a sonographer's guide to entrepreneurship

Talking tech

Episode 9: 3 steps to providing exceptional customer service for your mobile ultrasound physician clients

So many businesses focus on the sales & marketing efforts to gain contracts (which is very important!) but if you don’t also focus as much effort on providing an amazing customer experience, you’ll find yourself continually replacing contracts because of unhappy clients. Today, I’m sharing 3 steps to providing exceptional customer service to keep clients happy for the long term.


Jen (00:03):
Hey there, guys, and welcome to the Talking Tech Podcast, a sonographer’s guide to entrepreneurship. I am your host, Jennifer Lindsey, and today I’m so excited to chat with you about three steps to keeping your physician clients happy. So over the last few weeks, we’ve done some things to get things started. We’ve talked a lot about sales and marketing, but one of the things that you need to focus on once you do gain a client is keeping them for the long term. So today, we will talk about three different steps to do that. First things first, once you get that contract, you want to have a seamless integration. So one of the great ways to do that is with an implementation meeting. So we’ll talk a little bit more about that in detail. You also want amazing, continual customer service, which sounds very obvious. Still, so many people that I’ve spoken to when they have their own business already, and they contact us because they need help with certain areas of their business. Many times they tell me that they didn’t realize all of the backend admin work they needed to pay attention to ensure things continue to go seamlessly.

And so we’ll talk a little bit about a few of those points just to remember because, as an employee, that backend stuff is done by the administrative staff wherever you work. And so when you start your own business, you are everything in the beginning, right? We started that way. I’ve mentioned this multiple times; I’m not a tech. We hired all the amazing technologists who have worked with us over the years and partnered with the radiology groups. And so it is most of our students, our ultrasound techs, which makes this a lot easier. When you’re one step out of it like I am, there’s a lot of extra things that you have to do to make sure that you’re actually in there on a regular basis, checking in. as the tech, when you’re going in all of the time, it makes customer service part a lot easier because you have your hands in everything.

But when you start hiring, adding on more technologists, if that is something that’s your goal, these different things will be even a lot more prevalent and things that you’ll need to especially pay attention to when you do have other staff. And so we’ll talk a little bit more about some of those administrative things you’ll need to do and ways to keep that continual customer service going so that you keep these contracts for the long term. It’s also wonderful to have a great relationship with your radiology or cardiology group as well. So when you are an employee, you know that that is either within the group that you work with or some like imaging centers. Those types of things will have a hub where they practice and provide the services and then have their radiologists, you know, that do the interpretations.

But everything is kind of seamless in that sense. When you go into a physician’s practice, most of the time, they don’t have a preference on who interprets the studies; they just want good reports coming back to them. And so for our students, they have access to our vendor list, and we have interpreting physicians across all 50 states. So it makes it a lot easier to go into the physician practice and have a real turnkey service that you can say, if you don’t have one radiologist or cardiologist, that you would prefer to come in and provide the read services for you to partner with your group. We have that as an option, but it’s very important then because usually, that’s not a relationship that has already been cultivated between your physician client and the outside interpretation group. You want to be that point person to ensure that things are getting done how they’re supposed to, that your physician client is happy with the quality of reports and how things are being turned around.

So having a good quality assurance setup and seamless program with your interpreting doctors is also important. So we’ll talk a little bit more in detail about each of these three things today. So the implementation meeting is that meeting you would have once you have solidified that contract. You’ve set aside a start date; you know when you’re going to be going in there and providing services to your new physician client. It’s best to set up what we call an implementation meeting. And for our students, we go into this in grave detail. We give them printouts and everything for a binder that we suggest putting together. But I want to go over this for you guys today just as an overview so that you understand what that implementation meeting looks like and why it’s so important. If you were to sign a contract and then tell them, Hey, we’ll start two weeks from this Monday, we’ll come in and provide the services, we’ll see you then.

