What we’ve learned about good customer service

Even if you’re a brilliant practitioner, if your patients don’t encounter good customer service at your clinic, there’s a high risk that they won’t stick around. From the very first time a patient reaches out to you, here are some tips to make the experience a positive one for them.

Aisling Smith·

An illustration of people working on their laptops

You might be the very best clinician, but if your customer service is full of hiccups, it could undermine your credibility with patients over time and cause them to go elsewhere. First impressions matter (we all judge a book by its cover), and you want the patient’s journey with you—from their first enquiry all the way through to the final discharge—to be as smooth as possible.

Whether you’re a solo practitioner or have a team that manages customer service for you, the key principles remain the same. We know you put your patients first and it’s important that you can convey that to them outside of the treatment room too.

A big part of what we do at Cliniko involves customer support and we’ve learned a few things along the way about what works (and what doesn’t). Here’s our advice for getting the right message across to your patients and ensuring that they feel seen, heard, and at the centre of their own care in all their interactions with your clinic.

Our top tips

1Honesty first, even if it’s uncomfortable

Even if you’re not a people pleaser, it’s still much easier to tell someone what they want to hear—no one wants to give a disappointing answer or be the bearer of bad news. When you know that being honest means that someone might decide to take their business elsewhere it can be even more challenging. Being comfortable saying no is a learned skill! But being truthful and transparent is the key to a good relationship with your patient base. 

At Cliniko, we’ll often have prospective customers write in requiring features and workflows that we don’t offer, or what we do offer doesn’t quite suit their needs. In these cases, rather than hedging or giving a “salesy” answer (no worries, we’ll put your request on the list! Join us anyway) we always tell the customers the difficult truth: sorry, but that feature isn’t coming and it’s unlikely that we’ll develop it. Maybe there is another system that would better suit your specific needs.

It’s not about just moving people along—we try to tell them why and to offer workarounds where possible. But it also gives the customer the chance to weigh their options, and to seek alternative practice management software if need be. Cliniko simply might not be the right solution for their business and if they can find a system that fits their needs, it’s a better outcome for everyone. We want happy people, not just happy customers.

Similarly, in your practice, if there’s something that you don’t do or aren’t likely to offer, it’s best to be completely up front about that from the outset. Or if you make a change to one of your policies for any reason, we’d always recommend communicating this openly and explaining why to your patients. People respect transparency.

2Be guided by the customer

Good customer service means being adaptable to what your patient needs. The treatment room shouldn’t be the only place where the patient feels heard and understood—ideally, this should carry across into all their interactions with your clinic. The key is to think about who the patient is, what they need, and to meet them with empathy when they reach out.

At Cliniko, part of how we try to stay adaptable is by tailoring our communication to suit the customer. If they’re a visual learner, we’ll use lots of screenshots when we’re walking them through an issue. If they want all the details written out, then we’ll wax lyrical! We try to get a gauge as to what the customer needs from us and respond accordingly. The trick is not to get stuck in a rut of “how we always do things”—be responsive to the individual you’re dealing with right now, and be willing to change your approach over time.

In your practice, adaptability in your customer service might involve being able to offer interim guidance or schedule a sooner review if a patient’s treatment plan doesn't seem to be working for them. Likewise, providing a few different options for payment can make your customer feel like you’re adapting to their needs—for example, offering payment at the time of booking or afterwards through different formats (with Cliniko this can be done several ways, including via an email or even a QR code).

3Be accurate

Also aim to regularly check your automated messages (such as reminders and confirmations) to make sure everything is still correct and cut down on potential confusion. It can be easy for details like time zones, addresses, and policy information to get out of date accidentally.

4Timeliness does matter

Of course, timeliness matters too and getting back to people quickly is important. This is where having a defined process about how you’re getting back to your patients and setting clear expectations as to how long they can expect to wait is crucial.

You can make this easier by automating your communications. Whether it’s via an auto-reply, some text on your website, or an answering machine message, let your patients know how long they can expect to wait for an answer when they’ve contacted you and be sure to reply within this window when you can. If it isn’t an urgent issue, people generally don’t get too frustrated at waiting if you give them a reasonable time frame for a response (whether that’s two hours or two days).

If you have a presence across different social media channels, make sure you’re also actively checking each platform so that no enquiries accidentally fall through the cracks and get missed (we’ve done this on occasion, and it feels terrible—so learn from our mistakes!).

