For a practice to earn and sustain a reputation as a provider of world-class customer service, practice administrators need to understand that they actually serve two distinct and unique customer bases—external patients and internal staff members. While the need to provide consistent and exceptional service to patients is obvious and paramount—they pay the bills and sustain the practice—truly insightful practice administrators view staff as customers who deserve the same world-class treatment afforded patients.
As a practice's most accessible and visible day-to-day leader, practice administrators are responsible for building a perpetual, strong, and functional team. One of the best ways to accomplish that task is to embrace a staff-as-customer philosophy built on these self-improvement tenets:
Engage in Self-Reflection. Periodically, take some time to assess the state of the practice from a personal perspective. Your goal is to work on being the best practice administrator and person possible. Ask and answer the tough questions: What is the overall mood of the practice? How do I impact that mood? How do individual staff members view me and my style? What is the staff respect level for each other? Am I “walking the walk” or just “talking the talk”? Am I treating everyone the same, with a proper level of respect and professionalism? Do I communicate in an open and honest manner? What are my current strengths and weaknesses? What can I do to improve the practice and myself? The questions are many and the answers can be elusive, but they demand consideration on a regular basis. It's all about personal self-improvement and how that relates to your staff and the practice.
Adopt the Golden Rule. As individuals, treat staff members as you would want to be treated. While this sounds simple, it's not. Your practice is busy and the pace is hectic. It's easy to just blast through the building, firing off orders and taking care of business, which is understandable and necessary at times. However, there is no reason to be disrespectful or mean. Put yourself in your employees' shoes; how would you feel if you were on the receiving end of your actions? Ask yourself whether you are really providing the same level of respect and attention to a co-worker as you do to your external customers.
Embrace Change. These are dynamic times that demand increased levels of adaptability and flexibility. While a certain level of consistency and reliability is always helpful and comforting, now is not the time to be stubborn and rigid, especially when it comes to how you view and treat your staff. Change can be good and should not be viewed as weakness. Many successful leaders (and practices) excel because they embrace and welcome change as motivation for personal and professional progress. Try to gain insight into what blocks you from accepting change. It is hard to simply “flip the switch” and change behavior or style overnight. Provide yourself daily reminders and try to focus on getting a little better each day.
Encourage Open and Honest Communication. The more candid interaction you have with staff, the more they will respect and trust your decision-making and leadership abilities. Continue to hone your communication skills, both verbal and listening. Learn how to praise outstanding effort, as well as how to criticize or critique performance effectively to motivate and encourage. A proper level of respect helps ensure a positive, proactive approach that can result in remarkable increases in efficiency and productivity.
Promote Fair and Equal Treatment. Make a noticeable effort to get to know each staff member a little better. Try not to have special employees, even if they do stand out from the crowd. There will be opportunities to honor top performers, but your day-to-day M.O. should revolve around being fair and consistent. Try to learn what motivates or drives individuals in the office. Learn who they are, what makes them tick, and to what type of leadership they respond. Look for opportunities each day to improve a relationship with a team member.
Champion Professional Growth. Professional and personal education should be a never-ending endeavor. Continue to educate yourself in all aspects of your job. Yes, it is important to be current on all specific medical, clinical, and business advancements, but do not ignore your personal growth. Learning is directly related to teaching and helping, and that is what a good practice administrator does. The more you grow, the more you can teach your staff. Read, learn, think—and pass it on.
Set High Standards. Setting the bar too high is rarely a problem, especially if you “walk the walk,” and your staff knows it and sees it. Act the part. Dress the part. Lead by example. Be visible and engaged. Interact in an open and honest manner; however, learn to do so with greater sensitivity and compassion for others. Don't be aloof. Be ready to roll up your sleeves and get it done. Be accessible and available. Everyone has a life outside of work; understand that it will enter the work environment once in a while. Encourage time with family. Be there for your staff; and your staff will gladly follow your example.
Point of View
Remarkable things can happen when practice administrators begin to view staff as customers. First of all, everyone—staff members and yourself—can eliminate the time and energy wasted worrying about what others think and instead are able to focus on the task at hand. Treating everyone the same way in every “walk of life” simply makes it much easier to always be at peace. For some, this takes great courage, since it might in fact be unnatural to think and act this way. At the same time, doing so often allows organizations to gain incredible increases in productivity and efficiency. Most importantly, coming to work every day becomes much more fun for everyone!
Allan Walker is Director of Publication Services at BSM Consulting, located at the Incline Village, NV office.