Referrals and practice growth depend on employee and patient satisfaction.
Spending 15 minutes in a doctor’s reception room can tell you a lot about a practice. Watch the front desk personnel and see how they deal with arriving and departing patients, schedule appointments, and handle collections. In some cases, employees exhibit high levels of energy, efficiency, and friendliness, and patients seem uplifted by it. In other practices, it’s a different story.
For example: In one extremely busy office, a multitasking receptionist was attempting to do it all. She looked harassed and unhappy about what she was doing. And so did the patients waiting their turn.
The blame for a problem like this falls squarely on management, not the employee. It’s probable that her attitude and job performance would have immeasurably improved had she been assigned fewer responsibilities.
Admittedly, many chiropractors focus more on profitability and practice growth than on employee satisfaction. In some cases, they even cut back on staff. In others, they overlook job-related issues that lower employee morale and motivation. As one assistant confided, “The doctor just doesn’t get it. I’m overworked and unappreciated—but I don’t complain—I need the job. But my heart’s not really in it.”
So how does this type of negativity come across to patients?
It’s difficult to overestimate the impact that such an attitude has on what patients say about a practice. Will it cause patients to defect? Probably not. It is, however, undermining their loyalty and possibly their referrals to the practice.
In contrast, happy employees who love their jobs are far more inclined to delight patients by treating them with courtesy and warmth. And that makes a huge difference in patient satisfaction, referrals, and practice growth.
Determining what makes an office staff happy can be a mind-stretching exercise. For years, the belief was that money was the source of employee happiness and retention. While there is no question that money is important, management studies show that it does not buy employee satisfaction. Employees want to be fairly compensated for their efforts, but they also want to be appreciated and treated with respect.
Here are some suggestions to increase employee satisfaction that in turn will lead to improved job performance and patient satisfaction:
- Don’t skimp on payroll to the point that your staff has more work to do than time allows and where the pressure never lets up. It will lead to burnout.
- Give your staff the autonomy to do their jobs. A work environment in which employees are constantly monitored, micromanaged, and bossed around can be stifling.
- Allow employees to actively participate in decisions that affect their work. By including them, you signal that you value their expertise and recognize that they are an important asset to the practice.
- Take care of the people who work for you. Acknowledge their accomplishments with frequent and sincere recognition. Take time to single out employees who have gone well beyond the call of duty. Have staff celebrations with plenty of public pats on the back for the achievement of practice goals.
- Solicit feedback. The only way to know whether or not your office policies are causing attitude problems is to ask employees. One practice distributed a survey entitled “Dumb Rules and Policies” to learn which management edicts, if any, were turning people off. Time clocks got the most votes.
Hard-learned lesson: In his book Loyalty Rules, Frederick F. Reichheld writes, “We found there is a cause-and-effect relationship between [employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction]; that it is impossible to maintain a loyal customer base without a base of loyal employees.”1
“Building loyalty,” he adds, “has become the acid test of leadership.”
Bob Levoy’s newest book, 222 Secrets of Hiring, Managing, and Retaining Great Employees in Healthcare Practices, is published by Jones and Bartlett Publishers. He can be reached at email@example.com.
1 Reichheld F. (2003). Loyalty Rules! How Today’s Leaders Build Lasting Relationships. Watertown: Harvard Business Review Press.