Sunday, April 25, 2010


This week, a friend posed a simple question, "What do you mean when you offer clients financial assistance?" Well, the answer is both simple and complex. First, let me tell you what it isn't. It is not related to personal finance, nor, is it an alternative to your accountant. Instead, financial services are related to the everyday "operations" of the practice. In short, financial services entail evaluating any number of expense ratios to aid the practice in better financial management.

For example, every business, including medical practices, has marketing and advertising expenses. Yet most practices have not real idea as to what constitutes the proper marketing and advertising expense budget. The answer lies within established benchmark values. In general, medical practices should budget 1-5% of net income for their marketing and advertising budget.

There are multiple metrics a practice can use to evaluate their current financial performance; yet looking at one metric is not advisable. My experience demonstrates that these benchmark should be viewed in the context of the practice, and, how one metric relates to another. In our marketing and advertising example, a practice could spend more or less depending on a marketing initiatives, how well known the practice is (or isn't) or the general desire of the owner. I know a doctor who insists on having the most aesthetically pleasing office in town. While he may be a little "over the top" in decor, he simply made the choice not based on financial sense, but instead, personal desire. A good consultant would not criticize this doctor's choice, but instead, simply point out the financial consequences of the decision.

Knowing and understanding these metrics is the first step in financial management. If you have not done so, please consider benchmarking your financials as compared to prior years. By doing so, you can easily see trends you may choose to ameliorate.


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Internal Customers; They're Your Customer

For your business owners out there, your employees are your customer. Think about it, you could not run your business without them, and, it is to your benefit to treat them with the same care as you treat your paying customers.

Internal customer service starts with business owners and managers. It is their responsibility to set the tone and culture of the business. If the tone and culture is one of treating employees well and with respect, you can bet that your employee will treat your external customers (paying customers) with similar tone. In contrast, if you treat your employees as simply workers, they in-turn will treat your external customers as just customers.

Evaluating your internal customer service "quotient" can be a simple as conducting your own SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats) analysis. Though typically reserved for marketing strategy analysis, a SWOT analysis that examines customer service, internal and external customer service can be revealing. Below, is an example of an internal customer service SWOT analysis.



· Practice includes customer service as part of their Mission Statement

· Management has set the expectation

· The practice utilizes staff uniforms, including a name badge

· Office is clean and provides an open, inviting reception area

· Practice experience relatively high turnover, necessitating only basic CS training

· Little daily management of CS activities

· Retail area appears unkempt



· Annual employee evaluations do not include customer service as a measured metric

· Practice does not use EMR or other CRM technology

· Need for ongoing CS training

· Other area practices utilizing EMR/CRM technology

· Improve staff retention

For your analysis, consider conducting an input session with your practice's management team. Remain open with all critique and refrain from defending any position you may have taken in the past. By doing so, you demonstrate one of the key elements of leadership, listening. You might be surprised at what you learn and the new direction this activity brings.


Saturday, April 3, 2010

Where Have I Been?

It has been a week or two since I last issued a blog. Frankly, I've been tied up with a project for a pharmaceutical company. They asked me to create a few training manuals for their sales teams. One of the training modules concerns providing excellence in customer service. In my research, I was surprised to see so much material regarding the little discussed of internal customer service.

When we hear the term customer service, most of us think about the service we provide to our customers or clients. Internal customer service is the recognition that our employees are customers of the owner and management, and the employees are customers of each other. This recognition is important because the better customer service we provide our team members, we improve our external customer service, business efficiency which leads to greater profitability.

Simple steps to improve your internal customer service include:

  • Communicate, Communicate, Communicate - be proactive in communicating with co-workers about your expectations of them and them of you.
  • Management must build a sense of teamwork - Likewise, staff members must understand how their actions, or inactions, affect their co-workers ability to complete their tasks.
  • Eliminate work silos - the medical practice is a business and should operate as a cohesive team.
  • Managers, treat your employees like customers. Providing your employees excellence in customer service fosters excellence in external customer service.
  • Create a rewards system in your office. Rewards can be as simple as a monthly award all the the way to cask bonuses. Make sure you set the expectation and reward the observed activity.