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We’ve all seen a movie about someone discovering a way to become invisible. What would you do if you could become invisible for a day? Although the chances of unlocking the mystery of becoming invisible are slim, if I had the opportunity, I would want to see what it’s like to be a patient in my own practice.
Luckily, we don’t need a top-secret formula for becoming invisible to get a patient’s perspective on our practices. All we have to do is take advantage of the benefits of a “mystery shopper.”
The “mystery shopper” concept is commonly used by retailers as a way to evaluate things such as customer service. During college, my wife and I were hired by a national restaurant chain to visit their facilities, eat their food and report on our experience.
Why not apply this concept to our practices? This isn’t an under-handed form of checking up on your employees. It is simply a useful tool you can use to help improve various aspects of your practice.
We use different kinds of marketing methods to get patients into our offices, but it is important to remember the marketing doesn’t end when a patient walks into the office. We need to make sure our staff members are also promoting our services and products effectively during our patients’ visits.
How It Works
We all have friends or acquaintances who are not patients, but could benefit from our services. Invite one of these people to be your “mystery shopper,” offering the person complimentary services in exchange for objective feedback. The shopper will be anonymous to everyone but you, and will most likely be treated like your typical patient.
Your first step in this process will be to design a simple “Shopper’s Report Card,” which includes the areas of your practice you would like to evaluate. Go over this report card with your mystery shopper and thoroughly explain the areas you would like him or her to pay close attention to.
Once the visit is complete, have the shopper meet with you to go over the findings. You will be amazed at the things these shoppers will report. The information you receive will be priceless. Carefully evaluate the shopper’s findings and have a special meeting to discuss the results with your staff. You can also incorporate the results of the mystery shopper’s visit into your incentive programs.
A visit from a mystery shopper once a quarter should be sufficient, since you will probably discover a number of things that need to be worked on after just one visit. Staggering the visits from the mystery shopper will ensure they don’t become routine, and your practice will benefit from long periods of improved customer service, with your staff treating every patient as if he or she might be the next mystery shopper.
Not only can the mystery shopper concept be used to help your own practice, but it is also a simple and innovative way to evaluate other facilities and compare them with your own.
Have you ever wondered why the dentist down the street always has a full parking lot? Or, what is the veterinarian with the million-dollar practice doing so that everyone in town mentions her name when a pet needs care? Every city or town has successful professional offices that have been established as leaders. Wouldn’t you like to know what these professionals are doing to make people line up for their services?
The next time a member of your staff needs a service that could be provided by one of these successful professionals, offer to pay for the appointment or allow your employee to schedule the appointment during the workday in exchange for becoming a mystery shopper. This is an excellent way to find out what these professionals are doing and to help your staff develop a better understanding of the mystery shopper concept.
By becoming a mystery shopper, members of your staff will begin to pick up tips from other professional offices and bring them back to your practice. Most likely, they will return to your office with insightful suggestions for areas that need improvement.
They may discover new and improved ways to introduce or display passive sales items like nutritional supplements, cervical pillows, or orthotics, or they may find ways to facilitate the collection and billing process. They may even learn a new strategy to help enhance your patients’ perception of value.
Although doctors such as dentists and veterinarians are in different fields, they are still service providers, and many aspects of their businesses — such as marketing concepts — are similar to those in a chiropractic office.
Being a mystery shopper may also help your staff members realize how well your practice is actually run and how the improvements you are trying to incorporate, as well as their efforts, set your office apart from the rest. This will increase their satisfaction and pride in knowing they work in a high-quality office. They will begin to brag about how truly wonderful “their” office really is, which can help lead to more referrals.
Most importantly, however, involving your staff in the mystery shopper process will help show them how valuable it is to invite a guest to rate your practice.
One of the most important things you can do is work on your practice when you’re not working in it. Every time you visit a retailer or service provider, take notes and collect ideas. It’s much easier than finding the secret for invisibility.