By Tami Hagemeyer, ABOC, FNAO
May 23, 2018
There is a collective practice personality you and your staff communicate to patients. Here’s how to determine what that personality is, and how to improve it, so care and profitability soar.
Every practice has a personality that is recognized by our patients, typically within seconds of their first contact, whether it is by phone or in person.
The goal is for their first impression of your practice to be positive. That is attainable by understanding the benefits of positive telephone etiquette, and acknowledgement of the patient’s arrival by, not only the team member checking them in, but team members within their view, by simply making eye contact and smiling. It takes only seconds to properly greet and acknowledge patients, and it shows our patients they are important to our practice.
Emphasize Both Individual & Team Responsibilities to Staff
As an optician, I understand my individual responsibilities for patient care, but I realize I also am an intricate part of a team. And beyond being a member of that team, I am accountable for the growth of a positive practice personality by motivating my peers, leading by example, to enhance our patient’s experience, and encouraging a positive first impression, through patient, and team, communication.
Creating a positive practice personality begins when we recognize the changes that may be necessary to inspire our patients to remain loyal and refer others, stimulating trust and building confidence. The changes will generate practice growth by attracting new patients who recognize shared values–they want to visit an office filled with people who treat others the way they, themselves, like to be treated, and how they like to treat other people.
When patients make the choice to allow us to be their eyecare provider it is often a choice made from referrals. That means another patient has felt connected to our practice personality. They sense that the practice’s values, or purpose, are aligned with their own.
Make Sure Practice Personality Isn’t Tied to Just One Employee
I recently made a move to another practice, understanding I would be losing contact with the patients I had known and cared for. You can imagine my surprise, when on a busy Monday morning, I got a call from a former patient from a previous practice.
She shouted excitedly into the phone, “There you are! I’ve been trying to find you!” She continued, “You are the only optician who can make my glasses.” That statement took me by surprise, as she is extremely sensitive to prescription changes, which, over the years working with her, resulted in several remakes. But, with every remake, I remained unfazed and eager to educate her about the process. I always explained the prescription change, and how it affected her vision. I took the time when others felt exhausted by her sensitivities. She remarked one day that she trusted me, and that I had integrity…Integrity! That was an amazing compliment!
We all know there are many opticians capable of fabricating lenses that would be perfect for this patient. It is interesting that she based her loyalty to me, not on my ability to fabricate her lenses, but on the trust formed through the openness and patience I showed over many years.
The key: Train all of your employees to provide the kind of service you believe your patients deserve and expect, and then when one leaves, you won’t have to worry about the continuity of quality of care and services.
Practice Leader: Communicate What You Want the Practice Personality to Be
If you’re the practice that doesn’t immediately acknowledge, and offer to help, everyone who walks through your door, the change begins with communication.
It is important for every team member to feel that they are heard. Weekly or biweekly meetings have the potential to provide, and encourage, open communication, for the entire team, doctors, opticians, technicians and office personnel. Everyone should be able to speak with the complete confidence that ideas, complaints, and even venting, will not have negative repercussions, but will be treated with thoughtfulness and respect.
An annual, or semi-annual, workshop day has been successful at many practices. It is a day dedicated exclusively to training the team, on which the office is closed to the public. Team members are encouraged to learn new skills and experience duties they are not usually responsible for. It becomes a day for learning, and most importantly, communicating. The team is together daily, but this day is unique; it is a day that provides an interactive learning environment.
Be Careful Who You Hire: Catch Incompatible Personalities
It is important to get input from the entire team before a new hire is made. Suggest the potential new hire spend a day observing the practice before agreeing to join. Most will appreciate the opportunity to witness the practice’s personality, and it gives the individual time to perceive their compatibility with team members. Every prospective new hire will potentially to change the practices’ personality, so we should strive to bring into the practice individuals who will complement and “fit” the practice’s personality.
When a single person is in charge of implementing change, or enhancing the practice personality, it is important they understand their responsibility; it is never to “micro-manage” the team, but to give positive feedback when warranted, and instructional information if necessary. Practice personality should never need to be micro-managed or forced. Once you have made the right hire, and fully trained the individual, that person understands how to apply the positive practice personality.
Be Sure Your Physical Environment Doesn’t Undermine Your Message
I encourage both the practice owner, and all the individuals of the team, to check their surroundings. Walk through the office from the front door, to reception area, lab, exam rooms, contact lens rooms and the optical. If any room appears cluttered, or dirty, make notes of improvements necessary. Allow suggestions from employees to encourage ways to improve the physical appearance. Everyone appreciates working in a clean and organized environment. It evokes a sense of pride.
When your staff feels good about the office’s appearance, and the service they are providing, patients are likely to feel the same.
Tami Hagemeyer, ABOC, FNAO, is an optician at a practice in Bowling Green, Ohio. She also is a CE speaker and author. To contact her: TamiHagemeyer@gmail.com