If wading through endless sites on the internet looking for the good stuff wears you out, here is a great site that lists quality sites in categories. Alltop.com is a natural followup to the post I published earlier this week about RSS (Really Simple Syndication) or as I like to think of it “Read Stuff Simply.”
Alltop describes itself this way:
You can think of an Alltop site as a digital magazine rack of the Internet. To be clear, Alltop sites are starting pointsthey are not destinations per se. The bottom line is that we are trying to enhance your online reading by both displaying stories from the sites that youre already visiting and helping you discover sites that you didnt know existed. In other words, our goal is the cessation of Internet stagnation by providing aggregation without aggravation.
I really like the idea of a digital magazine rack because I don’t subscribe to magazines anymore (although I do read People when I’m at the “beauty parlor” – yep, my dirty little secret!) I really dislike paying to receive advertisements, which is what I think magazines and television are.
Here is a short, entertaining video on how Alltop works.
Just for fun, I added an Alltop section on the right-hand sidebar on this site. I chose “Leadership,” so the most recent five posts on Alltop under the topic of leadership will now display on my site.
I found an interesting site today by browsing through Alltop. I found Management Craft: Discussions About State of the Art Managementby Lisa Haneberg. Her article “Ideas for the Holidays” offers a variation on an idea I’ve been toying with for my practice – the idea of having a holiday exchange of a different kind. Instead of buying and exchanging gifts, I thought about having an exchange of useful, but no longer needed items. Often, traditional gift exchanges turn out to be disappointing or not everyone wants to participate. Lisa’s articles talks about a book exchange – what a great idea! Have everyone bring in a book or books they have at home and no longer want/need and let everyone exchange during the holiday party. You could theme the exchange to kitchen items, jewelry, art, almost anything! It could even be holiday decorations that you no longer want, or no longer fit in the house that someone else would be thrilled to get. Another alternative is having each person exchange a service – it could be cooking, babysitting, sewing, lessons on home computing, photography, lawn service, anything – in one-hour increments! Instead of a blind exchange, staffers could “shop” at the party for a service they need and give one hour and take one hour.
Anyone else have any interesting holiday party or exchange ideas to share?
I stepped inside an Apple Store last weekend for the very first time, and had an amazing customer service experience. For one thing, the doors were wide open. There may have been detectors at the front door to make sure I didn’t try to steal anything, but I didn’t see them if they were there.
Walking inside I was immediately greeted by an Apple employee. Not an employee standing at a podium or sitting at a desk, but one wearing an orange shirt and a headset who greeted me and asked how she could help me. I explained that I was thinking about a new laptop but didn’t know a lot about Macs. She told me she was the concierge and her job is to match customer needs with Apple store staffers and service. On the very busy saturday that I was there I saw three concierges (conciergi?) Our concierge told us that she would send the next available specialist to us and she asked for our first names. She invited us (Doubting Thomas husband accompanied me) to look at the computers while we were waiting.
At other stores I’ve visited for the purpose of buying electronics, there is one, or sometimes two of each model. You may have to wait a bit to see the model you are interested in if the store is busy and it is not unusual to go through an extensive decision making process only to find the model you want is not in stock. At the Apple store I rounded a large rectangular table twice before it dawned on me that I was looking at six of the same model of computer, and that the next large table had six of another model.
One thing that struck me quite forcefully about the Apple store was that it was so different from I had EXPECTED and had formerly ACCEPTED. We expect and accept wasted time, poor service, poor attitude (the last time I was at a big store I asked the salesperson if he was having a tough day he looked so miserable) and out-of-stock items.
- moving from PC to Mac
- the basics of moving around the desktop and what each of the icons were
- getting the remains of my PC (which passed away after 5 days in the computer hospital) installed onto a Mac
- discussion of what came with the Mac and what would be optional (Office for Mac, Service Plan, Training Package)
- financing options for the purchase
- a question Doubting Thomas had about iTunes
Recap of exceptional customer experience:
- Doors of store were wide open (which I took to mean “welcome.”)
- Greeted immediately by the concierge who was friendly and helpful. She took our names, told us what would happen next, and gave us a great sense of being properly in line for service.
- There were lots of the same computer model to try out and play with – no waiting for a turn to touch the product. All the computers were plugged in and worked.
- A salesperson who seemed to know all the answers waited on us, and brought things to me without me having to make my way to the back of the store to check-out.
