A culture of quality is needed if we are to bring audiology into the spotlight and highlight our expertise in hearing and balance. Ritz-Carlton co-founder and former president Horst Schulze states that we can create transactions every day, but until we place the person next to us as the most important person in the world in that moment, we will never create an experience. No matter which employee you ask in a Ritz-Carlton what their objective is, they will all say, “to keep our guest.” This has helped create the culture and branding of one of the world’s most famous and respected hospitality names. Ritz-Carlton also creates the framework for all of their employees to hold to the gold standard of “We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.” The gold standard doesn’t make anyone better, but the way the customer is treated is exceptional.
Mission and Core Values
Where does satisfaction start?
What does customer satisfaction look like in a private practice for audiology?
It starts with finding the gifts of our employees and making sure they share the vision of the practice. The mission statement and core values should be more than a phrase in the company handbook. They should be lived every day in the offices they serve in, and yes, all of us need to be reminded of what this mission is on a regular basis. The office, as a group, should pick the core values, which can be changed from year to year.
If there is participation from the team, there will be more buy-in. Working as a team takes time and trust, but working through something as important as core values is a great way to start. In the past, we had employees break that trust, but we were able to come back to the core values to help heal and move on.
Communication and Appreciation
We need to consider how each employee gives and receives information. Some are very detailed oriented, and others just want to get to the punchline as quickly as possible. As owners and managers, we need to have a clear idea of where we are headed, what our goals are, and reiterate these goals throughout the year. Also, find a way to say thank you to your employees or those you manage in their “love language,” whether it is praise, gifts, or your time.
It can be challenging to do this if you don’t speak the same language. For example, the way I like to receive praise or help is by acts of service. If someone does something for me, I am overjoyed! They don’t have to say any words of affirmation, just doing the extra work is what I appreciate the most.
Many that work for me have wanted praise, which is difficult for me. Why would I keep saying great job on something the employee is supposed to do? Just because it doesn’t make sense to me doesn’t mean I, as a manager, shouldn’t stretch and meet the needs of my team members.
After we have accomplished how to best work with our team, we must encourage customer loyalty. Horst Schulze reminds us that a loyal customer will spend more, willingly. It is also essential to obtain new patients (customers), keep them loyal, and be efficient about it. He never brings up his competition, ever. As stated previously, he focuses on how to keep people loyal and happy. Customers want to feel like they are the most important person in the world in that moment.
Some ideas are so simple, such as sending a card for a special moment or keeping favorite candies in stock. Employees can hand the patients a handful of candy after their appointment.
I had a patient who worked with General McCarthy and was Irish like myself. I would send him notes on the anniversary of certain events, such as WWII and St Patrick’s Day. His son still talks to me about how special I made his parents feel—and they died over 10 years ago.
Finding Tools to Make it Work
We have programs to train audiology assistants to schedule more efficiently. I know of several in the industry; we have used Audiology Academy. Nova Southeasten University also has a program and there are other consultants in the field, such as Decibels 180, that cover a variety of audiology topics.
We have database-management systems that allow us to market to each patient at least four times a year. When we send reminders for hearing exams or other follow-up appointments, there are rules to follow. On the American Academy of Audiology website, under Practice Management and Compliance, there are many items of which we need to be aware. For example, our patient reminders need to follow Medicare guidelines, which do not allow us to solicit for hearing exams and then bill the patient.
We have our audiology organizations that provide us with ideas to implement. I belong to two national organizations, and I am on their websites quite often to see what is available. I am continually working to get local audiologists to band together to make a bigger impact, but this is something that will take some time!
There are independent groups, such as “Think Audiology,” that are sharing information from change makers in our industry and offer materials for us to use at no charge. We must talk about hearing assistance technologies (HAT) to our patients routinely (see relevant article in Audiology Today by John Greer Clark and Britany Gilb, March/April 2019).
We must take up the mantel ourselves and not wait for the next brilliant audiologist to do it! I find most changemakers in audiology want to share their knowledge and bring the entire industry up. Be thankful and show gratitude, even if you do not agree.
Connect with Other Medical Professionals
The audiologist has the responsibility to educate other medical professionals on how audiology must be part of the medical team for our patients. David Fabry and Don Nielsen presented on this topic at the 2019 AAA Annual Conference and also in the Audiology Today March/April 2019 issue (Nielson and Fabry, 2019). There are ideas everywhere on how to connect with other medical professionals. An additional resource is The Audiology Project, which has created a portal to educate health professionals about the connection of hearing loss, diabetes, and other health conditions.
Spread the good within your own business, community, state, and nation, and make sure everyone you connect with knows about audiology. In every patient encounter, remember that the patient is the most important person in the world, and you are the lady or gentleman who will serve them the gold standard.