Want to know your number one marketing and customer service resource (that can also boost employee engagement)?
Your reception area.
That’s right – your employees are your most underutilized asset, especially happy ones. Engaged employees can make all the difference in your practice regarding customer satisfaction, attracting new patients (a cheerful atmosphere is contagious), and boosting overall revenue.
Marketing your medical practice today is often about customer service and community, and how effectively you maximize both. Your employees are your front-line customer service advocates as well as the pillars onto which you can build and strengthen your community.
Below we’ll uncover ten ways you can use employee engagement to keep your employees happy and motivated at the office, ramp up customer (patient) care, and stay two steps ahead of the practice around the corner.
1. Train and Educate New Employees
Do new employees at your office undergo training? We’re not talking about the “here’s what your tasks are and how you should do them,” but a value-added educational approach that spells out “this is how we expect you to act and succeed in our office culture.”
It’s crucial from the get-go to set the tone and make your front office employees understand that their job isn’t just about answering phones, scheduling patients, and being responsible for paperwork. They need to know that they are intricately linked to the successful marketing of your practice and the image of your practice persona out there in the greater community.
It’s hard enough for new hires to be thrown into the fires of a new position, unknown colleagues, and practice culture. Ensuring they understand expectations, brand behavior, and properly training your employees will help:
- Manage expectations
- Boost efficiency
- Enhance outcomes
Develop creative ways to educate your employees about your practice. This will enable them in-turn to inform your current and potential patients.
REAL WORLD EXAMPLE:
One orthopedic practice we work with launched a new website. Instead of just sending out an internal email to their employees saying, “Hey, go check out our new website,” the practice decided to engage and involve their employees in the process.
Practice managers organized a website scavenger hunt where employees had to hunt down unique information on the new site and provide their feedback and impressions to win prizes. Not only did the activity get all three practice locations energized and excited, it educated employees about the practice and also gave the website a free trial run-through for link integrity and page layout.
Bottom line: employees felt empowered, involved, and engaged in a key practice endeavor.
2. Customer Service Training
Overall patient experience is one of the most critical factors contributing to your practice’s bottom line, and three out of four patients now consult patient reviews as their first step in choosing a new doctor.
Did you know that the majority of your patient interactions are with support staff, not with a clinician or physician?
That makes your front-line employees’ role in the care your practice provides all the more critical.
Healthcare marketing analysts stress that what employees do is a huge reflection of your brand. Customer service is not about what you say you do; it’s about what you do – how you walk your talk. Your employees need to realize that they are an integral part of your marketing efforts, especially in the social media age. Studies show that 41% of employees don’t know what makes their company unique. And that number is probably higher in the healthcare realm.
Engaged, educated employees can become your practice’s best brand advocates especially when most practices lack the funds to hire a dedicated customer service team.
It’s not rocket science: happy employees lead to happy patients. What matters most to patients is how they feel when they walk in your door and when they leave. More often than not, patients will remember their interaction with a nurse, a receptionist, or dental hygienist more than their contact with the actual doctor!
The bottom line: establishing regular customer service training for your staff can be the difference between satisfied patients and dissatisfied ones. A joyful staff will give and do their best for your patients.
3. Leverage Social Media
If your practice is like most, your employees probably don’t have access to social media on their computers (they may be lucky to have an email address at all!). However, it might not shock you to know that there’s an excellent chance your employees are regularly logging into their social media accounts on their mobile phone. Instead of fighting the practice, consider embracing it.
Your employees have the first and last contact with patients, and more often than not, are the ones to respond to patients on social media, answer the phones, and they impact your online reviews in ways you have never even considered.
REAL WORLD EXAMPLE:
A few years ago, a client of ours, Orlando Orthopaedic Centers, decided to enter a local social media contest. Our client won the competition (despite being in a major media market) and went on to place 8th nationally. How did this independent practice overcome the immense challenge presented by the other big players?
Employee engagement was the difference maker.
The practice had a massive buy-in from their 150 employees who used their reach and enthusiasm on social media to generate the momentum needed to tip the scales and win the contest.
Each day the practice encouraged its employees to:
- Check-in on their smartphones (expanding social reach)
- Like and share photos (enhancing the brand’s impact)
- Share ideas (which were in limited commodity and proved extremely valuable)
The positive energy the contest created throughout the practice was infectious and engaged everyone it touched, generating:
- Contagious enthusiasm
- Extended social media reach
- Enhanced branding that generated over a million new impressions for the practice (the majority of which didn’t cost a dime)
4. Reward and Recognize
Rewarding your employees isn’t all about money. Most often, it’s about recognition and making people feel like they matter. And you know what? Your employees do matter…big time!