Here’s a sample of some sites that I follow and I think have high-quality content. These sites would be ideal to start you off on your RSS feed collection. Still don’t have your RSS feeds set up? Click here for Part One to learn how.
And, please don’t forget the Humor:
Readers: how are you coping with the onslaught of information? Emails, news stories, professional reading, listservs, blogs – it goes on and on. Here’s one technology you should take advantage of to ease the information load, whether you use it for your own knowledge, use it for your practice website to update patients, or use it to see what updates your competitors are making to their websites. Abraham has written a great guide to RSS, what it is and how to get started using it. If you have follow-up questions for him, please leave a comment by clicking at the end of this article.
RSS – Making the Web Work for You
In the past year, I have radically changed the way I surf my favorite web sites. For my writing, information, and entertainment, I check for updates and new info on over 200 websites a day. I like to stay informed, and that’s what it takes. Of course, I don’t read every word of every page – I could never get that done! I skim, I browse, and most importantly, I get the web to do the work for me.
I never type in any of the sites’ addresses or click on a saved bookmark in my web browser. In fact, I don’t even have to check if anything is new. Any time one of my favorite websites adds an update, they notify me automatically, and I can read it, or ignore it and move on. There is a huge volume of potentially valuable information on the Internet, but the savvy consumer has to be able to parse, filter, and mine this info for things that can actually benefit them. I use a simple, free, and easy to use technology to do all of this – and I’m going to teach you to do the same.
The secret is called “RSS”, and these three letters can dramatically change how you use the web. RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication”, and like so many of our new technologies, it’s a powerful tool that’s harder to understand than it is to start using. Once people start using RSS, they love it, but have a tough time telling other people what exactly it is. So here’s my best crack at it:
RSS software (or a RSS web application) is a technology that will notify you every time one of yourfavorite websites has an update, and will automatically deliver the update to you.
Since the website tells me what’s new every 15 minutes, I can very quickly get a grasp on what I do and don’t want, and don’t spend nearly as much time reading things I don’t care about.
What do I need?
You need a way to read RSS feeds. There are several options with pros and cons, but they all work on the same principle, and they will all save you time, and make you better informed.
One of the simplest ways to use RSS is to just read the updates in your web browser. In Firefox 3, when you click on a link to an RSS feed, you are given the option to subscribe to the feed using “Live Bookmarks”, and if you accept, a folder with the name of the RSS feed will go on your “Bookmark Toolbar”. When you click this folder, a menu drops down displaying recent updates for the feed. Microsoft Internet Explorer as has a similar system, where you pull open a separate sidebar to look at the feeds you subscribed to. For users who simply have a few feeds they want to keep track of, these are great ways to start using RSS as soon as you finish reading ManageMyPractice.com.
For users wanting a more customizable and in-depth experience, you might want to try one of several web-based RSS services. One of the biggest and most popular is Google Reader. Google has a lot of practice in making things easy to use and understand on the web, and they do a good job with reading RSS feeds too. It’s all web-based, so you read your feeds on the Google Reader website, and as long as you can remember your password, you can read them on any computer with an Internet connection. Also, on the homepage for new Google Reader accounts, they have a great YouTube video about the service, and what it can do.
What feeds should I read?
You can read whatever you like! See Part Two of this Monday Special for some feeds Mary Pat reads. I like to group my feeds into categories, and read groups of them all at once! I have a category for local news, with happenings and goings on around my city in it. Another folder has national news from the New York Times and Washington Post. Another is for sports feeds, with ESPN, Sports Illustrated, and other sources for info. Another is just interesting feeds that often have thought-provoking stories and pictures…you get the idea. If there’s a website about a topic, chances are great that there are RSS feeds about it as well. Most web pages that have RSS feeds will say so somewhere on the site. Also, newer web browsers will have features to tell you automatically if a web page offers an RSS feed. In Firefox 3 for example, a little orange RSS icon shows up in the address bar when a feed is detected, and clicking on it will give you options to subscribe. And in FeedDemon, you can just type in a site’s address, and it will give you a list of feeds the site offers.
It is becoming increasingly rare for almost any website or blog to not have an RSS feed, so if you read it, you can probably read its feed instead.
Get out there!
This should give you a great start to reading RSS feeds from your favorite website, and more quickly and efficiently digesting the daily Internet flood of info. And remember, if you’re having a hard time explaining to your friends and family what this powerful technology can do,you know where to send them!
- Information can be overwhelming.
- RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is a way to aggregate or gather the sites you care about and have them “push” their updates to you, instead of you having to go pull the information from them.
