Optometric Management Tip # 338   -   Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Back to Basics: Prevention of Common Service Problems

Let's face it, eye care practitioners (ECPs) are busy seeing patients and don't always have the time to observe the day to day activities of the office. Office managers are also likely to become consumed with an increasing work load to the point of not noticing the little details. But the little details are exactly what differentiate the average practice from the multi-million dollar one. You could be delivering the best clinical care in the world but if basic customer service factors are not met, your practice will wallow in mediocrity.

It's important to make time to watch and listen to what happens in areas of the office that are not typically in the doctor's domain. Do this covertly at first, so you can really take an accurate pulse of your practice. Pay attention to your staff on the telephone, at the front desk, in pretest areas, in the dispensary and in behind-the-scenes areas, like the optical lab.

Managing problem employees

Unfortunately, overcoming problems can be challenging because it usually means you need to have a frank discussion with an employee about attitude and behavior. That confrontation can be so unpleasant that it drives some ECPs and managers to simply avoid the issue. Some doctors would rather turn a blind eye to the problems and rationalize that all is well or that it really doesn't matter. The little details actually have a significant impact on patient satisfaction and loyalty. Don't let a stubborn employee ruin your potential to build a great practice.

Start by holding a staff meeting to analyze and discuss the following frequent customer service problems. Focus on how important excellent service is to the growth of the practice. Recognize that some of the issues listed below are larger than simple employee behavior and may require changes only the ECP can make.

If there are one or two specific employees in your practice who have bad attitudes, meet with them privately and let them know that it's time for a behavior change. Start with a positive approach but continue to monitor behavior and let offenders know that lack of cooperation with the new customer service culture will result in dismissal. Follow through with that after several attempts at remediation and warnings.

Frequent Service Problems

Here are some commonly seen service breaks in eye care practices. How can they be prevented in your practice?

Best wishes for continued success,

Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Chief Optometric Editor, Optometric Management