Customer retention involves more than delivering great service, it impacts the bottom line. According to an article in MedServ Medical News,a new coalition of patients, attorneys, doctors and hospital administrators across the nation have come up with an idea to keep liability costs and medical errors down at the same time. The idea is working so well that it is reducing the number of lawsuits. Whatís their great idea? It is simply an apology.
The group is called the Sorry Works! Coalition. Its members describe the idea like this:
-Hospitals and physicians review every adverse incident.
-Hospital administrators and physicians sit down with patients and families to explain what happened.
-The hospital and doctor apologize if a mistake was made and offer the patient or family fair compensation if the investigation finds that there was a medical error. They also explain how the problem will be corrected.
When it comes to medical errors, patients consider some circumstances more forgivable than others. According to a survey in the January issue of The American Journal of Managed Care, here is what 958 people had to say about how likely they were to forgive a physician under these circumstances:
Physician was tired or distracted:
-6% Would forgive
-27% Might forgive
-68% Would not forgive
Physician wasnít thorough in the examination or in talking with the patient:
-3% Would forgive
-22% Might forgive
-76% Would not forgive
Apologizing to customers for mistakes is important and necessary, but apologies are not free passes for providing bad service. A business needs to recognize when it does deliver poor customer service and be able to correct problems when they occur. Apologizing is part of this recovery process. However, in order to retain customers, a company has to prove it can provide good service on a regular basis, with mistakes being the exception rather than the standard operating procedure. Having to apologize too much is an indication that there are larger problems that need correcting.
You can actually increase customer loyalty even with angry customers. Hereís what to do when a customer complains:
- Make no excuses while you are listening to a customer complaint. Hear them out and accept that their perception of the event is very real.
-Address each and every issue and concern raised by your customers. Donít ignore a complaint because you donít think itís important or you think the customer is wrong.
-Donít make amends by just providing the original product or service. Exceed customer expectations by offering them more. Starbucks has a policy that if a customer is dissatisfied with their coffee or has to wait too long, they get a certificate for a free drink on their next visit.
-If your email or voicemail says you will get back to your customer within 24 hours, do it, or change your message. When you make a promiseókeep it.
-Donít try to save money by arguing with a customer. Youíll save the company considerably more by focusing on keeping existing customers and building positive, long-term relationships with them.
Customers are fragile. Let one drop and you break a profitable relationship. Great customer service starts with you. Donít preach it to othersólive it. Do what it takes to get your customers to want to continue doing business with your company. Apologies are easy when you recognize their lasting value to your customer, your company and your job stability.
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Debra J. Schmidt, also known as the Loyalty Leaderģ, is an author, consultant, corporate trainer and professional speaker. She helps companies boost their profits by leading the way to greater customer, employee and brand loyalty. Debra is in demand as one of the nationís top customer loyalty experts -- helping clients keep more customers, retain more employees, get more referrals and sell more products.
As the owner of Loyalty Leaderģ Inc., Debra provides training, consulting and keynote addr
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