- Download news reader software. See some suggestions above.
- Start looking for the orange RSS box on websites, click on the box, adding the site to your reader.
- Don’t let your RSS feeds overwhelm you; delete feeds that don’t consistently meet your information and relevance criteria.
- Let us know what feeds you find that you rate as high-quality.
I’ve completed 50 posts since I launched this blog in July, and now is a great time to pause and send out some thanks. I appreciate the help and support of many colleagues and friends, and sincerely thank the readers who are subscribed to my blog via email or RSS.
I love to hear from you – leave a comment or email your ideas, questions, or suggestions for information, resources or topics. I’m listening!
This is the first of what I hope will be many posts from my talented technical consultant, Abraham Whaley. I’ve asked Abe to demystify the technology that is intuitive if you’re under age 30, but Greek to those of us slightly over that age. I can’t repeat enough that I think it’s important for managers to stay current on technology to stay fresh, stay marketable, and be able to translate world technology into technology for your practice.
Abraham welcomes your questions and comments.
Do you like good music?
How do you listen to it?
It seems every few years the electronics companies come up with a faster, cheaper, better-sounding something, and they begin anew the job of convincing us that it’s the ultimate in sonic enjoyment.
But seriously, what is all the MP3 fuss about?
MP3 is a file format. MP3 files have “.mp3″ at the end, so your favorite song looks like “yourfavoritesong.mp3″ on your computer. Just like “.doc” means a Microsoft Word document, and “.exe” is an executable program file, “.mp3″ is a sound file- i.e. music. MP3 files are a way to “compress” sound files. Compression is a common computer technique, where something is packed into a smaller space than in originally fit into in order to make it easier to use, and send to other people. Maybe you’ve downloaded or created “.zip” or “.rar” files for sending over the Internet. MP3 is just a way to make it easier and faster to send sounds to each other.
In order to make the sound file smaller, the programs that compress them find pieces of the sound data that people never hear, or can barely notice, and removes them. For the most part, this doesn’t affect the sound quality- although some sound mavens people heartily disagree! And since most MP3 files tend to be between 5 and 10 megabytes, they’re pretty quick and easy to send in emails, download, and transfer from a computer to a music player.
What can I do with MP3s?
Listen to them! Any part of your life that would be enhanced with a little music can be enhanced with MP3s. First you’ll need something to play your MP3 files. That means either a piece of software that can turn the MP3 file into sound, or a hardware device with that software already on it (ie. an iPod).
The most popular choices for MP3 listening software are iTunes and Winamp. iTunes is the Apple software that comes with the purchase of an iPod- but you can download it regardless and use it for free anyways. Since so many iPods have been sold (more than 150,000,000 as of this March, FYI), iTunes has become the standard in MP3 software for many people. If you’re thinking about buying an iPod, downloading and trying out iTunes is a great way to try the software before you buy the hardware that goes with it. iTunes also allows you easy access to the iTunes Store, where you can buy MP3s of music, audiobooks, and free, Internet radio shows that update and download automatically. Winamp has been around longer, and is a smaller, lighter program- but is still packed with a ton of features.
Also, both software programs allow you to “burn” CDs. Since every song is an individual .mp3 file, you can very easily make custom CDs that have only the songs you want, in the order you want. This was perhaps the most exciting development for me when I discovered MP3s- that I could make my own CDs to listen to in the car or at friends’ houses.
Where can I get MP3s?
First of all, you can make them! Both iTunes and Winamp allow you to (cool slang alert!) “rip” CDs to MP3. “Ripping” is just taking music on a CD and having the computer compress the sounds into MP3 files. Once this is done, the music stays on your computer and you can now play the music on your computer without the CD. You’ve probably just realized another pretty nice use for MP3 files- they can be used to back up your music collection. “Ripping” CDs is completely legal if you own the CD already, or are ripping music that is in the public domain.
Amazon has pricing comparable to the iTunes store, but made headlines by offering “DRM free” MP3 files. DRM (Digital Rights Management) is a way to stop people from sharing MP3s with each other by making them so they only play on certain devices, at certain times etc…But since Amazon offered files without the restrictions, their downloads can be a lot easier to use and enjoy. Apple does offer some, but not all downloads are DRM-free. Buying my first MP3 from Amazon was a delightfully quick experience. I didn’t even have an account with Amazon and in less than five minutes I was enjoying “Wily” by the British reggae band “Greyhound”. Amazon recommends you use their small download manager program, but once you download the program, it’s easy to keep track of the songs you downloaded.
