Practice Management News and Views from around the World – January 2010

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Best wishes for a peaceful and profitable New Year

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Making Connections – How to create rapport with anyone in under 30 seconds

by Jeff Mowatt

We all know the power of first impressions. How people perceive us during the first few seconds of an encounter has a major influence on whether they will trust us, be attracted to us, or want to do business with us.

To create a positive first impression, we need to know how to connect immediately with others regardless of their age, gender, ethnic background, mood, or the situation.

Let’s begin by testing your “first impression awareness.” What would you think of the waiter in the following situation? You’re having a business lunch with a potential client. She’s telling you about what she doesn’t like about her current supplier. You’re thinking, “This stuff is gold — please keep talking.”

Suddenly, the waiter comes in and starts his canned speech, “My name’s Mike, I’ll be your waiter. And how are you today? Today’s specials are . . . “

Chances are, your first impression of the waiter would be negative. In fact, that waiter’s speech is a great example of what not to do when meeting someone for the first time. Ironically, he was probably doing just what he was told to do.

Unfortunately, most managers don’t provide competent training for their employees on how to establish rapport. Huge mistake — as we see in the waiter example. Instead, employees are given a script to read. Franchise operations love scripts. They think that this “systematic” approach to dealing with customers is their greatest strength — which is true. It’s also their greatest weakness.

The problem with the canned script approach is that the customer recognizes a script, senses that the employee has no genuine feeling or empathy with what the customer really needs, and therefore does not trust (or in the case of our waiter even like) the employee.

Instead of canned speeches, use a thirty second technique that generates trust, feelings of empathy, and makes people want to do business with you. Unfortunately, there’s been a lot of misleading information out there about this method. Let’s get the real story about how and why you can get such phenomenal results when you properly use technique known as mirroring.

The Mirroring Technique

Mirroring is based on the assumption that we tend to feel comfortable with people who communicate non verbally the way we do. In other words, we are drawn to people when their body language (gestures, tone of voice, facial expressions, eye contact, dress, and so on) is similar to ours.

By the same token, we tend to be “turned off ” by people who’s non verbal language is different than ours. For example, if you are engaged in a quiet conversation with a friend at a party, you will probably perceive the person whose loud, boisterous voice bellows in the background, as being obnoxious.

The great news is we are in control of our nonverbal communication. So to create rapport with others instantly, we merely need to “mirror” their non-verbal communication. That means if the other person talks softly, then you talk more softly. If they lean forward, then you lean forward. If they talk quickly then you do the same. In other words, you ‘mirror’ the other person’s tone of voice and body language.

The only exception is when they are angry. In that situation, you wouldn’t mirror anger; you’d instead mirror concern.

In the case of our waiter, if he’d been trained with the mirroring technique, he wouldn’t have started talking until his customers ceased their conversation and made eye contact with him. Then he would mirror the seriousness of the mood they conveyed, skip the opening canned speech, get directly to the point and ask something like, “Something to drink?”

In this case his customers would have appreciated the waiters businesslike approach and felt good about their choice of restaurant.

There are a few things to keep in mind though when we use mirroring. First, mirroring does not mean “mimicking.” So, if the other person is sitting with arms folded across their chest, you may have yours crossed on your lap. Don’t mirror the person exactly; just similarly. That prevents people from thinking they’re being imitated.

It may come as a relief to know that you don’t have to mirror the other person for longer then a few moments. Once they become comfortable with you, you can actually start leading the nonverbal communication, and then they’ll start following you. So if you have a friend who’s tired or listless you need to start the conversation in a low slow manner. After a few minutes, you gradually pick up the tempo. Your friend will feel so comfortable with you, they’ll naturally do the same. This is great news particularly if you interact with lots of people.

Mirroring is easy and it works. When you use it properly, you’ll improve the impression you make on virtually anyone – regardless of their mood or the situation. You’ll also experience the personal satisfaction of making a stranger feel comfortable. That’s when you begin making truly important connections.

You can click here to visit Jeff Mowatts website

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UK Small Animal Practice for the period to October 2009

UK Small Animal Practice for the period to October 2009

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Focus on your team

by Peter Weinstein, DVM, MBA and Steve Kornfeld, DVM, CPCC

For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack – Rudyard Kipling

Veterinary practices are very much like a pack of wolves, a herd of buffalo, or the Three Musketeers. The success of the practice cannot and must not be dependent upon any one individual.

