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You Want Customer Loyalty? Be Brilliant at the Basics

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The following guest post is from John R. DiJulius, best-selling author, consultant, keynote speaker and President of The DiJulius Group, the leading Customer experience consulting firm in the nation. You can subscribe to his blog at www.thedijuliusgroup.com

Customer Bill of Rights – Burden of the Brand

World-class service companies have what I like to call a “Customer bill of rights” that every person in that organization clearly knows and follows 100 percent of the time. Would you ever expect to see a Disney cast member, in full uniform on break, chewing tobacco and spitting on the ground near the front entrance where guests are walking by? Doubtful. Or would you ever think a Ritz-Carlton employee, when asked for directions to the ballroom, would give a response like “I don’t know, I work in housekeeping”? Highly unlikely! One of the most effective ways to elevate your company’s Customer service level is by instituting your own Customer bill of rights.

If anyone is going to wear your uniform or name tag or represent your brand, you only need a small set (six to ten actions/standards) for your employees to live by. These nonnegotiable standards are also referred to as the “never and always” list. The critical importance is, if they do occur, you have to be confident enough that your employees recognize and understand your “never” and “always,” and you can be confident that your employees would “never” do this and “always” do that instead. If your company does nothing other than institute the “never and always” list and makes everyone aware of them, if your Customers rarely experience a “never” and consistently experience an “always,” then you are in the top 5 percent of Customer service organizations! As you read through the list, you will see that they are all simple and common sense, but the majority of businesses and frontline employees too often execute the “never” list and don’t consistently execute the “always” list.

In the examples shown, you will see that each one matches the following three criteria:
1. The items are typically one to three words in length.
2. They are black and white; there is no room for personal interpretation.
3. They are crystal clear and do not need any additional explanation.

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Some things you wouldn’t see on a “never and always” list are things such as “Always be professional” or “Always return calls promptly.” Why? Because they are vague. What is professional to one is completely different to someone else. What is “promptly”? To one person it may be two hours; to another it may be two days. Let’s show some examples of a few good Never & Always:

Point versus Show

This is typically thought of in the hospitality business (e.g., showing someone to the restroom instead of pointing them there). However, in the business-to-business and call-center world, pointing happens all the time. For instance, it happens when we say things like “You can get that off our website” or “You need to call this person in this department.” Why are we making the Customer do the work? We can send them the link, and we can transfer them to the correct department.

Saying no versus focusing on what you can do

Eliminate the word no from your company’s vocabulary; no one should ever be allowed to use that word. You may not always be able to say yes, but offer alternatives and options and never allow anyone from your company to utter the word no. You will be amazed at how creative your team will get at satisfying Customers. I never want a Customer of mine to tell me that someone from my organization said no to him or her. To me that is the worst swear word you can use in front of a Customer.

While we cannot do everything our Customers request, we can always respond with what we can do. If someone asks if we can sell them something we don’t even sell, we can answer with “While we do not carry product X, what we do carry is product Z, and the reason we do carry product Z is because it is proven to be the best, longest lasting, healthiest, whatever.” By the time you are done explaining the benefits of product Z, that Customer should never want product X. If for some reason they still want product X, then you explain how and where
they can get product X.

“No problem” is a big problem

The biggest street-slang terms used in every business today are the responses “no problem” or “not a problem.” In fact, as a result of reading this right now, you will be shocked at how many times you will hear “no problem” over the next two days. Joe Schumacker wrote an excellent blog titled “No Problem, Big Problem” that articulates this point really well. “No problem” is a problem for two reasons. The first issue with saying “no problem” is that it consists of two negative words. We shouldn’t be using any negative words, let alone two back-to-back.

The second problem is that the “no problem” auto-response sends the message that what the Customer is asking of you is not a problem for you. However, when we are serving others, it is not about our convenience; it is about what the Customer wants. The phrase “no problem” places the staff member’s comfort ahead of service to the Customer. Customers want to feel that their interests are first and foremost in the mind of the staff member, not that they may have inconvenienced a staff member by being a Customer.

Excellent responses instead of “no problem” are “certainly,” “my pleasure,” “I would be happy to,” “consider it done,” and “absolutely.” Using “certainly” or “my pleasure” is so much more professional than the often heard “not a problem.” It elevates the professionalism of your employees’ terminology. It starts establishing a culture of hospitality where the Customer is first.

The following are great examples of “never” and “always” items that are a Never & Always from great companies that The DiJulius Group helped to create. Ideally, you only want a maximum of ten “nevers” and ten “always.”

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Action Plan – Create a small set (6-12 actions/standards) that match the following criteria:
*    The standards are 1 – 3 words
*    Do not need any additional explanation
*    Not stage specific (i.e. do not apply towards phone, check in, check out, etc.)

 

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3 Questions to Ask When Approval Rates Fall

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"It's weird. Our approval rates seemed to be fine and all of a sudden we've had several patients who weren't approved. What is going on?"

