the business of contact lenses
Praise Day-to-Day Efficiency and Customer Service
BY GARY GERBER, OD
Most of us have had patient-employee encounters like this: Mr. Picky was very emphatic at his last visit to make sure you understood that he needed his special order contact lenses by next Thursday. Sure enough, when the lenses were not yet in your office on Tuesday night, your astute and alert technician went out of her way to call up the company to ensure the lenses would be delivered on time. She was assured they would be. And the lenses did arrive — but not the correct lenses. So, unbeknownst to you, your technician called a colleague of yours who fortunately had the lenses you needed. Your technician drove over on her lunch hour and arrived back in your office, correct lenses in hand, 30 seconds before Mr. Picky arrived.
"You have my lenses, right?" Mr. Picky asked.
Still slightly out of breath, your technician held up his lenses and without skipping a beat answered, "Yes we do, they're right here, just as we promised they would be."
You then go on to recognize this act of contact lens heroism at your next office meeting and make a big deal about how the technician went above and beyond the call of customer service duty. While these mishaps and subsequent recoveries are (hopefully) rare occurrences, what's common is how business owners react to them. Typically they do so by showering praise on the hero or heroine.
I think that's wrong.
Don't Overlook Consistency
More to the point, it's wrong when these celebrations occur only as a result of a systems blunder and recovery. What our consultants prefer to see is recognition and celebration when day-to-day operations happen smoothly. For example, when the system to special order a lens is carried out correctly and timely (regardless of your inability to control the manufacturer's delivery problems). Or, when your appointment scheduling jigsaw puzzle template is correctly filled out with the right types of patients in the right slots. Ensuring that the office is clean and the requisite supplies are on hand is another ordinary but important task, as is answering the phone correctly.
These non-daring feats of commonly and repeatedly executed tasks are the spinal cord of your practice's systems and processes. When they're executed correctly, service mishaps are a rarity and all patients get a better experience.
But, when you make a habit of showering praise only for gallant service recovery scenarios, you run the risk of staff members not focusing on the mundane tasks that need flawless execution.
Make the Ordinary a Priority
Consider constructing a calendar that has specific routine tasks that are so routine they've become nearly invisible. Concentrate on tasks that, when properly carried out several times in succession, will be recognized and rewarded. To do this, lay out a timeline of the steps involved in a patient encounter, starting with setting up his appointment and ending with recalling him for his next visit. Concentrate on one small step each week and discuss its execution, then recognize high achievers during an office meeting.
Of course, when the inevitable problems and snags occur, you should certainly acknowledge key staffers who came to the rescue. But don't stop there and forget those who are quietly and efficiently making things run smoothly every day.
It's human nature to be stimulated by praise and recognition. Make sure you dole out your fair share when day-to-day tasks are properly carried out. 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.