Written by Cindy Stephens, Stephens International Recruiting, Inc.

Most of us have experienced poor customer service. As customers, we expect fairness, courtesy, and an overall pleasant experience. It’s the little things that leave big and lasting impressions.

Customer service is important in any business. In “nicer” restaurants, the chef will circulate through the dining area to see how people enjoy their meals and to see if there are any problems. At many other higher-end service companies, the manager will often check to see if customers have been taken care of and offer further assistance. These steps are taken because if customers have a bad experience, they’ll go somewhere else next time. Customers will also share their bad experiences with others, hurting the company’s reputation.

Sadly, the customer service experience is not the same in health care. Mainly because patients are not like customers other companies receive. Patients are usually customers out of necessity. They are concerned for their health and are often confused and worried. Their visit is not usually a pleasant experience. Many patients have become disillusioned with their local hospital and no longer expect good customer service. But, that should not be the case. Patients should expect, and certainly deserve to receive, excellent customer service.

As radiology managers and imaging service professionals, you certainly won’t be walking around the hospital and clinics serving patients. However, customer service in your department should be a priority to you and your entire staff. Providing exceptional customer service is about understanding and responding to a customer’s needs and making them feel special. For imaging service departments, the customers are the clinicians who need the diagnostic imaging equipment in excellent condition.

Sometimes there are unavoidable delays when it comes to repairs. Another piece of equipment might have priority. The imaging service professional may be waiting on a part to arrive. These are just two examples of how a delay can occur.

When delays do occur, it is important to communicate with the customer and keep them updated on the status of the repair.

Alerting a customer that there is a delay will ease some of the tension of waiting and lets them know that you have not forgotten about them. By telling the customer the expected length of time that they may be waiting, will illustrate to them that you care about their issue and that you have not forgotten about them. These little things are very important and should be part of the standard policy of any department.

With the right leadership, it is possible to provide quality customer service that will lead to an exceptional reputation for you, your peers, and the imaging service department. Reputations spread quickly, too, and it is an opportunity for your department to stand out in a positive manner.

To me, customer service skills are very similar to the “golden rule” we all learned as kids. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Here are some basic customer service tips that may help:

  • No matter how you are feeling or what your day is like, always be pleasant. First impressions do count, and you always want to be polite and professional.
  • Say, “How may I help you?”, “Please, and Thank You.” Speak directly with the customer you are addressing.
  • Treat all patients like VIPs. Don’t treat them like they are a pain in the neck (even if they might be sometimes). Customers do not know they aren’t your most important customer, and they’d love to feel as if they are. Don’t ignore them and pretend like they don’t exist, and don’t let your staff do that.
  • Be sincere and professional when you greet people, not annoyed at the distraction.
  • Be attentive! If you are talking to colleagues or texting on your phone, stop what you are doing and free yourself to help the customer. Don’t make the individual interrupt you to get your attention.
  • When answering the phone, remain pleasant and interested. Repeat the name and phone number, and ask questions to ensure you have heard and understood the issue correctly. If you receive a message, be sure to return your calls in a reasonable time.
  • Follow-up and follow-through! If you tell a someone you will get back with them, be clear on when you will respond with the information. Then do it.
  • Do not be late for meetings. If you are going to be late, even a few minutes, give the appropriate person a courtesy call (or text) to notify them with an explanation and arrive as soon as you can break free.
  • Always remain respectful and professional, and others will follow your lead!

Your leadership sets the direction by making customer service a key priority. You must continue working toward excellent customer service in your department. Your promotion of quality service will enhance your department’s value.

Exceptional customer service is always about the customer and responding to their needs. Make them feel special. It takes a dedicated leader to continue building excellent customer service for your department and facility. Good customer service is the essence of any business, but it is especially important in the health care industry. Great leaders make customer service a priority. Keep these things in mind and you’ll be well on your way to developing a rewarding experience for your customers and yourself. ICE