Here’s a sobering fact: we spend more waking time in our workplaces than we do with our own families. Your employees are much more than cogs in a machine, they are your second family and need to be recognized and rewarded as such. Beyond a paycheck, your employees need to feel valued and appreciated.
- 67% of employees are motivated by praise from their managers
- 63% are stimulated by attention from their leaders
We’re not talking a whole song and dance here. For you as a practice manager, it could be as easy as saying hello when you walk into the office in the morning; or stopping to thank an employee for their efforts, to say “I appreciate all that you’ve done on this project.” You’d be amazed at the power of a few words.
The bottom line: the attitude you bring into the office is reflected throughout the day by everybody else.
Leaders can set the tone and create the positive energy that’s needed in the office.
REAL WORLD EXAMPLES: An orthodontic practice has an all-woman office staff. After their first year of employment, every employee is awarded a necklace with a diamond in it. And every year afterward, they receive another diamond in their necklace. All the practice’s patients know about the reward system, and they see and recognize the longevity of the staff.
Here are a few ideas for rewarding and recognizing your employees for a job well done:
- Establish a monthly employee recognition program
- Spot awards: buy little gift cards or tickets to music or sporting events to give out when you see someone doing something great – recognize them in front of their peers
- Acknowledge the personal things in people’s lives (birthdays and work anniversaries). Decorate cubicles and have an afternoon cake and tea celebration. For some who live far from family and friends, it might be the only birthday cake they get that day.
- Do something extra special: reward your employees’ 5th year work anniversary with a paid trip to a foreign country that the employee has never been to before.
Employees are your rock stars! And are your biggest assets. Loyal employees who love coming to work are your greatest cheerleaders. By making them feel like they are part of your family, they will naturally want you to succeed.
“Medical practices often turn to specialized professionals to help provide an array of services to help boost employee engagement such as:
- Producing monthly printed newsletters
- Maintaining internal Employee Intranet
- Tracking customer service scores and offering customer service tips
- Weekly sharing of positive reviews with employees. This allows the teams to feel engaged and get a little pat on the back for a job well done.
Here are some other things you can do to make your staff feel included and engaged:
- Share information about what is going on. As simple as it sounds, this is often overlooked. Inform your staff about the efforts of your marketing team to improve your online reputation.
- Educate them on how online reviews social media works. Once they understand the process, they can make a positive contribution to improving the situation.
- Ask for regular feedback. Performance evaluations may have a useful role in your practice but sitting down with an employee to get their feedback on how your practice is doing can empower and engage them in a myriad of ways. Plus, their unique insight into how your practice runs is often priceless.
- Allow them to make mistakes and learn from them. Don’t only give feedback when things are negative…you must provide positive feedback too.
REAL WORLD EXAMPLE: One surgeon we work with decided to leave his comfort zone and spent an hour in the call center listening in on calls. It helped him understand what his employees have to deal with, identify process improvements, and boosted employee engagement. We highlighted his experience in social media to the delight of his audience, fans, and community.
The bottom line: If you’re going to market your practice in today’s digital age successfully, it must start with your employees. Trust them and use them as the first audience for any new roll-outs. Keep them in the loop. If they feel connected, engaged, and trusted, they can turn around and provide superior customer service to patients.
Moreover, measures like those above will allow you to see first hand who becomes engaged and who doesn’t. It will become clear which employees are with you for the long-haul and who is there simply to collect a paycheck.
Perhaps there is no better reward for an employee than to be promoted – an increased salary and greater responsibility, not to mention that promoting employees from within is significantly less costly and simpler than searching for someone from outside the organization to blend into the culture and personality of your practice.
Here are some guidelines to follow when promoting an employee:
- Change their title or put them into a new role
- Use it as an opportunity to recognize the employee first through internal email and then with a celebratory event (you can consult your employees on how they would like to honor the occasion)
- Explain to the rest of the practice why you promoted the person and what their new responsibilities will entail (this provides an incentive for other employees to increase their efforts in the hope of receiving a future promotion)
7. Turn Your Employees into Brand Advocates
Your employees not only represent your brand…they are your brand. If trained and rewarded correctly, they will become your greatest brand advocates. They will do the heavy marketing lifting for you both on and offline.
