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Customer Service Training for Healthcare Professionals

Do you dread going to the doctor or to a hospital for routine blood work? Put aside any phobia you have of getting “results.” The biggest issue is communication. It’s a hassle to call and schedule appointments. After you get an appointment, you are rushed through your visit leaving you with more questions than you came in with. And if you need to stay in the hospital for any procedure, it’s the dreaded poor “bedside manner” that literally leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth.

But what can be done to remedy these issues? Implementing great customer service training for healthcare professionals. Proper teaching techniques and simulations will go a long way for great patient/provider relationships. Plus, it will make for a happier work environment for your healthcare employees. So what are some of the other benefits to customer service training for healthcare professionals?

Benefits to Customer Service Training

  • More engaged employees

Healthcare professionals by nature are laser-focused on the job at hand. Sometimes literally lives depend on this. The issue is these professionals can lose sight of the bigger company picture. Customer service training can help these employees see how their roles benefit the organization or company overall.

  • Secure future

It’s important when you onboard a new healthcare professional, you provide adequate customer service training. All employees and especially new ones, want to grow and expand their skills over time. And ongoing training is key. If you provide customer service training, employees are motivated to stay with your organization and feel they have the tools to meet the customer or patient demands.

  • Increase everyone’s strengths

Naturally, some of your employees are going to be better at some skills than others. Customer service training for healthcare professionals brings everyone up to speed. Courses can cover communication, listening, problem-solving, and organizational skills. That way every employee learns and masters each skill set. Plus, creating a team learning environment fosters a closer co-worker bond.

  • Keep customers

Now more than ever, patients have options. If they are not satisfied with their care, they will take their business elsewhere. Worse, in this digital age, a disgruntled customer can easily post a bad review online bringing the company perception down for other potential new customers. But great customer service training for healthcare professionals can ensure lifelong satisfied patients.

  • Increased profit

A healthy bottom line is a win for employees, the company, and its patients. Great customer service training of your healthcare professionals can help this. Basically, it creates a domino effect. First, you train your employees who are motivated to remain with the company. Less turnover is less money spent on hiring new staff. This savings can then be passed onto your customers. These customers are then happy with their level of care and will recommend you to other new patients.

How to implement customer service training

Now that you know the benefits to great customer service training, how do you introduce effective training into your organization? Here are some steps to take.

1. Put customers first

Before you can train your healthcare employees in customer service, you need to think “customers.” Ask yourself questions like, “what do our patients or customers want?” “What keeps people coming back to our company?” If you are not sure of these answers, simply ask your customers.

Create a comment card or ask people via a web survey how they would rate your customer service.  Also, look at indirect feedback like ratings given to you on third-party healthcare websites. Customers will also comment on their level of customer service on these sites. Write down the areas for improvement mentioned. If you need help putting together an online survey, consider using a learning management systems provider to create one.

2. Observe customer service in action

Once you have a firm grasp of what your customers want, look at your employees. Are they providing what is being asked of them? A good way to judge this is by observing their behavior. Listen in on a few calls and sit in on face-to-face meetings between your employees and your customers. Are there areas for improvement? Do certain employees possess necessary skills that others do not?

3. Use contextual learning for training

After you’ve figured out what skills need to be taught, start building your training plan. Create learning objectives that meet each customer service weakness. Then use an ideal learning style for customer service training for healthcare professionals. Contextual learning is a great one to use. Basically, this style of learning utilizes role-playing as a group. Healthcare professionals will act out scenarios and be judged on how they react.

4. Evaluate your training method

Last, but certainly not least important is evaluation. Feedback is critical to your training program’s success. Again give your customers surveys on how their customer service experience was. And also let your employees weigh in. How do they feel the training is working? Are they better equipped to deal with patients or customers? Also, ask your employees how they feel their team is doing. There is no need to mention individual names, but this may point to certain skills that need more training.

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Tools for effective customer service training

Once you have a plan in place for rolling out customer service training for your healthcare professionals, what are the best tools or resources? You want training to be effective, but you also want your employees to enjoy the process. Here are some tools to incorporate into your program.

  • Role-playing

We touched on this a bit already, but role-playing is a great way to learn. The core of customer service for the healthcare industry is patient interaction. What better way to learn than to playback these customer conversations? Set up customer service scenarios with your employees and see how they react to tough situations. Allow the observers to weigh in on how they think the participants did.

  • Mock phone calls

When most of your employees probably communicate personally via text or email, phone skills have decreased over time. However, in a customer service job, you must be able to perform well over the phone. If your employees use the phone frequently with customers, set up mock phone calls. Go over skills like the correct tone, using clear words, and a pitch that is pleasant.