That first day is going to be absolute chaos. So the best way to make the first day seamless is to do an implementation meeting beforehand. It will ensure that anybody will have their hands on this ultrasound service at all. So schedulers, right? Anybody who’s billing, usually the office manager, is at this meeting, and anybody else who wants to be in the meeting, sometimes they will have certain staff members that do certain things that will correlate with what you are going to be providing. And so what we usually do when we are starting a new client for our personal mobile business here in Indiana, we will get with the office manager and say, here’s what we’re going to be going over. Please have anybody you know will have hands on this service in that meeting so that we can answer any questions and ensure that this first day and beyond as smoothly as possible.

So you’ll want to have a binder that you bring in with you that has information on what they should expect when you come in and an overview of the service. Because if you were, if you think about this from a logistical standpoint, up until you went to the office, you have likely not spoken to any of the other staff members, right? You’ve definitely spoken with a physician, you’ve been through the sales process with them, and you’ve likely spoken to the office manager at least a few times at this point. Once the physician says, yes, we do want to have you in the office, they usually get you in contact with the office manager because, of course, it’s their job to manage the services that are being provided in the office, but nobody else has met you yet likely. And even if they have met you, they don’t know the details of your service.

And so, throwing yourself in there on the first day without meeting all of these people will surely cause many issues. And so we want this to be a service where when we leave, the staff either didn’t know we were there, they didn’t have to deal with us, or if they did have to deal with us, we want it to be something where they’re saying, wow, they did such a great job. I had a question about this, or maybe this issue came up, or it went so seamlessly that I didn’t have to do anything with the service today. We want them to have those types of reactions where if they’ve got a question or an issue, we’re there really quickly to fix it, but we want them to have a good background knowledge on what we’re going to be doing, what we need from them, and what we’ll be providing so that when we do go in there, and we start this service, they have a good understanding of that and everyone’s working together.

So having them all in this meeting is important. And so what we do have in this binder is all of our contact information because, again, there’s going to be staff members that haven’t met us yet or don’t know how to get ahold of us, and we want to make sure that we’ve got that information there and available for them. We want to have any web websites or anything they’ll need to log into. For example, we utilize a PACS system. It’s one of the vendors that our students are able to utilize as well. And it has the PACS and also a scheduler on it. It’s wonderful. We have used this now for years, and it has made our job so much easier because the staff now doesn’t have to call and tell us what time to be there and what’s on the schedule and that type of thing.

So we can prepare ahead of time if we need to do anything or if they have questions; we know exactly what is on the schedule because they can just pop the patient’s basic information, their name, their date of birth, and the type of exam, obviously. It auto-populates how long it takes us to do the exam. So when we get there, we’re not accidentally or on purpose double booked. They know exactly how long each exam is because it auto-populates, so they don’t have to call if they forget. It just makes everybody’s life so much easier. So they pop the patients on there, and we know exactly what we’ve got scheduled for the day. If we see any discrepancies or issues, we can call ahead of time and say, hey, we saw that this diagnosis doesn’t match up with the scan you ordered.

Give us a little bit more background information so we can make sure that it’s scheduled correctly before we head in. Those types of things are so nice, and that’s one of the admin things as a side note that you’ll want to pay attention to as the mobile provider because those things are items that your administrative staff would’ve taken care of or looked at prior to patients coming in or when they were scheduling or those types of things. So you’ve likely not had to deal with any of that. But once you have your own business, those are really important things to take a look at so that you’re prepared and ready and you can answer any questions that they have or prevent an issue on the day of trying to get, you know clarification on an order or something like that. So that’s a great benefit to having a PACS that also has got a scheduler in it too, because that way you know ahead of time exactly what’s on the day, what the day’s going to bring, and you can help people if they need it ahead of time.

So those types of things and having like an actual how-to is really important in this binder as well because you in this implementation meeting want to show them what that scheduler looks like, what that PACS looks like, how to get in there and actually view patient images and reports and pull those down. It’s wonderful to have that as a section in this implementation meeting so everyone understands exactly where to go to get the information they need. Now, most PACS will email or fax the report to the office. And this one that we utilize personally does as well. But we all know that it can say it was faxed, and it can say that it was emailed. Every system does this, but for some reason, on the other end, it didn’t get there, whether someone forgot to take it off or it’s lost in cyberspace somewhere.

