles. Long wait times. Indifferent staff. Phones ringing unanswered. “Not my department…”

But these customer service failures are just manifestations of deeper, underlying problems. So WHY exactly has the DMV come to symbolize bad customer service? And why is it that so many medical clinics can’t stop giving their patients “the DMV experience?” Even the ones who have purchased medical customer service training programs?

How do patients rate your medical office’s customer service?

Uneven Demand.

The DMV, like physician practices, experiences peak demand times. Yet they don’t appear to staff to fluctuations in customer demand. This causes backed up waiting areas and long wait times. The same thing can be observed at many physician practices. The practice hires an arbitrary  number of schedulers, usually determined by budget limitations, not by actual volume. Front desk staff are typically scheduled to work from 8 to 5 every day… even on days when surgeons are at the hospital or surgery center and not seeing patients in the office.

Medical practices experience peak times for call volume. Often there are days of the week when more patients crowd the waiting room. For example, days when more providers are present in the office.

Excessive wait times are a common theme among bad provider reviews on Google, etc.— Yet physician owners, practice managers, and staff often shrug them off, as though it just cannot be helped.

It can be helped. Staffing to demand, as well as other tactics to improve patient flow, are readily available. Proven approaches have been successfully deployed at other practices.

Clunky Systems.

While some practices have managed to choose good EMR/PM systems– AND deploy them correctly– many practices still fumble with clunky EMR/PM systems. The result? Staff, weary from manual processes and workarounds, neglect patient interactions. Clunky systems hinder medical office staff from meeting patients’ customer service expectations.

Many practices have decent EMRs, but fail to recognize that they aren’t using them optimally. See this video where I explain the gap between EMR best practices and actual EMR use that develops over time. By optimizing EMR use, 10 to 40 percent of staff busy work can be eliminated. Efficient, simplified work flows free staff to better serve patients.

Low Pay + High Complexity

It has been said that one of the underlying reasons for the DMV’s customer service notoriety is the combination of low pay and complicated job procedures and software. Sound familiar?

According to Payscale, the average medical office receptionist in Tampa, Florida makes $12.23 per hour. There is an obvious incongruency when you consider the complicated payer and government regulations impacting that role. Not to mention the complexity of medical reimbursement, payment posting, etc.

The solution to this problem can be found in Michael Gerber’s The E-Myth Revisited. The book explores how McDonald’s, a multibillion dollar corporation, is able to provide consistent service with lower price labor. Hint: It’s all about creating systems, and an Operations Manual.

No One WANTS To Go There.

No one wants to go to the DMV. (Unless you’re turning 16.) It’s also no surprise that patients often dread going to the medical office. The child (or adult) who is afraid of shots… The oncology patient anxiously awaiting test results… The patient fearful of a painful or embarrassing medical procedure…

Are government offices known for abundant smiles and friendliness? Or do they conjure images of somber employees who refuse to look up from their computer as you approach the counter?

Empathy is a critical component of customer service. The medical practice whose employees consistently smile, make eye contact, and genuinely welcome the patient will stand apart from competing clinics– The ones where the front desk receptionist thrusts our their hand and demands your insurance card without ever looking up from the monitor.

Bureaucracy and Politics

“The bureaucracy is expanding to meet the needs of the expanding bureaucracy.”

-Oscar Wilde

Bureaucracy is the most insidious reason why your clinic may feel like a government office to your patients. What are some symptoms of bureaucracy? Common sense no longer prevails. Staff cite “policy” when making bad decisions– decisions that hurt your practice’s revenue or put your physicians at risk legally. When patients have to wait for a manager to call them back about the most trivial things, your bureaucracy is out of control.

It takes effort to turn around a toxic culture. You have to hold people accountable, and you have to be willing to get the right people in place so that you can enable them to solve problems. If you need layers of supervisors and managers to micromanage, then your practice is likely lacking systems and efficiency.

With Apologies to the DMV….

I’ve picked on the DMV for illustrative purposes, because of the DMV reputation that has developed over the years. But it would be unfair for me not to recognize the efforts the DMV has made to turn its ship around. They recently let me renew my driver’s license online. (They get bonus points for letting me keep my ten-years-younger photo on my new license.) With the DMV getting its act together, is the medical practice poised to replace it as the symbol of bad service?

Next Steps.

Be honest. Is your medical clinic’s waiting room looking like the DMV?

Before you spend hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars on cutesy medical office customer service training programs, know this: It’s a waste of money if you don’t also fix the broken systems and workflows too. Clunky systems, bureaucracy, and unnecessarily complicated business processes are all barriers to good service. Customer service training is also meaningless without accountability structures in place.

We’ve helped other practices fix their DMV image, and we can help you fix yours too.

Why not take advantage of our one-time, free initial discovery meeting? You can self-schedule right now at www.ConradHealthcare.com. It’s so easy, and we can talk in person via Zoom meeting. We will never bother you with sales calls. There’s nothing to lose and everything to gain. Click Here to schedule a time to chat about fixing your practice’s customer service.