You’re fired!” Those are harsh words to use – and to hear – for anyone. At some point in your career, chances are you will use them. It is also possible that at some point in your career, those very words, “You’re fired,” will be used against you by a patient.
Can you completely prevent the possibility of getting fired by a patient? Probably not, but you can take some steps that will likely reduce the number of times a patient will tell you he or she no longer needs your services. The key is to use a little common sense and follow some basic rules of etiquette, while always remembering that your patients do have a choice. They have a choice about the chiropractor they choose, and they have a choice about whether they will continue to come to your office and refer other patients.
At a recent seminar, I reminded all in attendance to hang a sign in their office that reads: “You don’t get paid for what you do, you get paid for what you get done.” I hope that bit of advice does not come as a revelation to you. It’s a basic fact of life.
No matter how good your skills are and no matter how good your equipment is, without patients you don’t have a job. So if a patient leaves you and goes down the street to another chiropractor, you have been fired. You may be wondering what would cause such a horrible thing to occur. Here are a few possible scenarios you should avoid if you want to reduce the possibility of receiving a “pink slip” from a patient:
1. Showing no genuine or personal interest in your patients. You can be guilty of this and so can your staff. Either way, the guilt falls on you if you allow this type of apathy to occur in your office.
2. Poor response. This can be in the form of a telephone that is not answered in a timely manner, or putting a patient on hold and just letting him or her stay there indefinitely. Remember, the patient is the one who is paying the bills, so act accordingly.
3. The person at the front desk is your adversary. Is that how the person at the front desk is viewed in your office? For your sake, I hope not! Does the person at your front desk chase away more patients than he or she helps? Not sure? You better be sure! Much of your practice success depends on that person and how the public perceives him or her.
4. Promising the patient everything and not delivering. Do you overpromise and underdeliver? Do you imply that you can cure all of a patient’s problems in just a few visits? Be careful what you promise. Those guarantees may come back to haunt you later.
5. Poor professional image. What does your office look like? Is it a disorganized, outdated mess, or a place where patients feel they can get professional help for their problems? Do you have old magazines that belong in the recycling bin? Poor lighting? Artificial plants? Dead real plants? Furniture that should have been donated to charity years ago? Dirty walls? Would you seek medical help in this type of environment?
6. Poor training of staff. It’s amazing how little time is spent training staff members who will interact with your patients more than you do. Hire good people and invest in staff training.
7. Lots of “down time.” If a patient comes into your office for a 10 a.m. appointment, when does he or she actually see you? 10 a.m.? 10:15? 10:30? 10:45? 11? How long are your patients going to put up with an office that does not appear to value their time? Would you put up with it?
8. Poor delivery. I am sure you have seen those commercials on TV for the company that says, “We deliver for you.” Be sure that you deliver for your patients.
9. Nickeling and diming. Do your patients feel that you charge them for every little service? Is there another charge for this or that every time they walk in?
10. The chip on the shoulder. The chip I’m referring to is how some chiropractors are perceived by their patients when they comment about other health-care professionals, including other chiropractors. It’s important to keep certain opinions to ourselves.
Do any of these scenarios sound familiar to you? If they do, you may need to change some of the policies and procedures in your office. Have you been wondering why some of your patients don’t come back for a report of findings? Maybe you need to call a few of them and find out. Do you ever have patients leave your care before their treatment plans are complete? Or have you been puzzled over why you get so few referrals from your patients? If you are experiencing these types of difficulties, you need to get to the root of the problem before you go any further.
It’s up to you to make the changes in your office that will keep your patients coming back. After all, isn’t it better to hear the words, “Hi Doc, it’s good to see you,” rather than, “You’re fired!”?