Going to the doctor is just one of those things you have to do to stay healthy. Most of us dread this annual visit, and while a commentary on what’s wrong with our health care system is outside the purpose of this blog, I am going to use it as a case study to show you how an annual checkup can keep your business healthy and growing.
When is the last time your business had a wellness check? It’s a good idea to periodically examine your business from other perspectives. Are there parts that are broken, inefficient, or frustrating your customers? Without a wellness check, problems will only show up when you lose a major account, have bad publicity, or face a lawsuit.
Most wellness visits don’t turn up anything alarming. My checkup showed everything was fine, and that’s what you want to hear. Except focusing on the end result ignores other things that go into an annual checkup. These are the inefficient and often disrespectful aspects of your visit. When you look at my wellness visit from my perspective as a patient, the report is worse.
When you make your appointment, you’re told to arrive early to complete paperwork, and note changes in your health, medications, personal information, and insurance. You arrive early, complete the paperwork, and are ready on time for your appointment. That’s when the system breaks down. You already know where I’m going with this, don’t you?
You watch other patients coming and going. Patients who arrived after you are called while you continue to wait. You know there is more than one doctor and these patients may be seeing a different doctor. After 30 minutes of waiting with no communication, you check in with the receptionist to see how much longer it might be. She rudely points out that your appointment was at 10:00 and it’s only 10:30.
Whoa! Hold it! You’re telling me that I have to arrive early to comply with your requirements, and then wait until well past my appointment time and not be upset. And yes, I believe that anything longer than five minutes is late.
You finally get called. You get through the vital signs, paperwork, and make it to the exam room where you get to put on the paper gown. And then you are kept waiting again. In my case, another 30 minutes. Who enjoys sitting alone in a cold exam room wearing a paper gown? It’s even worse when there is no communication from the staff. Nothing, nada, zilch.
Doctors require patients to show up on time or they can refuse to see you or charge a missed appointment fee. Those unilateral requirements send a very clear message that the patient is not valued. This isn’t unique to this doctor. It’s widespread and we’ve been trained to accept it.
Just because everyone else is doing it, doesn’t mean it’s a good thing. You might have similar issues in your business.
When is the last time you looked for areas where you are training your customers to accept poor service? Not every customer will complain about poor service or low quality. They may accept it once as an anomaly. The second or third time may cause them to take their business elsewhere. Without follow up, the reason the customer is lost is overlooked. You know someone else is waiting in line to take the empty slot.
This model might work in health care where we have been trained to expect poor service and disrespectful treatment. But will it work for your business? Can you afford to believe that someone else is waiting in line?
If you’re like most businesses, the answer is no. An annual checkup will help you find out early so that you can take steps to become healthy again. There are uncertainties in business and no amount of planning will keep things running smoothly. However, you can put systems, processes, and people in place to mitigate the negative effects of “stuff happens” syndrome. And that requires looking at your business through the lens of your customers.
What message are your employees sending to your customers? An annual checkup will help you find employees like this who are hiding in your business. Remember, your employees are the face of your company and can make or break the customer relationship. If you have the wrong face, you are losing customers and may not know it.
In my wellness visit example, the doctor might be running behind because of an emergency. A proactive receptionist sees the cascading effect on the remaining appointments. Recognizing that the patients have jobs, run businesses, and have other responsibilities, the receptionist calls patients to let them know the doctor is running behind and to arrive 30 minutes later.
If you got that call, how valued would you feel? Would your loyalty increase because your time was valued and you were treated with respect and courtesy?
There are simple things that can be done to value a customer while still recognizing emergencies happen. During my doctor visit, simple communication would have gone a long way toward keeping me satisfied.
Take a hard look at how your employees are presenting your business. Survey your customers, secret shop, ask your employees for input into areas they feel need work. Run some lab tests to see what’s working and what can be improved. You might be surprised at what you find.
Make sure that you either change those employees’ behavior or exit them gently from your business and bring in, through targeted recruiting efforts, someone who will be a better company ambassador.
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