We all know that this happens. And so what I really love about the PACS that we provide as a vendor on our list for our students is that you can also log on there and pull down the report as a PDF. So if the patient’s there and, for some reason, they don’t have the report, they can always just quickly log on and pull it down. So those types of things are nice. It also allows them to make CDs if the patient has to be referred to a surgeon; for example, they know that the surgeon will want to review ultrasound images ahead of time. So you could have that as one of the to-do or how-to sections in your binder. We also have any of the preps we require for any of the ultrasounds we will be doing at that office.

And we tell them, you can take this page out and make copies if you’d like to hand it to your patients when you schedule the appointments. That way, they know exactly what prep they need to do and have a piece of paper that they can take home to do that. So it’s nice to have that in there as well because if you think about having this binder at the office, you may have staff members that you’ve spoken to and you work with on a regular basis that, of course, this is going to become easy for them and something they’ll know like the back of their hand. But if that person’s sick or they’re not there that day, or you call in because you have a question and need some help or something at the office, it’s nice to have that binder that someone else can just pull down, look up.

We also put the login information so you know what they would need to be able to log into any of the portals we have. So the PACS, of course, and the schedule are those types of things. The other really important thing that you’ll want to do at this meeting is assign an internal contact person. Likely you’ll have the office manager as your internal contact person, but they may have you work with maybe their head nurse or their head medical assistant or something like that, depending on how their office is set up. And so you’ll want to make sure that you have that person’s cell phone number because if something crazy happens on your way or the morning of that, you’re supposed to be at the office. Their office isn’t open yet; it’s great to have someone’s cell phone number that you can call and say my car broke down on the side of the road, or we’ve done this multiple times over the last 16 years because we live in Indiana and we have snow.

And if it’s something where it’s our roads are completely iced over, or we’ve got 10 inches of snow. People can’t get out; it’s nice to have early in the morning to be able to say, hey, it’s too dangerous for our techs to come out; let us help you reschedule the patients for tomorrow, or something like that. But it’s wonderful to have a cell phone number of an internal contact person because there are times when you may, in an urgent situation, have to get ahold of them after hours. And I will tell you we learned that the hard way. So that is something you want to write down as something important to be able to grab from the office before you start. It’s really nice also to find out what time their staff gets there. This is another one we learn the hard way because if their office opens at eight o’clock and they schedule their first patients for you at eight o’clock, but their staff doesn’t roll in until five minutes to eight, you will not have time to set up all of your equipment prior to that first patient.

So you’re going to initially start your whole entire day late every single time. So what we do is we ask them what time their office opens, what time they start seeing patients, and what time their office opens for staff to be there. And then we try to schedule it half an hour after the staff usually arrives. So if their office opens at eight, but their staff doesn’t get there until about eight, we would schedule the first patient for us for eight 30. That way, when you get there, you have plenty of time to get your supplies ready, set up your ultrasound equipment, take a look at the schedule again just to make sure there weren’t any last-minute changes, be able to have some time to ask any questions of the staff if you need it, and then be able to start that first patient.

So it’s really important to be able to find out those few things ahead of time. Okay? So that implementation meeting again, is just a great way to be able to set things up initially. Have everyone who’s going to have a hand in the ultrasound service at all be able to understand what’s going to happen prior to that first day and just makes your service go so much more smoothly for them. So after that first day and as you move through this contract and continue to provide service, looking at the different things you can do to provide that continual excellence in customer service is very important. And this is where some of those admin tasks come in. Like I mentioned, I speak to people who haven’t started businesses, started businesses yet, but I also speak to a lot of groups that already have a mobile ultrasound business that are contacting us because they need help in a certain area, sales and marketing or operations or those types of things.