Ever find yourself in this spot? If so, you're not alone. Often, practices will see approval rates drop and make a call to their patient financing provider who will say nothing has changed on their end - underwriting has remained the same. So what's going on?

In our 50+ years of patient financing experience, we've found there are three common explanations when a change in underwriting at the bank is not to blame for a decline in approval rates.

 

1) Is it just bad luck?

It very well could be. Sometimes it is a fluke and a few patients with less than stellar credit scores applied at the same time. Luckily, this issue will resolve itself on its own and rather quickly. The more patients you apply for, the quicker this run of bad luck dilutes and the faster your numbers return to normal.

You may also find there is some seasonality in your approval rates. For example, consumers tend to overspend every December in preparation for the holidays. This credit card usage frequently leads to a post-holiday hangover, as far as credit scores are concerned. Credit scores may drop slightly due to credit utilization ratios being abnormally high in December. When evaluating your approval rates, looking at year-over-year data is often more helpful than month-to-month.

 

2) Has something changed with our staff?

If you have a new employee or someone that is new to presenting financing, they may feel uncomfortable with the payment discussion. In these cases, they often won't bring up financing unless the patient asks for it. The problem with this approach is that the patients who have to ask for financing tend to be the ones who need it the most as they have no other way to pay. They are also less likely to be approved as their credit scores often reflect their precarious financial situation. When these patients aren't approved, your staff may be even more reluctant to offer financing as communicating a decline can be awkward.

In an ideal world, staff members would offer patient financing to every patient for a couple of reasons. One, you can't judge a book by its cover and that woman in the fur coat and diamonds may not be able to afford the procedure you're offering unless there is a way to pay over time, but she may hesitate to ask for financing. Two, that patient who may be able to pay in full might prefer to pay over time using no interest plans, as it can be a smart financial move. They can keep their money in savings, earning a small return and pay off the procedure over time. If you hesitate to offer no interest plans due to the additional fees, consider the fact that patients given the opportunity to pay over time at no interest are less likely to ask for discounts and more likely to spend more than those paying in cash.

If there isn't a new employee or someone in a new role, confirm that everyone is leading with your preferred patient financing provider. If everyone isn't on the same page, and someone is offering another patient financing company first, that will automatically cause your overall approval rate to drop with your preferred patient financing provider. This scenario can be especially present in larger practices or practices with multiple locations.

 

3) Have we changed our marketing?

The slightest shift in marketing, from one radio station to another or from advertising in one new publication, can change the demographics of patients walking in the door. While driving more patients to your door may be a good thing, it won't help your practice if those patients can't afford your services and can't get approved for financing.

The good news is that knowing who gets approved for patient financing and who gets declined can give you additional insight into your marketing efforts and what type of patient you are attracting. If you find you are receiving a lot of declines, take a look at your recent marketing efforts and the source of these declined patients.

In the end, while changes to underwriting might cause a drop in approval rates, often that is not the case as underwriting is complicated. Most banks look beyond the credit score alone and look at hundreds of variables to determine if a patient would be approved or not. As a result, they don't change the process often, maybe once or twice a year.

After checking with your patient financing provider to make sure things haven't changed on their end, often you'll need to look internally to see if an shift is to blame or if it is just a run of bad luck that will reverse itself in due time.

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The Secret is Out

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Hi, I’m Tony Seymour and am the President of ALPHAEON Credit. I’ll be writing short posts periodically for our blog on interesting topics regarding ALPHAEON CREDIT and your practice. 

The first thing, I'd like to point out is what makes ALPHAEON CREDIT spectacular. I know you may be thinking it's our "Great approval rates," or our "Generous credit limits,." I agree, we have those, but the true secret is pretty simple. "We answer the phone." 

After 15 years at CareCredit, I knew I wanted to be a part of something different for our industry and so did a few other employees. Katy Thomas and Lisa Taylor were my top two managers renowned for their customer service.  Together we discussed our likes and dislikes with larger banks, and the first thing we all agreed needed to change was their call centers, including our current bank, Comenity.  The routine with all large financial institutions is to push numerous buttons, hope you get to the right place, usually wait, and then depending on the call center representative, you may receive a resolution.

We vowed to be different. Like you, we know navigating phone trees and waiting while a patient is sitting in front of you is frustrating and embarrassing – after all, you recommended patient financing to the patient. To prevent this from happening at ALPHAEON CREDIT, we installed a Hotline that rings directly to all ALPHAEON CREDIT employees’ cell phones, including my own.

At ALPHAEON, "we answer the phone.". Every day of the year, 24 hours a day. Call us anytime at 920-306-1794  to speak to someone immediately with no hoops to jump through.

We will be there for you, so you can get your questions answered and move on with your day. 

We look forward to speaking with you.

 

TO REACH A MEMBER OF THE ALPHAEON TEAM - ANYTIME

CALL 920-306-1794 OR EMAIL TEAMCREDIT@ALPHAEON.COM

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