How to Address Office Culture
A few hackneyed sentences in your staff manual aren’t enough.
GARY GERBER, O.D.
What’s the relationship between the questions, “What’s in your wallet?” and “What’s in your training manual?”
For those of us who have them (ideally that should be 100% of practices), training manuals or videos are great tools for new hires as well as for re-training current employees. Of course, some start with a few hackneyed sentences about office culture — “Our goal is to satisfy patients” — followed by 80 pages on clinical competency: how to use the non-contact tonometer, where to order tissues and how to return a frame.
With so many doctors having issues with how their staffs internalize desired practice cultures, why not actually address office culture in the staff manual? Instead of “Our goal is to satisfy patients,” create content that specifically states “how” to do that. After presenting this content, test for these “softer” skills, just as you would test for clinical competency.
Test for success
For example, information in your training manual could allow staff to properly answer test questions such as:
1. The telephone should be answered in less than ______ rings.
2. Respond to patient e-mail in less than ______ hours.
3. The proper greeting on the telephone is ___________.
4. Why does any patient who needs eyeglasses need at least one additional pair? ______
5. Why is it important to immediately acknowledge a patient when they enter the office, even if you are on the phone with another patient? How should you do this?
6. You are expected to offer free eyeglass tune-ups to every current eyeglass wearer because ___________.
7. When a patient who is a known great referrer of other patients enters the office, the protocol is to ______.
8. When a patient is unhappy with their glasses, the first thing you should do is ___________.
9. A patient calls up and says, “I’ve been waiting a week for my glasses, and you said they would be here in three days.” Your first verbal response is ___________. Your first course of action is ___________.
10. A patient comes into the office without an appointment and wants to be seen right away because they broke their sunglasses. The next available appointment is in five days. You tell the patient ___________.
These sample questions may or may not apply to your office. Also, the answers depend on your practice philosophy. For open-ended questions, don’t be overly concerned about staff regurgitating the exact words in the manual. Allow your staff to convey your desired practice culture with their own words and personality. It is more productive than having them memorize scripts or “magic words” and having them sound like uncaring and emotionally disconnected robots.
Using real-life situational tests achieves two objectives: First, it reminds staff that knowing how to address a patient is important — just like being able to show a patient how to care for contact lenses. Also, it allows you to identify gaps in your training efforts, allowing you to fix them.
Follow this advice, and the answer to “What’s in your wallet?” will be, “More money.” OM
DR. GERBER IS THE PRESIDENT OF THE POWER PRACTICE, A COMPANY SPECIALIZING IN MAKING OPTOMETRISTS MORE PROFITABLE. LEARN MORE AT WWW.POWERPRACTICE.COM, OR CALL DR. GERBER AT (888) 356-4447.