In all the work it takes behind the scenes to build your practice, it’s easy to forget the value of really good customer service. And by customer service, I’m not just talking about the delivery of your counseling services, but the overall experience that your client has with your practice from beginning to end.
When a person is hurting it takes a lot for them to reach out for help. Our clients come to us in various emotional states, hoping to find the support they need. So, start by asking yourself...
“What kind of experience do I want my client to have?”
A thoughtful answer to this question can give you the blueprint to creating the lasting impression you want to make for your practice. It starts with the little things...like how you will respond to all types of inquiries from clients and referral sources. This might seem small, but it is a huge part of how you communicate with your clients. Let’s start with these five customer service basics that can help you develop the details that count.
Stay Tuned In
Even if you feel busy, be sure to always answer your phone with compassion and respect. Keep the clear thought in mind about why you are in this business. Sensitivity and patience go a long way. When you tune in and listen, you will not only offer support to people that are hurting, you will learn enough about potential clients to know if this person is a good fit for your practice.
Consider your Screening Process
Some of the screening process happens through a strong and clear marketing message. If you are up front about who you are and what you offer, your ideal client will self-select. To aid this process, you can also develop a screening script that helps you learn about what brings them to counseling and communicates your expertise. Doing so will help both you and the client determine if you have found a good fit.
In the beginning, it can be so hard to screen out a client when you are trying to fill your practice. Even though it may be tempting to take clients that you know aren’t the best fit, stay committed to integrity and ethics and do what is best for all involved. To get the best results for your clients, build a good reputation for yourself and to feel fulfilled in your work, it is important to not take clients that are not a good fit.
Develop a Referral Network
Want to adopt a plan for clients that aren’t a good fit? There is one that will have your colleagues and potential clients loving you. Create a customer-service oriented response: develop a referral network. This is THE best way to take good care of clients that aren’t a good fit for you.
Get started by networking with other providers and make it a point to know their area of expertise—then when you come across clients who aren’t right for you, you can confidently send them to someone who is the perfect fit. In turn, you are also networking to let others know about what clients are ideal for you. This approach offers the highest level of service to all you encounter and establishes you as a go to resource for mental health.
Be aware that when a new client calls there will almost always be a sense of urgency on setting up a new appointment. Make it your business to return calls and email inquiries regarding scheduling quickly, and be clear about your available times. Even if you can’t schedule an appointment immediately for a new client, if you are open, warm, and courteous you will find that clients are glad to wait for appointments and really appreciate your customer service and support. Use a free service like Google Calendar to keep everything all together and sync your schedule across multiple devices.
Selective use of Automation
This is a great time to think about automation. It can be helpful, but you have to be selective. You don’t want to feel artificial to your clients or create challenges for yourself if you are not tech-savvy. The key is to make sure that any automated communication is timely, warm and welcoming. Automation can be great for website auto responders, email templates, and even providing informative voicemail messages. Knowing what to expect is so comforting to clients, but can be time consuming to clinicians. Think of automation as a tool to inform clients on what to expect in terms of scheduling, paperwork, financial responsibility, office policies etc.
These should get you started on planning your customer service approach? What other elements do you think can contribute to your client’s experience? I would love to hear what you have tried or are thinking about doing. Share in the comments below.