Positive employee engagement pays dividends! Most practices don’t have a plan for engaging employees, indoctrinating them with the WHY of the practice. When you can connect with them on that level, then you’ll see them transform into solid brand advocates.
Ensuring your employees know everything about your practice, its history, its philosophy, and raison d’etre will allow them to advocate on your behalf with current and future patients. Moreover, providing your employees with non-verbal tools can strengthen their role as brand advocates.
One of the best ways to turn your employees into brand advocates is to put your logo on office uniforms or scrubs. Your employees are running around before and after work – to the grocery store, to their kids’ schools, and to the community center. Every one of those encounters provides an opportunity for someone to discover your practice and interact with one of your brand delegates.
Moreover, rewarding employees with different practice trinkets will also help increase your visibility. These items can include:
- A lunchbox with your logo on it
- A water bottle with your logo on it
- A tote bag with your logo on it
Valued employees are worth keeping. One of the best ways to encourage valuable staff members to stick around is to invest in their development. You don’t need to put them through college but providing them with incentives to develop and improve their abilities will pay a double dividend – to them and you.
Encourage employees to become experts in their role and to seek out continuing education. Then, recognize and reward them when they do. Invest in good employees and good behavior. Investing a few dollars to help offset the cost of continuing education can help build employee loyalty that will pay off for years to come.
Training shouldn’t be reserved only for new hires. You and your clinical staff may often pursue complementary training while at times overlooking your administrative and support staff. Employees who see that their employer is committing to their ongoing training and development are more likely to strengthen their bond to the practice, become more engaged, loyal, and stick around longer.
The bottom line: investing in your employees is worth every penny.
An excellent value-added and inexpensive way to improve engagement and loyalty is to offer your employees lunchtime training on topics outside the scope of their jobs. These themes can include (among others):
- Dealing with Negative Situations
- Understanding Your Credit Score
- Effective Communication; and
- Building Your Personal Brand on Social Media
9. Keep the Valued Employees You Have
You might be saying in the back of your mind “Sure, all this is great, but who has the time? And even if I did, is it worth it? A normal and valid reaction, but consider this:
Your employees are the most valuable asset you have regarding salary, benefits, training, and institutional knowledge. Therefore, it is essential for employers to adapt to the needs of their employees to avoid having them walk out of the door.
Human resource analysts estimate that the average cost of replacing an employee can be up to two times that person’s annual salary. Two times.
Consider everything that goes into replacing an employee: time lost in searching, screening, and training a new hire, not to mention the entire onboarding process (which could take up to several months, depending on the position). When you factor in all that lost time, productivity, and money, how can you not take the time to invest in keeping your employees happy and engaged?
Now let’s take a look at an employee who is underperforming and whose attitude is suffering. Typically these types of employees create their own little negative worlds to inhabit when they are at the office. The trouble is, they aren’t content to live in those dark little vortexes alone. They consistently try to drag others into their world of discontent. And that kind of negativity can spread like a virus around your office.
What’s more, say your disgruntled employee is only working at around 40% of their productive capacity. That means that 60% of what you’re paying them could be going right out the window. Considering these facts, isn’t creating an environment where your people want to be worthy of your time?
An engaged employee is an employee that is going to stick around. Investing in efforts to increase your employees’ job satisfaction, loyalty, and happiness can pay huge dividends for you and your bottom line down the road.
Chances are, your practice gives money or time to specific charities, most probably a cause that you or your practice manager are passionate about. Consider adding an element to your practice’s charitable efforts that incorporate causes that are close to your employees’ hearts. Engaging and supporting your employee’s passions will go a very long way towards establishing your employees as:
- Raving brand advocates and enthusiastic fans
- Loyal soldiers who will go into battle if need be
- Contagious storytellers
- Rock stars who will sing your praises for years to come
When you find a way to tap into employee passion, great things can happen as a result.
Take Care of Yourself First
At the end of the day, practice managers and leaders need to take care of themselves first – and be happy where they are, reach their full potential, and act as an example for the rest of the office. If you live it every day, it will rub off onto your employees.
Remember, if you don’t give your employees something to talk about, they’ll find something on their own. Take action today to help distribute the message you want patients to hear. Negativity from poorly engaged, uneducated employees is contagious and will affect your advocacy efforts, especially where online reviews are concerned and will spread like a disease.
Cultural shifts run both ways in an organization – from the top down and bottom up.