Closing the Emotional Gap – How to meet Patient’s Expectation!

A large amount of your patients experience is emotional. This can be both at a conscious level and subconscious. Throughout the patient journey your patients are having positive and negative emotional reactions.  Many times, there is an emotional gap between patient expectations and practice perceptions

This is important because the emotions of your patients can affect not only whether you lose or keep them but also if they will buy more or less from you. It can also dictate whether they will spread good or bad word of mouth about your company. This gap between patient expectations and a practice perceptions of what’s required can lead to ineffective business strategies that fail to deliver for patients – and your bottom line.

74% of customers with positive emotions will advocate, while 63% will be retained.

Only 8% of customers with negative emotions will advocate for your company and only 13% will retain.

A great strategy will focus on closing the gaps in the patient’s emotional experience where the positive emotions will outweigh the negative. You cannot avoid negative emotions all together, but you can minimize them.  You need to make your patients feel cared for, safe and valued. Equally you need to avoid emotions like annoyed, disappointed and frustrated.

The top 3 areas to reduce Emotional Gaps:

While there are many emotional gaps in the patients experience in our offices, I will only focus on what I believe are the top three.

1. The practice atmosphere

Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology and Texas A&M University, along with the Center for Health Design, reviewed hundreds of studies on hospital design and how it affects the staff and the patients. They found that design elements such as single-bed rooms, lower noise levels, better ventilation, lighting and layout can reduce medical errors, lower stress levels among staff and patients, and promote faster healing with fewer infections, less pain and less reliance on drugs.

Your practice environment matters because it creates a first impression for the patient and the first impressions that patients have of doctors often set the stage for the kind of relationship that will ensue.  You can use that to your advantage by designing an environment that will delight five senses and thus create a positive impression.

How to target the five senses:

  1. What they see – A great first impression of your practice is your color scheme.  How is your color scheme affecting your patients emotionally?  Colors illicit certain emotions. Make sure your color scheme is eliciting the emotion you want your patients to experience.
  2. What they hear  –  A little background music can go a long way to create a positive experience for your patients.  Music has strong emotional anchors that can rouse deep seated emotions. Use that to your advantage! Find out what type of music that make your patients feel happy and create a play list!
  3. What they smell – There is so much I can say about this…  But, for the sake of time, here’s an article that does a great job explaining The Science of Smell for Retailers!
  4. What they touch – In retail, touch really can be golden.  If shoppers hold a product in their hands, they are more likely to make the purchase.  We may live in an increasingly digitalized society, but that doesn’t mean patients no longer value the expertise, support and engagement that only a skilled Eye Care Professionals can provide.
  5. What they taste – In our industry, we don’t always get the opportunity to engage the taste-buds of our patients. However, having beverages available for your patients can go a long way. Even a small glass of water can provoke taste.

While there are exceptions, the majority of patients have five ways to be engaged – or disenchanted – by the practices they visit. Looking at the five senses above, consider how you can better support your patients in ALL areas.

2. The practice’s culture

Many practices take their culture for granted and yet it is the very thing that differentiates one from another.  Culture is “the way we do things around here” – the vibe that pervades the office.  It is created by highly subjective things like attitudes and behaviors: it reflects the underlying communicated values of the practice or lack there of.

It is striking how, on first entering a practice, aspects of culture can be immediately visible.  There are wide variations in the extent to which practices feel welcoming, vibrant, energizing, positive, professional, businesslike or fun.   Little things can make a great difference – eye contact, an engaging smile, attentiveness, politeness, confidence, sincerity and humor.

What are your practice’s core values?  Have you communicated those values to your team?  Are you training and evaluating them daily based on their ability to uphold those values?  Without a clear set of actionable values, you won’t be able to control the culture of your practice.  Check out my website for examples of actionable core values!

If nurtured, then a practice’s culture can evolve positively and purposefully. This is important because a positive culture will create feelings of certainty and consistency for your patients which will ultimately make them feel safe.  A positive office culture will reduce conflict and stress and create a feeling of harmony and collaboration in your office. This will have significant impact on patient satisfaction, retention and ultimately, your bottom line!

3. The Emotional Intelligence (EQ) Level of the doctor and team.

“Your EQ is the level of your ability to understand other people, what motivates them and how to work cooperatively with them,” says Howard Gardner, the influential Harvard theorist.   As individuals our success and the success of our profession today depend on our ability to read other people’s signals and react appropriately to them.

Five major categories of emotional intelligence:

  1. Self-Awareness – Your ability to recognize your own emotions and their effects.
  2. Self-Regulation – Your ability to control how long an emotion will last.
  3. Motivation – Your positive drive to achieve a goal.
  4. Empathy – Your ability to discern the unspoken feelings of others.
  5. Social skills – Your ability to develop “people skills”  to better understand, empathize and negotiate with others.

When it comes to patient satisfaction, IQ alone is not enough; EQ also matters. In fact, psychologists generally agree that among the ingredients for success, IQ counts for roughly 10% (at best 25%); the rest depends on everything else — including EQ.

Therefore, each one of us must develop the mature emotional intelligence skills required to better understand, empathize and negotiate with other people — particularly as the industry has become more digitize. Otherwise, success will elude us in our careers.

Competition is fiercer than ever with so many more options available for Eyecare. Just having good services and products at a reasonable price is no longer enough. Patient experience is the new battleground and emotion should be your weapon of choice.  Eliminating the emotional gaps in your patient experience will strengthen your arsenal and position you to win and in the battle.

I our next article, we’ll continue to explore the difference between patient experience and patient expectation.  If you missed the first article in this series, click here to read it.  So stay tuned for more!

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