And so, in my conversations, I often find out from them that they didn’t realize all of the backend admin work that they would need to double-check on. A lot of this stuff doesn’t take a ton of time, but if you don’t check on it, it can go unchecked for a really long time. And if you don’t realize those are things that you need to be looking at, that can cause a huge dissatisfaction with your clients because things can get out of hand, or they think you’re checking on something when you’re not. And so, I want to make a few points about that: ensuring everything pushed over into your PACS correctly and that all of your measurements came over correctly. If your ultrasound machine has structured reporting where it can pull over all the measurements that you took, most PACS systems will auto-populate that into a PACS system.

And so it’s really important for you, though, not to assume that technology worked like it was supposed to and go in there and double-check because you don’t want to have to go in after the fact and have a report amended because you didn’t check it initially. So that’s one of the things you’ll want to do as soon as everything’s pushed over. You’ve got everything up for that particular patient just make sure everything populated into the PACS correctly, the way that it was supposed to, so that when your radiologist or cardiologist gets their eyes on it, everything’s in there correctly. You also, I suggest, want to make sure that the system actually sent the reports it was supposed to. So, for example, our radiology group usually has a next-business-day turnaround time for all of their reports that they do. If we had a group that we went to see one of our client offices on a Monday, let’s say we would check on Tuesday to make sure that everything came through correctly, usually by the end of that business day, or we would check very first thing Wednesday morning.

That way, they had an entire business day, right? They had mon they had whatever time we sent that on Monday, an all-day Tuesday to get it over. So we would either check it Tuesday, right at the end of the business day, or Wednesday, first thing in the morning, to make sure all of those look in our system with sent so that we know that it pushed over That way. You’re not looking at two weeks down the road, your client calling you saying, you know what? I don’t think we got the report on. You know, Susie Smith, you’re thinking, oh geez, did I even look at that? I don’t know. Let me go back in and look. What if the images didn’t get pushed over correctly, but you didn’t realize that, and now you have to spend time pushing images over instead of just saying, oh, it looks like it was sent; let me resend it to you.

And then confirming that they got it. Because that’s the worst thing that can happen is someone asks you to resend a report, and you realize it never got read because you didn’t push it correctly or something happened on the backend where the radiology group didn’t get it. But if you’re checking it the next business day, you’ll always know if there was an issue or a problem. If that’s not read, did the radiologist get it? If not, resend and ask them to read this as soon as possible because it was supposed to be sent yesterday, and the system must not have pushed it over to you correctly or something, you know what I mean? Those types of things are super important so that you can stay on top of what reports need to be recent or updated or those types of things.

A couple of other things that you’ll want to make sure that you’re doing, too, is looking at reviews with your office, any of the things you can provide on your end that will help them get the type of service they want. So, for example, every office is going to be a little bit different. They may have different ways that they prefer you to send the patients to checkout or different ways that they prefer you check in with them if you know a report didn’t get to them or something. There will be things along the way that every office will be a little bit different about. And those are things to make notes of so that you can continue to provide these great types of customer service options for them as you’re moving through the contract because it is so much less expensive to keep a client than it is to spend the time and effort to go out and find a new client. After all, you didn’t do a good job on your customer service.

And that’s going to overshadow so many different things. You can be an amazing tech; you can provide an amazing service. The radiology group can be fabulous with their reporting, but if things don’t get done in time, or you show up late, or you don’t check your admin side of things to make sure that stuff’s put on the schedule correctly or reports are getting to your office correctly. or we always will have areas where we’ll have our, our techs do random Q&As on reports. So I, we usually have them say hey, once a month, go in and just look at a few of the reports you’ve done and just make sure they match up with what you expected them to be. And that way, it’s QA for the radiology group. We tell them to do that with our techs too.

If there are things that you see that we’re not doing, please let us know as soon as possible because we can’t fix something if we don’t know there is a problem. And that’s why this continual customer service is so important. Like I mentioned, I am not a tech myself, and thankfully, after 16 years, our business has grown to the point where we have administrative staff so that I don’t have to be in the day-to-day every single day, checking on scheduling, checking on reports, on all of that. I have a staff member that does that. Liz is my right-hand woman for our students who are listening right now and those who may become students later. You guys will contact her when you get things set up regarding PACS and daily operations. She’s so awesome to have as a resource for those types of things because that’s what she does all day long.

