Twelve Customer Service Rules

Lately, we’ve been getting customer service complaints at our practice. If you’ve read my post in the past, you know that customer service is a huge thing for me. So admitting we’ve been having customer service issues is a big deal.

EmpathyResolveBut this blog isn’t only about our successes as a medical practice, but also about our challenges, lessons learned, and how we’ve dealt with those challenges.  If you notice up at the top of this page, the description of the blog reads, “dissecting the business of a private practice for the purpose of examining its parts and discourse.”

Anyway, I wrote an email to our staff letting them know my thoughts about the customer service issues we were having and I came up with a list of 12 things to have in mind in customer service.

I wanted to share with you the email because I think they are good reminders.

Oh, one thing that I want to mention before I share the note is that we recently implemented a new policy that has pissed off a few of our parents. I’ll blog specifically about the new policy in a subsequent post, but I wanted to mention it because my memo (to the staff) makes several references to this new policy.


Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of customer service complaints. It seems that I get at least two a week. As you know, this is an important subject for me. For me, customer service is KING in business. It doesn’t matter how good a product or service can be, if one does not provide proper customer service, one will not do well.

I agree some of the problems recently have been about our new office policy. However, many of the customer service issues have not been about the policy alone, but rather the “attitude” the front office has displayed. Many have told the doctor, “…it wasn’t the part of about the policy; it was the way it was addressed.”

Parents have also been complaining about the constant “personal” chatter and how they have to wait until [the staff] finishes [their] “water cooler conversation” before acknowledging the patient. Two patients have brought this up.

Parents have complained about “texting” as well. “Every time I approach the [front] desk, someone is always texting or fiddling with their phone,” said one parent to Dr. B the other day.

I know working with the general public is VERY difficult. And I also know the new office policy has put a lot of patients on edge. But the issue here is not that people are complaining about the policy alone. I can live and deal with that complaint if that were the only problem. But it seems there is a level of apathy and lack of enthusiasm when dealing with parents.

Needless to say, this is unacceptable and it must stop.

Remember, we are here for them… there is no other reason. So please, have these things in mind.

1)      Acknowledge people as soon as they approach you. Say hello, good morning, say hi to the patient, make a joke, comment on their clothes, something.

2)      Empathize with parents… try to have a genuine understanding for their needs.

3)      Resolve. Look around corners, go the extra mile, make that extra effort.

4)      Smile, always. Even when on the phone.

5)      Remember, parents are on the same team as us. Don’t take the stand, “…this is how it is, so, you either like it or not.” It is a partnership. Try to help them understand why we have to do, what we have to do.

6)      Say: please, I apologize, unfortunately, unable… find words that don’t sound as bad. Sometimes we do have to say no. But how we say it makes a huge difference.

7)      Take responsibility and ownership for the practice, its policy, and its members. Don’t insinuate, “It is the doctor’s policy,” suggesting, “I have nothing to do with this, I’m just letting you know.” On the contrary;  the practice ought to be yours as much as it is ours. It is YOUR place of work. Embrace everything about it.

8)      Perception is everything. It doesn’t matter if you think you are not being rude or you said something the right way. If the parent’s interpretation or perception does not jive with what you intended, then try again, because you are not doing a good job of communicating.

9)       Frame the situation. If you say, “well, this is the policy and it applies to everybody and that is that” you won’t get a gentle response. Rather, you can approach the patient and say, “I understand why XYZ may concern you, but this is what we’ve done to ensure your concerns does not happen…” or instead of saying “It is the doctor’s policy to always see the patient and not treat them over the phone” one can say, “I think it is best if you bring Timmy in today because it will be difficult for the doctor to make an appropriate assessment over the phone.” Or “the doctor would prefer to see the patient because that is really the only way to make sure and know what Timmy really has.”

10)  Communicate and inform. Let people know what is going on, how long they will have to wait. Also, offer water, a magazine or maybe ask the parents if they would feel better waiting outside where it isn’t so cramped. Offer to put a movie.

11)  Do your jobs carefully, but faster. If you need to enlist help, do so (including me).

12)  Be aware of what is going on and act. For example, how long have people been waiting? Who needs what and when? What can I do to make the experience for the patient better? What can I do to help get this patient out of here faster?

What we are asking from you is EMPATHY, ENTHUSIASM & RESOLVE.

If you think these are good things for your staff to remember, then I’m sure you’ll also like these Ten Golden Rules for Your Medical Office Staff.

How about you, what else would you add to the list?


  1. I like that you wrote to your staff informally using real examples – a great way to communicate.

    Now you’ve got me wondering about that new policy!

    Best wishes,

    Mary Pat


    • I’ll admit that it is a challenge to write stuff for the staff because they take everything so literal. So I have to be very careful with what I say.

      I’m writing a post about our new policy. So stay tuned.



  2. Let me guess – charging for phone calls or an annual fee?


  3. Barb Hazlett says:

    Good approach and great rules. Ideal basic standards for all offices to follow.


    • Hey Barb,

      Thanks for stopping by.

      The private medical practice “business” is really no different than any other business. And to some extend, that is the point of many of my post.

      Unfortunately, people that are in this business don’t look at the practice as a traditional business, thus don’t apply basic business principles.

      But hopefully, I’ll be able to change some of that with my post.



  4. how could u become a pediactrician and wat is the history