Other services, like Rhapsody and the infamous, but now totally legal and legitimate Napster offer subscription-based programs. For a monthly fee, you can access and download music on your computer, on other people’s computers over the Internet, and onto some, but not all portable music players. The catch is that you aren’t buying the music, you’re paying for the right to access it. So if you decide to cancel your subscription, the music you downloaded doesn’t work anymore.
Additionally, many websites offer free, legal MP3s to download. iTunes usually has a free MP3 of the week, and websites like CNET’s Music.Download.com have plenty of free music that aspiring artists and hopeful record labels have released to get you excited about new songs and albums.
What if I want to take my music wherever I go?
So, you’ve downloaded an MP3 software program, ripped a few CDs (making sure to use the word “rip” to impress your kids), and even found some free MP3s online that you really like. Maybe you even organized some songs you like to regularly listen to into a “playlist” so you can hear your James Brown in the morning to get going and your Jackson Browne in the afternoon to relax. Sadly, you can’t take your laptop on a nice jog and shouldn’t browse the web while driving to work.
It’s time we liberated those MP3s from your computer! This is where a portable, hardware MP3 player comes in. There are a lot of choices to be made for those in the market, so here’s how to cut through the mumbo-jumbo.
First, the numbers. The two main things that a portable MP3 has that set it apart are its storage capacity and its extra features. Most everything else is negligible. Storage capacity is just that- how much music and sound you can store on the player. Storage on players is measured in gigabytes. Now, if we assume for simplicity that most MP3 files are about 5mb (megabytes), we can get a picture of how much storage you need. A gigabyte of storage is roughly 200 songs. So, how many songs do you think you’ll put on a portable player? Are you going to listen to the same music over and over? Probably not. If you have 20 albums that you like to hear, and that’s it, a few gigabytes will be just fine. But if you are always on the hunt for new sounds, you’re going to want a lot more storage. Also keep in mind what else will be on the player- if you want to download movies, then those are much larger files. How about keeping photos on your player? Do you subscribe to any podcasts? The best way to figure out how much storage you need in a player is to start downloading and listening to MP3s so you can get a feel for how you’ll use one, and what you need.
Then there are the extra features. MP3 players are almost like digital pocketknives these days, and you should know ahead of time which tools you want if you’re looking to buy. For example, Apple now makes an iPod that is also a cellular phone (the ubiquitous iPhone), as well as an iPod that can surf the web, and send email but isn’t a cellphone (the iPod Touch). Microsoft’s entry into the market is called the Zune. The Zune has a larger screen, with a more detailed user interface, and some interesting features like the ability to share MP3s between Zune users. If you have a song on your Zune, you can “beam” it to another Zune close by so they can play it too. This feature has a major drawback though- beamed Zune songs are only good for three plays over three days. My neighbor has a Zune, and he loves it. Also, some MP3 players are really more like portable televisions that can also play albums. Examples of these are the Archos 5, and the Cowan O2.
Lastly, if you’re a little overwhelmed by all these choices, I would suggest CNET’s MP3 Player Finder. CNET’s site will ask you some questions, and make some suggestions as to what might suit your needs.
There’s more out there than MP3s!
Don’t limit yourself to just MP3 downloads either. There are a ton of ways to listen to music online, and a ton of different startups trying to “solve” online music. Although I own an iPod, and love finding new MP3s, I also regularly listen to custom radio stations on Pandora, search for songs on Songza and Seeqpod, and I’ve heard great things about MOG, Imeem, and Last.FM.Plus, almost every new college-rock band and aspiring singer has a Myspace page, usually with music to listen to.
On a cautionary note: beware of getting something for nothing. One doesn’t have to look very hard to find illegal MP3s for download. The ethics of copyright law in the digital age entail more discussion than this column has room for, but suffice it to say, the laws regarding copyright are quite real. Do you know anyone whom has had the FBI knock on their door for stealing music? I do. It wasn’t fun for him.
Also, many of the websites that offer these illegal MP3s also offer other things – viruses, spyware, and things your mother wouldn’t approve of on a healthy computer. Be careful, use common sense, and if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Except of course, the goodies at ManageMyPractice.com =).
- Music is good.
- Download free MP3 software.
- Download free or not-free MP3s or load your own CDs onto your computer using the software.
- Make your own CDs or playlists with your favorite songs. (Great holiday gifts!)
