In my 10 year career being at the forefront of running and growing one of the largest network of rehab clinics in Canada, I’ve worked with hundreds of therapists, front desk staff, managers, cross functional teams, and executives.
Regardless of the roles I was working with, “buy-in” from staff is the key to making permanent change in the business. The success of any cost saving or revenue growth strategy hinges on one key attribute, the ability to execute with your teams.
Yet, quite often I speak to clinic owners that are very clear on the strategy and tasks they want to implement but are challenged on how to speak to their staff about the upcoming change, get them to “buy-in”, adequately train them, start and keep it going, and ultimately, make the change long lasting.
The result for many is an initiative that starts but eventually stops, then starts and stops again, eventually ending in some type of workaround. If you can't get your team motivated to integrate the changes you intend to implement, your plans to grow your business end in dismal failure.
Of course, that's not what you want.
That's why we're here to discuss how you can overcome these challenges and influence long lasting change in your business.
- How to determine your business priorities so you don't waste money and time
- How to create an effective kick-off event when planning internal changes
- 7 strategic tactics to ensure your team "buys-in" to what you want and sustains the changes
How to Determine Your Business Priorities
You have to prioritize what needs to be done first. This can be a challenge in and of itself.
Let’s look closer at one case example: your ability to grow monthly revenue.
Growing revenue is a primary goal for clinic owners. Yet, one of the most common mistakes is to inject money into marketing without thinking the whole process through first.
Before you go spending money, you need to evaluate the process to growing your monthly revenue. This starts with looking at the link between your marketing and phone performance.
Ask yourself, if my digital marketing, doctor referral program, family and friend referrals, direct mail campaigns and community event marketing funnels start generating more new patient calls, can my front desk handle the increased volume?
Moreover, if they are answering 95% of the calls, are they able to book enough new patients so you get a return on your marketing investments?
If you’re not confident with the answers to both questions, you could be losing money on your marketing investments - not because they don’t work, but because your front desk phone performance is not optimized. Or, at the very least, you’re leaving money on the table because you could be answering more calls and booking a greater percentage of new patients.
Before moving ahead with this discussion, I want to be clear on what I mean by phone performance, so let’s use the following 5 criteria.
Your front desk:
- Answers the phone at a 95% rate
- Books at least 8 out of every 10 new patient callers
- Reduces the number of callers put on hold
- Keeps calls to about 3 minutes in duration so they don't tie up the lines
- Offers a great experience on the phone by connecting with the caller
How do you think your front desk staff would match up against the above criteria?
After thinking about the process, you now understand that optimizing front desk phone performance should be done BEFORE implementing your marketing strategies.
But, how do you instill change with your front desk team?
Let's talk about getting “buy in” from your staff so they do what is being asked of them and most importantly, the team sustains the changes you implement.
How to Create an Effective Kick-off Event
The reality is, if you’re not excited and upbeat about internal changes, then how can your staff be?
It's essential that you be upbeat and have a positive attitude about it. When designing your kick-off event, don't just make it another staff meeting, be enthusiastic and add a “show” element to it. Make it exciting and sell the benefits that the new change will bring.
Set a 30 minute kick-off meeting with the entire team and make sure you book it in their schedules. And, make it a comfortable event by arranging the room and providing snacks and drinks.
It's very important to ensure your entire team attends the event. Owner’s often tell me that it is difficult to have the entire team in one place at one time but when trying to implement change, this is an absolute must.
Personally, I would rather close the clinic for 1 hour, allow the phone to ring and have my entire team there – therapists, front desk and manager. Change requires a team effort and mentality, even if some members don’t play a direct role they must understand what is being done and why. For example, therapists would attend the kick-off meeting for front desk phone performance.
At the event, present about 5 powerpoint slides to the team. The slides are there just to help structure the discussion. Also make sure to give them a physical copy of the slides that they can take with them.
When beginning the meeting, give them a task to get involved in. For phone performance, we ask them to write about all their challenges with answering the phone and booking new patients, then we get them to hand their responses into us. This not only encourages interaction and focus but also gives us valuable feedback on areas the team may need initial training or assistance.
In the kick-off, I recommend speaking to the team on the following points: Tell Them Why, Speak Their Language, Tell Them What’s In It For Them, Be Transparent, Don’t Train Without Practicing, A Little Bit of Feedback Every Day, Give Them Incentive - we'll cover these topics in more depth now.
7 Strategic Tactics to Ensure Your Team "Buys-in"
#1: Tell Them Why
Change is difficult so it's important you inform people why the change is needed. It's human nature to be opposed or hesitant to change. But it's made more difficult if we don't understand why it's occurring.
For phone performance, tell them directly that: "We are putting in a series of marketing initiatives that will generate more phone calls. We want to offer the best customer experience on the phone in our community and have people excited and optimistic about their appointment. This starts will ensuring we can answer the increase in volume and book new patients."
