Article Date: 2/1/2007

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Three's a Charm
Three tips for staff performance.

staff that is deficient in any way sends a strong message to patients: Either you, the manager/practice owner, don't notice, or you don't care. In the bigger picture, your staff's inadequacies may lead some patients to believe that other aspects of your practice are deficient. The reasoning: People tend to judge the unknown by the known. This also holds true for the physical appearance of your practice.

Fixing peeling paint and worn carpets, however, is a lot easier than fixing employees. But, the book "Broken Windows, Broken Business: How the Smallest Remedies Reap the Biggest Rewards," by Michael Levine, can help.

" . . . The way a customer (or potential customer) perceives your business is a crucial element in your success or failure," says Levine. "Make one mistake, have one rude employee, let the customer walk away with a negative experience one time, and you are inviting disaster."

To fix this most visible and potentially damaging type of "broken window," Levine offers three very effective tips:

1. Be detail oriented
Make a commitment to all the goings-on in your practice, such as staff attitude toward patients, that goes far beyond what most businesspeople believe is adequate, Levine says. Here are a few examples:

2. Create detail-oriented staff

It's not enough for you to be obsessed. Everyone who works at your practice must be equally single minded. So, communicate your fervor for excellent patient care to every employee. An Example: Tell your staff that from now on, they are not to place patients on-hold for more than a minute before staff contact.

Another example: Inform your staff that those who don't say "please" and "thank you" to every patient, regardless of the circumstance, may be terminated.

"How much does it cost for each employee to smile," asks Levine. "How much does it cost for an employee to take a sense of responsibility for each problem he or she is presented? If an employee can't smile, even for minimum wage, you have the wrong employee, period."

Although having a policy of being considerate and polite to patients is essential, it's not enough, Levine adds. "Those employees who go out of their way to help customers with a problem, who notice the 'regulars' and remember their preferences, but are just as ac-commodating and helpful to newcomers, are the ones who are going above and beyond," he says. "But it should be made clear that you expect all your employees to go above and beyond, that this is a company policy, not an individual initiative. Set standards, and ask employees for suggestions on how to exceed them."

3. Obsess when hiring

Know ahead of time what kind of person you need. Then, take steps to hire someone who has the proper job knowledge and attitude to go with it. Nothing is more important, Levine says.

"An employee who can't do the job properly should be fired," says Levine. [The employee should] not be warned, not shifted to another position, not admonished. Fired. Fast. Before another customer is spoiled."

You'll lose patients and respect as an expert in eye care if you employ someone who is not in tune with the culture of your practice, especially one who has direct contact with your patients. But, you'll retain your current patients, strengthen your reputation as an excellent O.D. and attract new patients by employing someone who


Optometric Management, Issue: February 2007