First Published in Insight Magazine – September 2016 Issue –
First Published in Insight Magazine – September 2016 Issue –
Practice owners often underestimate the degree to which practice support staff can drive – or damage – the growth of their business.
Patients are exposed to practice staff from the first phone call to eyewear recommendation and order collection, not to mention through ongoing interaction.
The standard of customer service and knowledge conferred upon the patient at each of these touch-points determines purchasing behaviour, loyalty and referrals. This means that a bad hire has the potential to impact the business’ bottom line from the very first point of patient contact.
There are a multitude of consequences of staff underperformance, some of which are listed below.
Revenue loss – An obvious consequence is foregone revenue from inadequate eyewear recommendations (although lens companies’ warranty schemes often protect practices with untrained staff from the immediate monetary loss associated with remakes).
Staff friction – Unsuitable employees require more supervision and their underperformance can possibly affect other team members who rely on the new hire or who are forced to take on additional work as a result. This can lead to a loss of morale across the entire practice and may even result in the loss of valued staff.
Missed opportunities – Many patients only come in once every two years, so these patient interactions must be seized upon and maximised. An underperforming staff member is unlikely to make the most of these opportunities.
ALL UP, THE ALARMING COST OF AN UNSUITABLE EMPLOYEE TO A BUSINESS IS ESTIMATED TO BE TWO AND A HALF TIMES MORE THAN THE EMPLOYEE SALARY.
Poor patient relations – If a patient has to return a product that does not suit the intended purpose or their expectations and further delays ensue, no amount of smooth talk in the guise of good customer service will repair their fractured opinion of the practice.
Untrained staff will leave patients wondering, “Do I have confidence in these people?”
If a patient has a bad experience with the practice, they are unlikely to return or recommend the practice to friends and family.
Reputation damage – Worse than not recommending the practice is having a patient negatively review the practice. Most businesses have a Facebook presence where the practice’s reputation is indicated by the number of ‘likes’ recorded. Consumers, and especially disappointed customers (they are probably no longer patients), will not ‘like’ a practice where they’ve had a subpar experience, and they may even register negative feedback. This is the new and very global version of word-of-mouth.
Recruitment costs – In trying to find the right staff, practices incur the obvious costs of advertising, taking time out of the business to select candidates, preparing and conducting interviews, and checking references, in addition to training costs at employment commencement. When the wrong person is hired, this expense and time – which, at first, may have seemed like an investment into future practice success – is compounded.
In this industry, it has never been tougher to find quality staff that will not only have ophthalmic knowledge and exceptional customer service skills, but who also reflect the practice’s values.
Practice owners have established processes for almost every aspect of practice life but recruitment is not usually a common occurrence, so often there is no real recruitment strategy nor a process for hiring staff – a plan of how to attract the right person.
This is one of the most common errors practice owners make when hiring staff. Often there is no clear picture of the type of employee they want to have and whether the new person will reflect the desired image of the practice.
Another ill-considered mistake is the lack of a job description that clearly outlines the job role. The employee’s expectations of what the job entails cannot be assumed to be understood as this can lead to the tail wagging the dog in many respects.
Rushing into a process to find someone – anyone – to ‘mind’ the front of the practice may result in finding an employee who will do the job, but will that person be able to contribute to driving practice growth?
Addressing the issue
Planning is the key to recruiting staff and it’s important to put considered thought into how you see the new employee fitting in with the practice’s image.
Recruit staff with the ability and desire to learn, as their role sees an intriguing clash of administration, retail, health and fashion meeting technology and science. Recruiting the right person is only the beginning, though – training staff also requires planning.
In terms of existing staff, those who are underperforming and untrained will be a constant detriment to practice development. Often the path of least resistance is travelled by employers in this regard, but letting a staff member go is not the
is a consultant and the training facilitator at Spectrum Optical, which offers flexible, customisable training for optical dispensers, assistants and optical receptionists. He also teaches optical dispensing at RMIT and Deakin University.
only answer. Assisting underperforming staff to undertake further training and professional upskilling can often lead to positive outcomes.
Documenting the support offered by the practice through a recommended learning program and creating a level of accountability for self-improvement from the staff member will show that you have made every effort to assist the staff member should they leave.
Embracing staff professional development reduces staff turnover, positively impacts the bottom line and enhances the patient experience. Best practice eye care happens when all practice staff are confident and knowledgeable and can impart important information to patients in a professional manner.
A smooth-running practice needs front-of-house staff to be knowledgeable in this exacting and exciting industry, and once the right team members have been recruited and adequately trained, practice staff will become the practice owner’s greatest asset.