  • Add gamification

You don’t want training to feel like a formality. So consider adding gamification to your customer service training for healthcare professionals. Include interactive quizzes, games, and other training vehicles with rewards for completing the various levels. This will also help create a team comradery and a little healthy competition among your employees.

  • Memory games

Although you are not expecting your employees to remember every customer they come in contact with, everyone wants to feel important. In order to make your customers or patients feel that you care, train your employees in this way. Consider a memory game where employees need to memorize a series of names. This will help with healthcare professionals having a better “bedside manner” and other employees better connect with customers on a personal level. Customers will feel more like people and less like numbers.

  • Single topic training sessions

If there is a particular area of improvement you can pinpoint, build a training session around it. For example, maybe most of your healthcare professionals stumble when they meet an irate customer. Hold a training session just on this topic. Have your employees bring a real-life example to the session. Act on the scenarios and then give employees the tools to react better in the future. Then when employees do exceptionally well on a future interaction, praise this employee to the entire team.

  • Reward ongoing training

Training should last from pre-onboarding all the way through the life-cycle of an employee. And employees should implement their training as soon as they leave a training session. In order to incentivize these healthcare professionals to use their training, create an award system. Awards can be anything from a formal system to a simple gift card when you notice an employee using their new training on the job.

  • Involve management

Whether you have a large or small company, every employee likes to feel important. When holding particular training sessions, it’s a great opportunity to have managers attend some of these. You want your healthcare professionals to feel their superiors support their customer service training. Managers can give praise for a job well done in these sessions or even hand out a certificate at the end of class. It’s a great way to bring the entire organization together.

Diversify the training

Although you are focused on customer service training for healthcare professionals, do incorporate other forms of training. The most important being product or service training. Sometimes your customer service employees or even healthcare professionals in other capacities have to speak on behalf of what the company offers. You want your employees to understand fully what you provide. That way they can better understand how their customer service skills relate to your bottom line. Even a simple training on the most frequently asked customer questions will go a long way in better employee/customer communications.

Examples of good customer service training for healthcare professionals

Now that you know some of the ways you can incorporate customer service training into your learning management system, let’s take a look at specific examples. Here are some healthcare companies and how they effectively train their employees.

CaroMont Health

CaroMont Health believes in seven best practices when it coming to their customer service training:

  1. Create training for different learning styles
  2. Make programs interactive
  3. Embrace computer based training
  4. Personalize information so it is specific to your hospital or health system
  5. Ensure training reflects changing skills
  6. Consider employee demands beyond training
  7. Evaluate the effectiveness of your training programs

Physicians Practice

Physicians Practice knows that great customer service is important for referrals and making patients feel like part of a team. Here are the 10 ways they train their healthcare professionals in customer service.

  1. Make sure employees are always making a good first impression
  2. Teach employees to keep their promise
  3. Employees need to always show appreciation and gratitude to patients
  4. Provide training throughout the employee’s lifecycle at the company
  5. Listen and act when patients or customers complain
  6. Go above and beyond what a patient asks for
  7. Make it easy on the patients
  8. Be open with mistakes
  9. Be a little obsessed with your patients
  10. Treat your employees and co-workers like customers

Kaiser Permanente

Kaiser Permanente trains their employees on the “standards” they expect each person to carry out. These standards are in three areas: patients, co-workers, phone etiquette. Some of the highlights of these standards include:

Service Standard for Members:

  • Will greet customers in a courteous and professional manner
  • Listen effectively
  • Inform customers of possible delays
  • Explain changes in policy and other organizational changes to the customers

Service Standards for In-House Customers:

  • Treat co-workers with the same level of respect as your customers
  • Do not discuss private company matters in public areas of the organization
  • Be considerate, cooperate, and assist other co-workers when they need help

Telephone Etiquette

  1. Answer the phone within four rings
  2. Politely ask, “how many I help you?”
  3. Listen to the caller’s request and act accordingly
  4. Direct the caller to the correct department or person
  5. Ask permission of the caller before placing them on hold
  6. End the call in the same polite fashion as beginning the call
  7. Omit personal phone calls while on the job

How can customer service training be most effective?

We’ve talked about some of the benefits of customer service training for healthcare professionals. There are several ways to implement this training within your organization. Plus, we’ve named some of the healthcare companies who are already utilizing this important training.

In your company, what do you do to ensure high qualities of customer service training? Are there ways you can improve?

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