Customer service is an essential part of a homeopathy practice, no matter how many people we have to look after. Each of our clients requires our attention and, as our practice grows, so does the time we need to spend.
Exceptional service is a must for a small service-based businesses like homeopathy (as Tracy does) and graphic design (as Lulu does), and it is one of the ways we bring value for our clients.
When our clients love what we do, we get the benefit of the best – though not the only – marketing tool: word of mouth.
Some thoughts from Tracy
Most of my clients are new to homeopathy, but not everyone; sometimes they’ve had treatment before and I hear complaints such as:
“My previous homeopath didn’t tell me what remedies I was taking or explain what I was taking, so I didn’t understand how my treatment was working.”
“My previous homeopath made me feel told off.”
“My previous homeopath was only available during certain hours and I didn’t know what to do when my child was sick.”
Before I was a homeopath I worked as a teacher and as a telephone counsellor with The Breastfeeding Network.
As a teacher I learned a lot about how to set clear boundaries but also how to adapt them for individual children and families. As a breastfeeding counsellor, I learned about empathy, and most importantly; the difference between offering information and advice.
As a homeopath I decided that I wasn’t going to try to be the cheapest or focus solely on my technical skills. Instead I aim to offer value through warmth, empathy and great communication.
I’ve worked with many practitioners of different services myself and I know this is what I look for as a client:
Friendliness and optimism
Consistency and reliability
Listening and understanding
Clarity and ease
That is why these are my core values.
How to create solid customer service
Think about your clients for a moment.
Why have they come to you? What do they need help with? What is going right in your dealings with them? How is what you do helping them, or are you getting in their way of achieving their goals?
Often if you run your own business, you are having to cover all aspects of it yourself, so you might not have a chance to pay attention to patterns of questions or queries from your clients.
If you keep track of issues or queries that come up, frequently asked questions, things that people need or problems they want solving, you can start to see where to adjust what you’re offering so that you provide a better service.
Do you need to explain something better?
Can you simplify or change something?
Tracy realised that she often recommended Probiotics to her clients. They would ask her which brand to buy but were confused about all the options available. This is why she now keeps them in stock or orders them to be posted directly. Another example: her clients were confused when she changed her prescribing style at each appointment. This led her to study and focus on ‘Triad Prescribing’ as a consistent method that is simple to understand and also delivers effective results.
How do you provide excellent customer service as a homeopath if you are working with just a small part of your customer base week to week?
Do what you say you’re going to do
Your hours, your deliverables (remedies and products) – consistency is key. Never offer to do something unless you are sure you can do it. Say no to requests or tasks you know you can’t complete on time. Maybe even say no to clients if you know they are not a good fit for you.
Excellent customer service starts with honesty. Don’t let your enthusiasm cause you to over-promise and under-deliver.
Posting remedies takes a lot of time so last year Tracy made a decision to only post remedies out once a week, on Thursdays. She tells everyone up-front, and it’s repeated on her email Auto-Respond. Another example: she regularly refers children with Autism to specialist CEASE Trained practitioners, and keeps a list that she forwards to anyone who sends an enquiry.
Be clear about your client-therapist agreement
Take time to set out your practice guidelines. How you work, what you do and what you don’t do. What you charge for what. When you are available.
This needs to be written in simple, clear English and laid out in short paragraphs with sub-headings.
Taking time to be clear on the service you are providing and what you need from the client in return. The clearer you are before money is involved, the happier you will both be.
Tracy has a simple overview of what to expect from working with her on her website, including her payment terms. Payment terms are included again on the note accompanying her invoices. A simple checklist is included on the bottom of her client intake form (completed, signed and dated at the start of treatment). It is included again on her email auto-respond.
Be clear about your boundaries
Your customer service doesn’t need to be 24/7 and nor should it be. Be clear about your availability and your turn-around time for requests for information or support between consultations. The clearer you are with boundaries, the better your clients will be in respecting them.
Contact between consultations is best managed through one stream. Arguably the way to streamline this is through email, which ensures that nothing is overlooked or lost.
If Tracy receives an email that she needs to take time over, and she knows she won’t have time for a day or two, she sends out a quick, personal ‘holding’ email to let them know that she is busy and when they can expect a response. She keeps her auto-respond regularly updated with her schedule so that her clients can instantly see when she is around and when she is away or not available.
The key to any great service delivery is communication. If you send out check-in emails regularly you will encourage re-bookings. You can stay ahead of potential problems, keep things on track and make sure your clients are happy with their progress.
Not all communication has to be directly from us. The modern scheduling system is a valuable tool to automate the booking process and is convenient for your clients, plus it saves us time.
A promise is a promise
Only offer to provide something that you can control, otherwise you won’t meet expectations and your client won’t be happy with the results. This doesn’t sound very exciting but it does lead to a high level of customer appreciation.
By giving your client your undivided one-to-one attention, listening to their problems and goals, communicating with them regularly and keeping your word, they will tell others how great it was to work with you.
As a homeopath, we are offering something personal and bespoke.
Your clients can use a website or book to self-prescribe or call a helpline to get a fast response to an acute problem for a small fee. But neither of these offer the same level of customer service that an on-going relationship with a professional has.
By keeping your promises, listening and being clear in your communication, you offer value.
You are hired by your client because you are an expert and you use that expertise to help them get better in ways that exceed their expectations. This not only helps them but it creates a strong reputation for homeopathy as an effective system of medicine.
It will allow you to gain more referrals and make a name for yourself in the work that you do.
That brings value to your client, to you and to the world of homeopathy.
And it all begins with customer service.
“My work is to be honest. My work is to try to think clearly, then have the courage to make sure that what I say is the truth.” – Maya Angelou