Do Dollar Figures Trump Patient Care and Customer Service in Healthcare?


The healthcare industry is in peril when its medical organizations begin to believe that customer service is a business aspect that requires no investment of time or money; exceptional customer service is believed to be only a state of mind of the professionals delivering service. But suppose an organization needs a framework or infrastructure on which to build a robust customer service delivery system.

In that case, it’s setting itself up to fail in the areas of patient care and service delivery. The people who believe strongly in these areas and are dedicated and invested in providing outstanding service will begin to experience isolation from the medical practice and eventually burn out because they don’t feel supported in their efforts. A colleague recently shared the following story.

Real World Story:

“I manage an occupational medicine clinic near the port of Los Angeles that provides services to sheriff and police officers, paramedics, HazMat professionals, workers from the Los Angeles Port Authority, and others in similar professions. When I was first hired, the clinical organization’s management team said they focused on customer service through exceptional patient care—they claimed to provide white glove service.

“But I’ve noticed that in management staff meetings, all we ever discuss is dollar figures—a slew of seemingly endless columns and rows of figures. After one such recent meeting, a newly hired manager of a neighboring clinic asked me about the fascination over profits. Did management not care about anything else, like patient care or customer service?

“I have come to realize that although management may say customer service is important, they have neglected to make it part of the company culture. It is not part of our mission or vision statements, or overall business strategy. And it is most definitely not something worth talking about in management meetings, apparently.

“Although I make customer service a top priority at my clinic, it is beginning to make me feel isolated from the rest of the organization. In fact, because my office does such a great job with patient care and customer service, we have gained clients from some of our other clinics. We have a few large clients that are neighboring city governments.

“And they appreciate the great level of customer service that my office provides, so much so that they believe it is worth their city workers’ time and effort to drive a few extra miles to be seen at my clinic. In fact, my office sees the most patients of any other office in our medical organization. These city governments can choose to send their workers to any of our occupational medicine clinics, but many prefer my clinic. And I strongly believe that is something worthy of talking about in a management meeting.

“Some in management have expressed their gratitude for the great level of customer service that I provide and have trained my office staff to deliver; however, I still feel isolated in my attempts. Others in management have also taken notice of my clinic’s growing numbers of patients seen.

“Yet, in direct juxtaposition to our goal for superb customer service, my repeated requests for more staff, which are necessary to service our patients fully, keep getting denied. We treat patients with worker’s comp injuries, so part of our patient care routines involves tons of paperwork.

“Also, we provide many types of employment-required physicals, such as DOT physicals, including chest x-rays, blood tests, urine drug screens, alcohol breath tests, audiometry, spirometry, manual handling assessment, and fitness tests.

“We have even been offered bonuses for continuing to grow the number of patients we see. But all that does is stress out my staff. I would rather forego bonuses to see a smaller number of patients in order to provide exceptional patient care and customer service. I am beginning to think that our occupational medical group believes that dollars trump exceptional customer service, and it is beginning to take a toll on me and my staff.”

Strategies That Turn It Around:

1. Lead by example.

The people at the top of your organization must not only talk about excellent service but also demonstrate that such incredible service is a priority. They must lead by example by providing the resources to staff adequately, train sufficiently, and consistently recognize team members who offer great service and mentor those who need help getting there. Furthermore, they must make all these aspects of the patient care and customer service delivery system contagious.

2. Get buy-in and participation.

By making great customer service contagious, you can garner buy-in and create participation more easily. If team members don’t buy into your vision, they won’t participate. Remember, one rotten apple can spoil the barrel, so it’s imperative to get buy-in and participation from every member of your team. A great tool for getting buy-in is to create a pledge that spells out the benefits of providing great service and the detriments of not doing so and that team members sign in order to be held accountable. 

3. Make it your company culture.

When you have a contagious patient care and customer service program, one in which all team members buy into and participate, it becomes your company culture. It becomes the essence of who you are and what you do. So then, you add this culture of service to your vision and mission statements. You add it to your value proposition and elevator pitch. You add it to your marketing materials. In time, your company culture will be the most impactful business strategy that benefits your bottom line. 


Customer service, like any other business strategy, requires an investment of time and money. The time to plan, build, and execute a comprehensive customer service program that becomes the company culture: the money to get the best possible healthcare professionals and a sufficient number of them to keep your medical practice growing.

And when you get those few diamonds that shine brightest, don’t ever let them feel isolated because they don’t feel supported in their efforts to deliver the best possible patient care and customer service. Never let dollar figures trump your customer service and patient care efforts. Invest in one and see the other flow in abundantly.

How well do you understand your medical practice’s customer service delivery program needs? Sign up for our customer service course today to learn more about how to ensure your team is handling gifts of appreciation appropriately and in line with office policy. It’s a great way to ensure ethical customer service delivery!

Barbara Khozam, Accredited Speaker, CSP®, CPXP
Customer Service Speaker – Trainer – Author

Phone: 619 572 1117

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