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Profit-boosting ideas welcome at staff meetings

Staff often have good recommendations, particularly for customer service. So to make sure they stay on the lookout for recommendations, practice manager Jackie Arzooyan of Canton Asthma & Allergy in Canton, MI, sets aside staff meeting time for them.

The process is an easy one. When she draws up the agenda for a meeting, Arzooyan includes a question for everybody to think about. Usually it’s tailored to what’s going on at the time. For example, in the winter months the office gets few new patients, so the agenda might point that out and ask “what can we do to increase our referrals?”

Everybody’s responses are documented in the minutes, and if somebody’s suggestion is put into action, Arzooyan announces it at a later meeting and gives the staffer a $25 gift card.

While some recommendations require evaluation and approval from the physicians, for the most part, Arzooyan looks for ideas on “making the office more personable so it stands out from the crowd,” and what staff come up with are “small, usable improvements.”

The practice is 30 years old and already has name recognition, she explains, so the focus is on making patients feel “special” to the point that they refer the office to their friends.

For example, new patients can go to the website and download the forms for the first visit. But one staffer pointed out that many older patients not only don’t use computers but have difficulty filling out the forms. Her recommendation was that when a new patient doesn’t bring in completed forms, the front desk should ask “do you need help filling this out?” and if necessary, sit down with that patient and explain what to do.

Arzooyan finds that besides the benefit the office sees from the recommendations, asking for and using their ideas “brings staff into the marketing.” It gives them a sense of ownership in the office and pride in their work.

The key to keeping the ideas coming, she says, is preparing everybody for them in the agenda and then documenting them in the minutes. Also, when an idea is accepted, it’s added to one of the procedure books, and often the staffer who recommended it is the one who writes out the procedure.

Without that formality, the great idea somebody comes up with at today’s meeting dies right there, and everybody’s logical response is “why bother with this?”

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