And when working on phone performance, one very important thing to remember is that it’s about supporting the front desk, not pointing out faults with each person. The best way to approach it is to explain why the change is needed and how it will benefit the organization and the team. Emphasize that you will all be working together to make things easier and more efficient.
#2: Speak Their Language
Recapping their roles and showing empathy is always important when talking about change. It helps people understand where they are now and where their role in the clinic will go in terms of the suggested changes - they will be curious to understand, how much it will change or how it will benefit them.
Be understanding and appreciative and speak to them in their language.
I speak directly to front desk staff and tell them I know the front desk is a high paced role, doing multiple things, and that patient experience starts with them on the phone, or they are the first person the patient sees when they come in.
Tell them how important their role is, how much you appreciate all their efforts, and it's for these reasons that you’ll continue to support them and invest in their career.
#3: What’s In It For Them
Change usually involves your staff learning a new skill. For therapists, capturing patient commitment at assessment is about learning how to ask questions, show empathy, and get to the real reason the person came in. There is a difference between a patient saying they want to improve their shoulder range versus they have a tennis tournament at their club in 3 months and want to improve their serve.
The reality is, you'll be expecting your team to invest in learning so you need to explain what's in it for them - the benefits.
The message to the front desk staff should be - the training and skill they are learning is something they will be able to take with them in life and in their careers. It will not only benefit them now but well into the future.
For phone performance, they will learn how to engage and connect with someone, rebuttal patient concerns and questions, learn to speak with an irate customer, deal with a talkative caller, and control a conversation - all great skills for developing their interpersonnal communication, skills that can be used throughout their lifetime.
#4: Be Transparent: Set Expectations and a Timeline
It's critical to give staff a clear picture of what's required of them and a timeline of events.
Explain: What your target is and when you hope to achieve it. For example, our goal is to achieve 95% phone answer rate in 3 months and an 80% new patient booking rate within 6 months.
When implementing CallHero, at the kick-off we tell the front desk:
- The main point of contact for this initiative
- The clinic’s phone data will be printed out and shared with all front desk staff each day
- Based on the phone data we will take steps to better support the front desk
- We will be putting together a phone skills training schedule for you to complete over time
- As a group, each week we will meet for 20 minutes, uninterrupted, to review phone metrics, listen to and critique 5 calls, share thoughts on what we learned in phone training that week, and role play a couple new patient call scenarios
#5: Don’t Train Without Practicing
Training is something you do periodically, once a month.
Practice is something you should do every day.
For instance, for phone performance, we will train front desk staff on phone skills at defined periods of time but practice those skills every day through having front desk discuss tough calls with each other, role play how to rebuttal price, talk about scheduling challenges and how to deal with someone that says “I’ll call you back”, and together, we listen to a call and critique it (e.g. did the front desk person use the standard greeting, did they ask the patient’s name up front and use it three times, did they use too much slang, etc).
It's important that you set regular intervals to engage with the staff to practice. Your involvement is critical to the success of a change program. The more involved you are, the easier and more effective the transition will be.
#6: Give A Little Bit of Feedback Every Day
It is better to provide quick feedback regularly rather than wait a month to provide your comments and thoughts on how they are doing. The more you engage in providing regular feedback, the faster your team will know the value of their efforts, or on the other hand, where they may need to focus more attention.
Here’s a trick: Create 3 re-occurring calendar reminders each day that direct you to walk over to the front desk and ask about phone activity and what they are experiencing.
For example, at 9am each day I get a reminder to print out yesterday’s call metrics, write my thoughts on each metric including “97% answer rate yesterday! Great job team!”, and post it at the front desk.
At 12pm I get another reminder to spend 5 minutes reviewing the morning’s phone metrics and walk over to the front desk if I notice something like the answer rate dipped from 10am to 11am to 70%.
Last, at 5pm I get a final calendar reminder to spend another 5 minutes to check the afternoon’s phone performance.
On top of regular daily check ins, once a week I set a 20 minute front desk meeting where everyone can attend, even if the phone goes to voicemail during this time. At the meeting, we review phone metrics, listen to and critique 5 calls, share thoughts on what we learned in phone training that week, and role play a couple new patient call scenarios.
Don't just leave it to chance. Be sure to structure a way to provide regular and consistent feedback.
#7: Give The Team Incentives
Team incentives are a great way to keep initiative targets in focus. Think about small ways you can reward the staff for their efforts.
For instance, if the front desk team answers 90% of the phone calls each month - go out for lunch. If the front desk team answers 90% of phone calls and books 80% of new patients - take 2 hours one evening to go to the movies together or take a 2 hour midday break to attend the movies.
Incentives could be lunches, movies, vouchers, dinners, a massage or a box of chocolates - small gestures that will make your team feel appreciated.
If you really want to drive change, you need to find metrics, such as phone performance, you can measure daily and tie this in to their compensation plans.
Most importantly, be sure to share the phone metrics with them every day. This provides incentive in itself. Though they may resist the change initially, once they see how much their efforts improve the outcomes of the clinic and their ability to manage calls and communicate with patients, they'll be excited to continue developing their skills.