Customer Loyalty: Secret Sauce Lies Within

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A guide to finding what works best for you

By Pamela Neuharth, PT, DPT

Everyone has their own special sauce. It makes you unique and expresses who you are and what you represent. It is a joy to share, and it draws people to you. Finding and sharing this secret sauce is the key to customer loyalty.

You probably have a good idea of your secret sauce, and it’s already working for you. Because of that, your coworkers and patients naturally want to be around you, and the magic permeates your business. It’s easy to thrive this way if the staff is small or it’s a sole practitioner business.

But how do you get your secret sauce to result in customer retention and repeat business when you have a larger staff with multiple people interacting with patients at every step and aspect of the plan of care? The way to share your secret sauce in a larger setting is to first guide your staff by example, then train and support them to interact with patients in a way that shares the magic — that kernel of joy that sparked the whole enchilada.

Here are key elements to guide and support your staff to share the secret sauce.

1. Sincere customer service: is only possible if Management Behaviors create and nurture a happy and satisfied staff. Happy staff spread secret sauce joy and make life more fun for everyone.

  • Communication: leadership has honest and frequent communication with all staff at every level. Have an open-door policy with easy access for your people.
  • Engagement: engage the staff in operational decisions so they contribute to the patient care process, take ownership, and have pride in it. Have regular staff meetings in which staff input is intentionally sought.
  • Support: the staff should feel supported in all situations.
    • Initial and on-going training is thorough and appropriate, specific to each staff member.
    • Give kudos and gratitude, publicly and privately, when earned, to everyone
    • Support staff in patient conflicts — give constructive feedback, back up the staff if appropriate (the customer is not always right…), require respectful behavior from patients, and take the issue up yourself if needed.

2. The next key to Customer Loyalty lies with Reception & Greetings:

  • Front desk interactions: phone calls, greetings, and simple chatting with patients are sincere, attentive (never rushed), and friendly. Greet patients by name as they enter, listen, and be considerate. The patient is what matters most; All else (mostly) can wait. For example, do not interrupt a patient who is standing in front of you to answer the phone.
  • Be helpful: at every level of patient care — scheduling, financial, insurance info, and clinical — be willing to help and go the extra mile. Be willing to help with whatever issue comes up, even non-physical therapy related things like navigating iPhones for older people, finding different services (gym, hairstylist, massage therapist), or sharing recipes.
  • Create scripts for the most common patient questions and discussions. A script is supportive — staff feel confident in the information they are giving out, can relax without the need to remember everything, and so on.
  • 3. Clinical care: Train your physical therapists to treat patients so that they are part of the process. Clinicians should listen, explain, engage, educate, consult, repeat. When patients recognize they are a vital part of the team, they will want to play for longer and return for more.

    4. Trust: Build trust in all facets of interaction. Design transparent policies and procedures. The patient will start to trust you and your business, even if they don’t like what they’re hearing (i.e., they wish the co-pay were lower or that their ROM would for sure return to 100%).

    5. Customer gratitude and support: send a thank you card to the patient for choosing your clinic, referring a friend, or writing a review. Send get well or good luck cards when patients are scheduled for surgeries. Respond to online reviews with gratitude and humility. The patient should feel welcomed, heard, and cared for by the entire staff at every phase of the experience.

Customer loyalty starts from within, at the top. What is your secret sauce? Find that and liberally share it with your staff and patients. When you and your staff are having fun and loving work, the magic spreads and patients will want to stay connected to your clinic forever. 


Pamela Neuharth, PT, DPT

Pamela Neuharth, PT, DPT, is the founder and CEO of Orthopedic Sports Therapy in Arizona

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