But when you first start out, it’s you are the tech, you are the admin person, you are the marketing person, you’re all those things. And so you have to have a good plan on what your tasks are for each of those different parts of what you’re providing so that everything goes as smoothly as possible. Because, again, it is so much less expensive, so much less time, time-consuming, and causes so much less effort to keep clients happy. Keep going back in year after year after year than it is to mess something up and have to go out and get a new client. So we talked about the implementation meeting, how important that is, and how important it is to set that standard and set that expectation before you go in and start providing these services in the office. Then we talked about making sure you’re looking at all the backend admin and thinking about continual check-ins with your clients to make sure that what you’re doing is making them happy.

And any of those tweaks you need to make right away so that they continue to be happy and continue to use your service year after year. We want this to be easy and seamless for them so they do not even think about it. You come in; you provide the service, they get the report, and they’re making revenue because you’re coming in. After all, they can’t make revenue sending patients out that’s not legal; it’s anti-kickback and all of that. So when they send it out to an imaging center or hospital, they’re not allowed to get any revenue back from that. When you come in and provide the service in office, they can now bring revenue, but the customer service is going to overshadow that if they’re making money. But it’s hard, time-consuming, and annoying because certain things keep happening. That revenue, the shiny part of that revenue, is going to go down drastically if you’re not providing great customer service.

So this is an important part of getting and keeping those contracts. So many businesses focus on sales and marketing and, you know, closing the contract and all of that, but this continual customer service is so important because once you do all that initial sales and marketing and you grab those accounts, if you are the business owner, you’re a tech, you build yourself up to five days a week or whatever your goal is. We’ve got some clients that say, Hey, I want to work three days a week, and that’s it, and at an average of a thousand dollars a day, that’s not too shabby, and have a couple of other days that they can either market or do what they want to go to the spa, play golf those types of things. We’ve got others to say, hey, I want five days a week.

That’s my goal to get things set up as far as ga gaining new accounts. But once you reach your goal, all that hustle for the sales and marketing isn’t there anymore. Now all you have to do is make sure that you’re continually providing that amazing customer service to your clients to keep them. And then the only time they’ll drop off if you’re giving great customer service is in weird situations, like potentially they get bought out by the hospital or something, and they are not allowed to use an outside vendor anymore. Well, then you use that day; maybe that’s been taken away to market and add another client for that particular day. And so I talk a lot about kind of the, the hustle side of this, and of course, there’s a hustle in the beginning, but that hustle does die down once you get to that goal of whatever amount of days you’re looking to gain per week so that you can start focusing on the customer service for the clients you have and just continually keep them renewed every single year.

Okay? And then lastly, we talked about making sure to have great relationships with your interpreting physicians so that all of that side of it goes smoothly as well. If you’re providing amazing customer service, but they’re not happy with radiology, that’s also a problem. And you don’t have as much control over that part as you do over what you are actually doing in the office. And so having a really good relationship with the radiology group or cardiology group is going to be super important to make sure that, as a whole, this service is an exceptional one that’s in the office that keeps them coming back every single month, every single year for the long term so that you are just continuing to provide those services to the same clients over and over and over again. So I will likely make a handout for this.

I haven’t done that as of yet as of the time that I’m recording this, but I think this is a really good guide and kind of cheat sheet to make sure that you’ve got all of these steps in place because like I said, so many people focus on sales and marketing, but they forget about all of the important things that you need to do after the fact to keep those clients. Okay, guys, as always, you know how to get ahold of me, questions and comments; let me know, and we will see you next week.

your strategy-obsessed ultrasound business coach.

I'm Jennifer -

Welcome to the Talking Tech podcast, where we answer your questions about legal, marketing, admin, sales, and so much more. After nearly 20 years in the industry running our own mobile ultrasound business and helping techs across the country do the same, I'm so excited to bring you industry insight, mindset, productivity, business tips, and inspiration to help you design the business of your dreams.

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