Article Date: 2/1/2008

How to Put Patient Motivators to Work
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How to Put Patient Motivators to Work

Give staff the resources they need to "deliver the goods" to patients.


I can't seem to motivate my staff to deliver great customer service and an outstanding patient experience. Nothing works. They just don't get it."

In these cases, the practice owner is usually the one who really doesn't get "it." "It" is the underlying misplacement of reasoning and logic.

When trying to motivate your staff, many of you focus solely on the incentive. This may seem logical, but the truth is employees are skeptical of this approach. This is because you haven't given them a clear reason as to why you want them to achieve the specific goal. This in turn leads staff to suspect that the outcome of achieving the goal really benefits you and not them, regardless of the incentive you've promised.

Here are two ways to effectively motivate your staff:

1. Determine what motivates your patients

Instead of continuing to employ the aforementioned ineffective way of motivating staff, determine what motivates your patients (the need for weekend hours, for example), and use those motivators to motivate your staff to increase your practice revenue.

This seemingly topsy-turvy approach makes sense to employees, as it clearly focuses directly on the needs of your patients and not the self-serving needs of the practice (i.e. more revenue for you if you implement weekend hours).

Determine what motivates your patients, and use those motivators to motivate your staff.

2. Enable creativity

Make sure your office policies and procedures allow your staff to "deliver the goods" that motivate patients. In my experience, most offices with whom I start working say one thing and do another.

For example, one O.D. asked his staff to think of creative ways of solving problems in meeting patient's needs, yet his office manual spelled out rewards for compliance with policies. This placed his staff in a precarious situation. Instead of taking this tact, encourage and reward staff for uncovering and fixing roadblocks to patient motivators.

If your patient surveys reveal that Saturday appointments are a high patient motivator, and you feel that having these additional office hours makes good business sense, motivate your staff to want to work on Saturdays. Do this, by showing a direct and immediate link to patient satisfaction. To accomplish this, say: "I know you don't want to work on Saturdays, but patients request we do so. How can we reconcile these two things?"

Your staff may reply: "How about we close early on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, as those tend to be slower times?"

In recognizing that the reason for this request is based on a patient motivator and that you respected staff enough to think of a creative and feasible solution, they'll be more motivated to work on Saturdays than if you had said: "If you work on Saturdays, I'll give you a few extra days of vacation."

Implementing their idea is probably a violation of your office manual, which states "Management shall determine employee work schedules," but you can't ask for creativity in an atmosphere of strict compliance.

Obviously you, the practice owner, are the final arbiter of scheduling. But the point here is that your staff creatively solved the problem and finally "got it." So, loosen the creative purse strings and focusing on what patients want, not what the practice wants. This results in great ideas and team building. OM


Optometric Management, Issue: February 2008