Educate and Motivate
The other side of customer service.
By Jeff Moore, PT, DPT, OCS, MTC, Cert. SMT, FAAOMPT
Top-quality customer service is an important aspect of any business striving to be successful—this is not breaking news. When my brother and I sit and reflect on what single aspect of the clinic that we run is most responsible for our year in and year out growth, we easily agree that it is our commitment to customer service. This is coming from a guy who is board certified and fellowship trained and who would really like to think his exceptional manual therapy skills and clinical reasoning set us apart. But they do not, not much anyhow. It is how we take care of people that makes us different. At our shop we are borderline fanatical about customer service, but let us go a bit deeper on exactly what I mean by “customer service.” We are not talking about the front office being ready with a big smile and warm greeting when Mrs. Jones enters the clinic, offering her a cup of coffee, and knowing that she takes two creams and one Sweet’N Low without having to ask. We are not even talking about the therapist being a hyper-attentive listener, paying attention and responding to her verbal and nonverbal cues to create the best therapeutic experience possible. Customer service goes way beyond the red carpet treatment our patients get inside the clinic walls; in fact that part is only half of it, and it is not the half that creates a gap between our operation and the competition. Nowadays this level of service, while not yet the norm across health care, is certainly expected from the top 25 percent of clinics and is not enough to distance one practice from the rest of the pack.
The “other half” of customer service involves taking care of your current and prospective customers when they are outside of your clinic. A physical therapy clinic stepping all the way up to the plate seeks to improve the movement quality of life for everyone in their community, not just the subgroup of folks paying for 1:1 individualized attention. As with anything else it starts with education. Our clinic runs an original post every Saturday in the Daily News here in Iron Mountain, complete with literature references. Want to know about physical therapy treatment found to be as effective as surgery for atraumatic rotator cuff tears in folks over 55? Our community knows about it. Every week the latest research about how physical therapy can help people is spelled out in our local newspaper, multiple social media outlets, and occasionally the radio. A common complaint on social media these days is that the public does not know what we do as physical therapists. Whose fault is this? Certainly I cannot blame the American Physical Therapy Association for not educating the citizens of my little town in Michigan. Nope, it is on me, if they do not know what physical therapy can offer them it is solely because I did not tell them. While education is the base of the pyramid, it is action that really turns heads, showing the community that your team cares and that you have boots on the ground to prove it. For us it means screening patients free of charge at the Y (formerly the Young Men’s Christian Association or YMCA) for two hours after work once a month, donating athletic training services to our youngsters trying to stay active, clinic owners coaching multiple sports without compensation, organizing the county triathlon and half marathon, and the list goes on. We are not targeting our patients with this service, we are targeting our community. We are using all of our available resources to educate and motivate people of all ages to maximize their quality of life.
For clinic owners and directors there is an elephant in the room here; namely, how do you get employees to make this level of extra effort? Lou Holtz, the legendary football coach at Notre Dame and several other universities, once said: “Motivation is simple, you eliminate those who are not motivated.” Sound advice for sure, but is it not even better to do everything in your power not to hire unmotivated personnel in the first place? I look at this latest crop of doctor of physical therapy (DPT) students and have a hard time conceiving why any clinic director would ever hire anyone who is not over the top motivated. My last student, Jake Hegge out of the University of Wisconsin La Crosse, voluntarily—and without any prompting on my part—developed and delivered a 12-week couch to 5K program for my community during his internship with us. No financial gain involved for himself, just a way of expressing his vision and taking the chance to share something he is passionate about with my community. This is a beautiful example of the “other side of customer service.” Now I am not saying that students who are self-motivated to this level are a dime a dozen, they are still in the minority, but there are plenty of them out there and more importantly, it is easier than ever to find them. In this era of social media and information exchange it takes all of a week following Twitter to recognize ten of the most highly motivated DPT students in our country, and reaching out to them is only a click away.
To summarize, the other half of customer service involves educating your community and following through with action to raise every willing citizen’s movement quality of life. This is not being done well by most clinics in our country; if it were, we would not hear the constant outcries of how “people do not know what we do.” It takes a special kind of team member to capitalize on this aspect of customer service. Fortunately, they stand out like sore thumbs on social media and are eager to connect with like-minded clinicians and business owners. So the time has come to gather up the motivated and change the national brand of physical therapy, one well-serviced community at a time. Good Luck!
Jeff Moore, PT, DPT, OCS, MTC, Cert. SMT, FAAOMPT, works in outpatient orthopedics and is the owner of The Institute of Clinical Excellence in Kingsford, Michigan. He launched the Institute of Clinical Excellence in 2012 and became a faculty member with Evidence In Motion in 2015. Between these two companies Dr. Moore regularly teaches manual therapy courses around the country. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.