5Keep communicating

Being proactive with your communications is also important during the referral process. Whether you’ve recommended further treatment elsewhere or discharged the patient back to their original referrer, ideally this journey should be as smooth as possible for the patient. Keep them up to speed by making sure they receive copies of correspondence where necessary and that they’re updated about what the next steps are in their treatment process.

We always try to do this at Cliniko by communicating with customers at each stage of the process when they write in. We want to anticipate needs as much as possible. The ideal outcome is for customers to get all the information they need from us ASAP, without needing to prompt us for more or keep chatting all day.

This responsive approach also applies when we’re hiring—we’ll acknowledge every application and everyone gets a final response, whether or not they’ve been successful.

6Employ a good team to support you

If you have a reception team, your patients’ perception of your clinic begins here—the customer support that your team provides sets the tone before a patient ever gets in front of you! Your admin team are the ones who guide your patients through the nitty gritty details that can be hotbeds of frustration, such as online bookings, taking payments, and rescheduling, etc. Effective hiring processes are crucial to ensure that you have a dream team around you to help. In our view, providing incentives through a great work culture and offering an above-average salary is key to attracting (and keeping) talented people on your team. Your clinic management team should be every bit the superstars that your practitioners are, and not an afterthought. If you’re hiring, really put the time in to think about who you want to embody your business for your clients.

If you’re a solo practitioner and the clinic administration all falls to you, we’d suggest automating as many processes as you can to reduce the demands on your time and reduce human error. This is where using digital tools can come in handy (and yes, Cliniko might be able help, but that’s not why we’re saying this!).

7Have a good system in place

It isn’t just about the people you employ. Whether you’re a solo practitioner or managing a whole team, having a system in place to support your customer service makes things easier all around. An effective system should enable you or your team to respond to your customers in a coordinated way and to divide tasks so that nothing falls between the cracks. Ideally, you want to ensure that the quality of support for the person on the other end is consistent and never falters. 

At Cliniko, we use a help desk program called Intercom to provide our customer support and it works well for us, but we’d tried other things before we settled on this platform as our choice so it’s always worth exploring your options.

Using Cliniko to personalise your customer support

One thing Cliniko can help with is personalising your customer support. Nobody wants to feel like they’re simply a number or a patient file; your patients want to know they’re going to a clinic that cares about them. This is where staying abreast of what’s happening in your patients’ lives and finding easy ways to customise your communications with them can really develop the sense of connection a patient feels with your practice. Here are some Cliniko features you could use to assist with this:

  • Custom patient field placeholders

Using placeholders to customise your communications makes a big difference to making your messages to patients less generic. A patient receiving an email from you that addresses them by their name is immediately more engaging (just don’t overdo it or the tone will quickly shift to inauthentic). You can also draw on other information, such as when that person first started coming to see you.

  • Adding notes

The notes feature in Cliniko is a good place to jot down things that are happening in each patient’s life that you might not otherwise remember (an overseas trip they’ve got coming up, a wedding anniversary, the death of a beloved fur baby, a child’s graduation etc). When the patient next comes to see you, you can pick up where you left off without missing a beat and ask the right questions to demonstrate your interest in their story. Just remember that any information you put here is visible to your team, so make sure that you’re not disclosing anything overly personal! Alternatively, medical alerts or a pinned treatment note could be used for more private or sensitive information that you’d like to keep in mind (like a historical injury for example), as these have restricted visibility.

  • Adding a gap if someone needs assistance

If someone needs extra assistance or help getting into the building, for example, you can schedule a short gap before or after their appointment. This is another way to add an extra level of patient care to your customer service.

  • Using recalls to get your patients back into the clinic

After a patient’s last appointment, you’ll often want to see them again. The patient won’t always want to schedule their next session with you right away, though—and that’s where recalls can come in handy! You can create custom recalls in Cliniko allowing you to follow-up in a more personal way with them down the track.

As ever, if you want to chat more to us about how we do things, or hear further tips on making your Cliniko account more efficient, drop our support team a line!

Author information

Aisling is a Melbourne-based writer and all around word nerd. When she isn't writing for Cliniko, she likes circus fitness, playing her cello, and eating dessert.

Never miss an update! Sign up for monthly Cliniko news and tips.

Read Cliniko’s Terms and Privacy policy

Keep reading