the business of contact lenses
Survey Says: Accentuate the Positive
BY GARY GERBER, OD
Do patients think you offer convenient office hours and that parking isn't an issue? You won't know unless you ask. Just as we can't fix patient complaints we don't know about, so too it goes for the systems in our practices.
We're talking about something I've written a lot about — patient satisfaction surveys. However, this month I'd like to discuss what you do with the data once you get it back and, equally important, how you share it with your staff.
The Trickle-Down Effect
Historically, survey data is used as a type of practice report card. "How are we doing?" is the global question permeating most surveys.
Many practice owners find value in the surveys when they find something to which patients assign a poor grade. They postulate, for example, "If I add a telephone line, I'll have fewer survey complaints about getting a busy signal." Then, most will sit down with their front desk staff to determine ways to make the phone lines more available. This trickle down to end-of-the-line employees is where surveys often do more harm than good.
Staff members come to fear surveys because they realize that complaints will eventually be "my fault." This is one reason why it's often difficult to get surveys back from patients. Staff members can surreptitiously torpedo your efforts to collect data when they know it will be used against them in an exercise of blame and finger pointing.
Instead of concentrating only on what patients point out as problems, pay attention to what they say you do well. Uncover and celebrate with your staff those things you do right. Focus on patient responses that are in line with your company's goals and vision. Recognizing staff evangelists in front of others is a strong team-building strategy, especially when the heart of that recognition comes from a patient.
Here's an example. A patient returns a survey that says it took longer than expected for her contact lenses to arrive. Once they were in, staff member Laurie was singled out for being very patient in teaching the new, nervous patient how to care for her lenses.
Most practice owners would high-five Laurie behind the scenes and then spend 15 minutes at the next office meeting devising a strategy to ensure that contact lenses are ordered promptly and that delivery delays are communicated to patients. That's the classic way owners use surveys. Try this method, instead. Start your meeting by recognizing Laurie's achievements. If you typically order food for your meetings, let her choose. Any recognition in view of your entire staff will suffice.
Next, don't ignore the long delivery complaint. Frame it in the context of the good work already acknowledged. For example, "Nervous Nellie was very appreciative of how well Laurie helped her overcome her new wearer jitters. Just think of how excited she would have been if it hadn't taken six weeks to get her lenses. What can we do to ensure that doesn't happen again? Laurie, do you have any ideas?"
Another example would be patients complimenting your convenient hours. Why not consider expanding your hours even further? Or, if patients note they are impressed that they rarely have to wait to see you, how about attempting to shave another five minutes off their waiting time?
Use the Information Wisely
Take the survey data patients give you, bad and good, to continually grow your contact lens practice. And like the song says, don't just eliminate the negative. CLS
Dr. Gerber is the president of the Power Practice – a company offering consulting, seminars and software solutions for optometrists. You can reach him at (800) 867-9303 or DrGerber@PowerPractice.com.