My archives might be a little outdated especially the older blogs. My links above are all new and current.

I have only positive things to say about Permission to Mother, an autobiographical account of a thoughtful mother and clinician who courageously writes from her heart, soul, brain, and personal experience; who is open to change in her views and opinions and is not guided by the safety of rules of any group or the status quo; she is guided by love and openness to the experiences life brings her and her family. Her process benefits her and those around her and those who read her words. And to add to that, the writing style and story telling ability here make it a very enjoyable read speckled with both the humor and seriousness of life. ~Laura Keegan RN FNP, author of Breastfeeding with Comfort and Joy

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Saturday, December 5, 2009

Customer Service

This post may be totally irrelevant to some of you who have always had a good experience with the office, but for others I hope to open up some lines of communication and ideas for the future.

I value how important customer service is. There are many challenges of being in private practice. Many of the challenges are "external," but one of the hardest internal problems is providing the best in customer service. It sounds like customer service would come easy, but... it does not. Finding solutions is one more thing my mind has to think about during the day.

When I go to a business, I want to be treated well by the whole team. Often I enjoy the dialogue I have with various players on another business's team. In my own office I realize that my staff can make me or break me getting patients on the schedule in a timely way, welcoming them, connecting with them, being tactful and polite, being knowledgeable of our services, etc...

Most of the time I get compliments from patients on how helpful my staff has been and I am satisfied. It optimistically lets my guard down a bit.

But to be honest, getting staff trained in top notch customer service is one of the most difficult challenges I've had. Things seem to go well for a while.... then I start noticing frustration in my employees voice and body language. Sometimes because I know what's been going on that day I understand. Then I get an e-mail or note telling me how difficult someone on my staff is.

If you think you've been hurt, I am totally crushed that situations in my own office would hurt my life dream. Sometimes *I* feel helpless over it. My dream would be to always have the right feel from the first point of contact and all the way through to check out for everyone.

Right now I have a clean slate of well seasoned employees. They've all been with me a while. They've learned how John likes it, and how I like it the opposite way. They've learn what questions to expect on the phones from the zillions of calls we get a day. They work like a team.

But I am down 2 staff members. We just let one go because she couldn't provide customer service. And we needed another employee even before that. I appreciate when my patients tell me how they are being treated. It gives me an opportunity to explain a situation. If it's a legit issue, I know it's time to take action.

It may seem like its an easy thing to let an employee go when it doesn't work out. But it's not always that simple. Why? I feel like I've invested in an employee. If I thought it was worth hiring, I want my employees to reach full potential. In a busy office there is a lot to learn and takes time. For me there is a delicate balance how long to keep training versus finding a replacement and working understaffed in the mean time. It adds a lot of stress on the rest of us who are left to divide the work.

Also, you'd think with the high unemployment rate it would be easy to find new eager people. Before private practice many people told me they would work for me if I ever went into practice. The truth is, it is hard to find medically experienced people, who know customer service, can handle ringing phones (all day long), referrals, John's way, my stubborn way, deal with terminal illness, deformity, client hardships, etc, etc,.... You got to admit that's a lot of skill a front desk person needs to have.

Fortunately I have someone new lined up to start in a few weeks.

It's interesting that when I worked for someone else, I don't remember patients complaining about the staff as they do now. That's a challenging part of private practice I am responsible for everything. It doesn't matter how good the medical care is. It doesn't matter how unique the medical care may be. I know the employees are very important to an office visit and retaining our patients.

Although most of the time I receive wonderful compliments on the staff , I am always keeping an eye out for negative trends (or a patient who may see things from another perspective) and try to act on it efficiently. I am sure my staff would appreciate hearing the good, but most importantly if you have any concerns let me know. I am sure you wouldn't want your concerns posted on my blog, so remember to email me privately.

If you know of a busy office with an efficient way to handle constant ringing phones, I'd like to know that too. Maybe our phones ring to much for any system?

Perhaps knowing my concerns will help with the ideas.

4 comments:

Jenny said...

i have always had a really postive experience in your office. when you are running a little behind, i dont mind one bit because i know how much you care about your patients and you dont want to rush people out just to get to the next appointment. your staff has been really good to my family and has always answered my questions when i call with concerns. i really enjoy the outside porch while i am waiting too. i also like that when i contact you via email, your office staff will call and follow up with me and ask if i would like to come in for an appointment. i have yet to turn them down. i really like the way your practice is run and putting this post up tells me how much you value each of us and that you want to improve your practice. i didnt email you only because any concerns that i would have i would handle before walking out the door of your office.

fitncrafty said...

Best of luck with finding new staff. It is hard to find new people... I wish I could help out!

Hang in there, I too am surprised to hear that you are not getting applications. Maybe with your post someone great will come along!

fitncrafty said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christy said...

I, like Jenny, have had a great experience with your office staff. Sometimes you just don't "click" with someone, but if they're doing their job, I don't see that as a complaint. I love being able to contact you through email and if needed, get in the same day with a sick toddler. It's been a little over 2 years since "we" established with you and I still recommend you to anyone I think would be a good "fit". My dad is John's patient, neat to hear that side of your practice. I love Sarah too, she's been great with Alex.

At first, I hated the new phone system (a year ago?), but I'm sure it was necessary and really, isn't a bad deal. I always get someone on the phone or a fast return phone call.

Everyone says finding someone these days is easy. It's not. My office is also a small private business, and it's hard to find someone qualified with people skills (client and co-worker!) It's hard to let someone go, but it's necessary to make things run smoothly sometimes.

Good Luck and let the girls know they do a great job and we appreciate it greatly!!

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