- To take it with you, purchase a MP3 player after assessing your style and your needs, and load your music onto the player. 1 gig storage = 200 songs.
- Don’t steal. Your Mama would know.
Have fun out there!
I am writing this post in response to seeing a lot of questions recently about making deposits. (If you are looking for information about making personal bank deposits, go to the top of the page and click on the Lexicon and look for “Bank Deposits.”) Even if you know how to make a deposit, you could copy this post into a word document and with a few changes, use it for a protocol for your office. So, here goes:
- Make sure all mail and checks that you receive are for your practice. It’s easier and less costly to return it to the sender if you catch the mistake on the front end, instead of refunding it after it has been deposited in error.
- Open the mail and separate the checks into four piles: (a) all insurance and other non-patient checks, (b) all patient checks, (c) all correspondence from insurance companies without checks, such as denials, “no-pays”, and requests for additional information, and (d) patient credit card payments.. Run two adding machine tapes each on the insurance check pile and the patient check pile to get an accurate total.
- Some practices receive checks for medical records, depositions, honorariums, call pay, etc. and handle these monies outside of the standard deposit protocol. Other practices handle them as a part of the process and post everything to a patient account or a dummy account specifically for non-service related revenue. Either way is fine if it works for your practice.
- Give the credit card payments to the person in your office who processes credit cards, and have them add these payments to your other credit card payments from over the counter. Once the credit card payments are successfully processed, give them to the billing clerk to post to the patient account on the computer. Be sure to always post patient payments ASAP (over the counter and mail) so patients don’t inadvertently receive a bill from the practice that does not reflect their recent payment.
- Give the insurance company correspondence to a billing clerk to process after stamping the date on each first page.
- If your office is big enough, split the duties between three people of (a) opening the mail and running two matching adding machine totals on the checks, (b) preparing the deposit and running a third matching tape total, and (c) posting the checks. Make sure all adding machines are set to count the number of items and that item numbers match on all tapes.
- Paperclip each check to its documentation. Recycle the envelopes. Some detailed people keep the envelopes with the patient checks until matching the address on the check and on the envelope and on the statement stub in case the patient has moved.
- Stamp today’s date on the paperwork and EOBs (Explanation of Benefits) that accompany the insurance checks. Give the EOBs and one tape to a billing clerk to post.
- There are two schools of thought at this point. One school believes that no check should be deposited without first posting it to the patient’s account in the computer. A second school (to which I belong) believes that the money should go right into the bank, and post the payments to the accounts within 2 business days.
- Some offices have the technology to scan all deposits and all EOBs, and some offices will choose to photocopy checks to use as reference documents. Some banks offer online images of deposited checks. Refer to my post on lockboxes and remote deposits for other options.
- Separate all insurance checks from their EOBs and stamp the back of the check (on the correct end) with your bank deposit information. Separate the patient checks from the statement stubs and stamp the back of the checks with your bank deposit information. Give the statement stubs to a billing clerk to post the patient payments, checking first that the information on the stub and the check match, including the amount paid.
- Deposit slips are carbonless and each deposit uses a set of two slips: one goes to the bank and one stays in the book. Look in the back of the book for the piece of cardboard that you use to slide behind the two slips to keep the writing from bleeding through.
- Date the deposit slip. If you happened to have received cash in the mail, add the total of the cash where indicated on the slip. Run a third adding machine tape for the insurance checks and the patient checks, verifying the correct amounts, and fill in a total for each category (I do not recommend you list each check separately!), totaling at the bottom of the page, and filling in the number of items. Most deposit slips also have a place to fill in the total on one side of the deposit slip.
- Most banks charge by the number of deposits, so it is typical to make one large deposit, regardless of the number of checks in the deposit. Tear the top copy of the deposit slip off, put it on top of the checks, paperclip or rubber band the stack together and take it to the bank.
- Once you’ve made the deposit, bring the receipt back and tape it on the back of the deposit slip copy in the deposit book. Enter the amount of the deposit into your accounting system (Quickbooks, Peachtree, Great Plains, etc.)
- Rest until tomorrow’s mail arrives
Note: smaller or larger offices may use a simplified or a more sophistocated version of this process. Feel free to comment and let me know how you do it!
Do you listen to podcasts? They’re little stories for grownups; small blocks of info that you can listen to while you’re doing almost anything. I remember story time in elementary school so well. The classroom lights would be off, and we would put our heads down on our desks. I remember one nun had the most beautiful reading voice; I would wait all day for storytime.
