Throughout much of our careers as therapists we’re really just focused on becoming better therapists and we think that’s really all there is to it. We go to seminars, trainings, we read books, we seek supervision and consultation, and if we’re really good we seek feedback from our clients. Then when we go into private practice we realize that it’s so much more than just being a good therapist. We need to know how to run a good business. Suddenly we realize that there are a lot of other things that we need to work on too: Knowing how to discuss billing issues in a way that’s tactful and respectful, setting up an intake, customer service, administrative work; in other words: service.
We realize that we need to know how to serve the people that are coming to us, not just as clients but also as customers. Unfortunately, very few of us were ever taught customer service. We certainly aren’t taught it in any of these therapy trainings. It’s assumed that a secretary will take care of that part for us. But what if you are a solo practitioner like I am? And even if you’re not, even if you do have a secretary and support staff where you work, customer service is still extremely important for you to know. It’s more important than you realize now, and if you utilize it it will set you light years beyond your colleagues.
The next question is probably “How do I provide better customer service as a therapist?” Well, customer service for a therapist is certainly going to require different things than for someone working at a retail store or cafe. The good news is, customer service is really quite simple. The rules are the same across all industries and professions. Service really comes down to just one thing, and it’s making things easier for your client. That’s it. So, you need to be asking yourself “How can I make things easier for my client?”
This is something I’m constantly asking myself. I’ve made a lot of changes to my business over the years to make things easier for my clients and I pay special attention if any clients or would-be clients tell me that something was confusing or inconvenient for them. You want to simplify your process of interacting with clients. You want to make it easier for them. The ways you make it easier for them include things like not requiring a call-back. You want to handle as much of the customer service and administrative stuff as you can in just one phone call. Telling them to call you back later is a hassle. It’s also a hassle the longer you make a customer wait for you to get back to them. You want to make sure you get back to people as quickly as possible as well.
Now, I also understand that it’s difficult balancing customer service with your role as a therapist. After all, therapy isn’t always easy, and good therapy is often challenging for the client. However, you do want to make the administrative and customer-care aspect of your profession as easy as possible for your client. I want you to ask yourself these questions and also ask yourself how your clients would answer them in regards to you:
Are you easy to get a hold of?
Is the intake process easy?
How easy is it to set up an appointment with you?
How difficult or confusing is the paperwork?
Do client have an easy understanding of the billing or insurance process?
Is your office easy to find?
Is it perfectly clear what clients need to do the first time they arrive at your office?
Are there any other ways that you could make things easier?
These are questions I’m always asking myself. And although I’ve been going through this process of making things easier for the past few years, I still always find ways that I can make things better and easier for my clients. And that’s really what people want. They want the process of purchasing and utilizing a service to be easy and straight-forward.