The Three Musketeers were “all for one and one for all”. The strength of a pack of wolves comes from all the wolves working together to support one another. The strength of each individual wolf within the pack determines the overall strength of the pack.

Similarly, a veterinary hospital is dependent upon all team members working together synchronously to move the hospital forward. The lowest paid and frequently the lightest regarded animal caretaker is the one who makes sure that all the pets go home clean and smelling good. If not, the first one to hear about is the client service representative.

So, the client service reps need the animal caretakers to do their job well. Of course, if the client service reps don’t schedule any animals to come in for baths or boarding or medical care, the technicians and animal caretakers don’t have anything to do. On the other hand, if the client service reps don’t take into consideration the needs of the technicians, doctors, and animal caretakers, they can schedule more animals for services than the team can handle.

If a technician fails to contact a client after a surgery, the client then contacts a client service rep and blames them for the lack of contact. On the other hand, if the technician helps cover the phones or cleans a cage, the efficiency of a receptionist or animal caretaker will improve.

In the above examples, each wolf (veterinary hospital team member) is integrally interwoven with each other wolf (veterinary hospital team member) to form the pack (team) that is able to weather any storm (pet or client problem). No one wolf (veterinary hospital team member) could have survived the storm on their own….it is the strength of the pack that allows for survival.

Don’t forget to recognize the strength of your pack today!!

You can click here to visit the Veterinary Success Services website website

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How do you respond to price queries in your business

by Diederik Gelderman

Do you give them the price (on whatever it is)? Of course you do!

And is that ALL that you give them — just the price? If it is (and in over 90% of all businesses in Australia all the client receives is the Price), then do NOT blame the client for continuing to ring around and check out more price.

By answering JUST the price question — that’s exactly what you forced them to do.

To obtain a better result you need to involve the client in a conversation. You do this by asking them questions so that you can determine EXACTLY what it is that
they need, want and desire and then you can determine EXACTLY how you can deliver exactly that — or you can refer them to someone else who can deliver EXACTLY that.

So train your staff to ask question. You can start with something like this, “In order to help you best — is it okay if I ask you a couple of questions?”.

If they say “No” — then just give them the price and move on.

If they say “Yes” — then ask the questions and show them how helpful, caring and informative you are AND of course give them the price and then ask for the order or the appointment or the booking. Chances are that you’ll get it!

What I can guarantee is this — when you give more information and more help and not just the price, you will get more bookings and appointments and sales.

You can click here to visit Diederick Geldermans website

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Storyboard Your Way to Great Client Experiences

by Jason Canapp

I desperately needed coffee. I couldn’t wait until I got to the office and I didn’t take the time to make it at home. So, that’s how I ended up in the McDonald’s drive-thru this morning.

A woman greeted me in cheerful voice –albeit through the faceless speaker — and her cheerful tone made it seem as if she were smiling at me. Pull forward to the first window — I was right! She was courteous, SMILED, thanked
me and told me to have a great day. I double checked to make sure she got my Splenda request on the ticket — check!

Person at the second window was also cheerful, smiled, thanked me and told me to have a nice day. OK, I’d rather have a great day — but now I’m splitting hairs!

The point is, they were both high-performers by fast food drive thru standards. They even got the Splenda right, which too often doesn’t happen! Why is it, though, that I am delighted when they get my order right? Why am I even more thrilled when they treat me as a valued customer? Because that’s usually not the case.

And it’s not just McDonald’s. I’ve learned to be disappointed and expect poor service just about everywhere I go unless I am paying top-dollar for the experience. Even that doesn’t always work out.

So, there are two lessons to be learned from this. First, assuming you want your clients to have an outstanding experience while at your hospital (which you should!), make sure that the client experience doesn’t vary between staff or between shifts. This means observing the interactions from time to time, asking clients for regular and candid feedback, and ensuring that all of your people are receiving the same training plus understand and appreciate the standards you set for even the most basic client interactions.

The second lesson to learn is how easy it is to wow your clients! Think about the level of service you received the last time you went to your doctor’s office. Were you made to feel at home? Were you treated as a valued customer or just one of the many other names on the sheet you had to sign-in on. How long did you wait? How long were you alone in the exam room? You probably weren’t stunned by their high level of customer service.

It’s even worse if you consider what a visit to the typical human emergency room is like. Your clients are coming into your clinic with pretty mediocre expectations. It takes very little effort to improve on this. And very small improvements can have a dramatic effect on client loyalty. The really difficult part is to make sure your staff is consistently providing a great experience.

One trick is to borrow a page from Disney’s book and have you and your staff storyboard the ideal client experience in various scenarios. Having it play out on a white board or flip chart pages stuck to the wall can help everyone understand what the flow and experience should look like. It’s a lot more effective a written standard operating procedure (SOP). Storyboards also helps everyone realize that they are playing a role in something that is bigger than themselves and their particular situation — they are in a role. When a person knows their role, they are more likely to stay in character.

Storyboarding doesn’t take great artistic skills or fancy software (although that can help make it pretty). Knowing how to draw boxes, words, arrows, and stick figures is all it takes. If you want to put a little more time into it, you can also take photos of staged situations and paste them up on the board. If you like using photos, you can also use story-building tools in Shutterfly to make a photo book. This can result in an elegant and effective training tool.

A low-tech but highly interactive method is to pull a tool out of your 2nd grade art teacher’s toolbox: the collage. Throw a pile of old magazines onto a table and have your staff start clipping away! In teams or individually, ask them to create a collage that represents the ideal client experience in your hospital. Ask them to explain their vision to the group — then use these images as the basis for your ideal storyboard.

Have fun with it!

You can click here to visit Jason Canapps website

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The Power of Thank-You

by Kelley Robertson

When was the last time you thanked your customers?

This often neglected gesture is a very powerful sales tool. As a small business owner, I want to know that the companies I chose to work with appreciate my business. Here are some of the opportunities you have to thank the people around you.

When they place an order or make a purchase of any type. This may sound pretty obvious but my experience has taught me otherwise. Do you remember the last time a retailer thanked you for shopping at their store? Has the cashier at the local grocery store thanked you lately? What about the clerk at the gas station around the corner? How about your suppliers or companies you use to support your business? I use several hotels across the country to conduct my training workshops and some of my sessions are multi-day program which means I can spend several thousand dollars. Yet, I can count on one hand, the hotels who have thanked me for choosing them versus one of their competitors.

When they refer you to another potential client. Much of my business is generated through referrals and I take great pains to thank everyone who refers new potential clients to me. A good friend of mine sent many referrals to an associate yet, the other person did not take the time to thank him or reciprocate. Needless to say, my friend has stopped sending potential clients his way. Simply because he wasn’t thanked.

When they contact you regarding a service issue. Most companies don’t think of thanking customers for complaining. Far too often, business people and employees try to redirect the blame or justify what went wrong instead of thanking their customer for pointing out the shortcoming. However, when people do express their concern with something, they are providing you with a golden opportunity to take corrective action and improve your business.

Shortly after launching my website, a client encountered a problem and received the incorrect item for an online order she had placed. I thanked her because she helped me correct a problem I didn’t know existed.

When they make a payment. This morning, as I wrote this article, I received an electronic card from my personal coach who I work with on a regular basis. She thanked me for the timeliness of my payment and commented how quickly she usually receives payment. This, in turn, made me feel good because I now know that she recognizes this. Her thank-you will encourage me to continue my prompt payment habit. If she uses this approach with all her clientele I’m sure she doesn’t encounter cash-flow problems very often.

When they help you solve a problem. I recently faced a minor problem with one of my clients. I asked one of my key contacts in the organization to look into the matter and in a matter of hours the situation was resolved. Without his help, I might still be dealing with the issue. Assistance or action like this requires recognition and a simple thankyou can go long way to reinforce someone’s behaviour.

When they are loyal. If you have long-term clients it is critical to thank them for their loyalty. We often take these individuals for granted and forget that they, like anyone else, want to feel appreciated for their business. I firmly believe that we should send regular thank-you cards or notes telling people that we appreciate their business. A friend of mine, who also owns a training company, has a thank-you party every year. He invites many of his customers for an evening of dining and entertainment as a way of thanking them. Plus, it gives them a chance to network with other like-minded people, often resulting in the formation of new business relationships.

There are several ways to you can thank someone. You can say thank-you in person. You can call the other person. You can send an email. Or, you can write a note or mail a card. My preference is to send cards because most people receive very few thank-you cards. An inexpensive card with a few handwritten comments can help you stand out from your competition. Plus, many people will keep a card on their desk which keeps your name in their mind. Yes, it takes some time, but the payoff is usually worth it.

One last comment. I know you are busy and like most business people, that your time is precious and more valuable than ever before. Therefore, I want to thank you for taking the time to read this article. I appreciate it!

You can click here to visit Kelley Robertsons website

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