Podcasts are one way you can feed yourself information or ideas, get continuing education credits, or just relax while someone reads to you. Some people listen to podcasts as they’re falling asleep, and others listen while they’re exercising. Even though the podcasts I’m describing here are for professional enlightenment, you can find podcasts on just about any topic you choose.
Here are a few podcast sites for healthcare managers, and one for managers in general. You can listen by clicking on the website, or if you want to listen away from your computer, you can load it onto your iPod or other MP3 player.
SoundPractice has podcasts abstracted from The Journal of Medical Practice Management (both available from Greenbranch Publishing) as well as interviews with “health leaders and interesting people involved in the American health care system.”
Manager Tools just won Best Business Podcast Award for the third year in a row. The producers of the podcasts recommend new listeners start with Manager Basics that cover core principles that underly the Manager Tools philosophy. A comment from the producer was, “…healthcare management is the hardest management job in the worldif Manager Tools works there (and it does, say our healthcare clients), it will work anywhere.”
P.S. I checked the MGMA/ACMPE website to see if continuing education credits are available for podcasts, but it wasn’t clear. If anyone knows, would you leave a comment and let me know?
From today’s US News & World Report:
This is the fourth year that U.S. News and the National Committee for Quality Assurance, managed care’s major accrediting and standards-setting body, have teamed up to rank healthcare plans. We release the rankings during open-enrollment season, when millions of Americans prepare to select their healthcare coverage for the next year.
How were plans rated?
The rankings … show how well plans do at preventing and treating illness and providing consumer services to members.
How is consumer service defined?
(Measures) …included members’ opinions about the ease of making appointments and getting care, doctors’ ability to communicate effectively, and satisfaction with claims handling.
I find these measures particularly interesting as only “satisfaction with claims handling” is a measure of the plan. “Making appointments” and “doctors’ ability to communicate effectively” are services provided by the participating physician, unless the physicians are employed by the plan. I would like to see measurements of plans be more along the lines of:
- clarity of plan details communicated to subscribers and physicians;
- ability of plan agents to communicate with consumers and physician offices about routine issues and priority issues;
- ability of the plan to provide the physician office (preferably electronically) with pre-authorizations and pre-notifications for services, procedures, surgeries, and implants in a timely and efficient manner. These functions, which are very critical to getting patients needed services in a timely and efficient manner, are not usually considered to be a part of the claims handling process.
- ability of the physician offices to obtain (electronic) information on individual plan benefits by subscriber or beneficiary OR electronic adjudication of the patient’s visit that day;
- ability of the payer to provide the physician office with info for giving patients real quotes on tests, therapies, procedures and surgeries so that patients can make informed decisions about the cost of their care prior to having a service.
I know that to measure this, the plans would have to collect data from the physician offices (and some do), and publish this (none do that I know of.) Kudos to any plans doing this (and write to me and tell me if they/you are) because it acknowledges that the physicians are stakeholders and are a critical part in satisfying consumers.
Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) recently sponsored a survey ..” to assess group practice professionals’ attitudes concerning payers in all 50 states.” Members who participated will receive a copy of the survey for responses from their state.
More on NCQA:
NCQA is a private, non-profit organization whose mission is to improve health care quality. The organization measures and reports on various aspects of performance and offers a range of accreditation and certification programs for different entities and individual physicians. Visit them online at NCQA.org.
Today I had to run to the drugstore to get a bunch of cough drops and cold medicine and some microwave chicken noodle soup for my husband, who has a nasty cold. I ran in, grabbed a bunch of stuff and juggled it in my arms (not taking the basket as always because I’m only getting a few things) and unloaded at the cash register. Not only did the cashier search through the Walgreen’s circular because she was sure there was a coupon for something I was buying, but another Walgreen’s employee came up to me, took a handful of coupons from her smock, and found two more for items I had on the counter. Between them, the two clerks saved me almost $3.00!
Neither one of the clerks had to help me in the way they did. I had no expectation that I would get to use coupons because I was in a hurry to get in, get out, get back home to ditch the stuff for my husband, and head back out to work. These Walgreen’s ladies thrilled and delighted me by offering me more than 10% off my bill, and I felt they wanted me to get the discount. If Walgreen’s instructs employees to help customers this way, they are brilliant. If the Walgreen’s in my neighborhood has a manager that promotes customer service, I commend him or her. If these ladies are the creators of this customer service ethic, I bow to their excellence.
What could be better than a customer service surprise? Something you didn’t require, or expect, but certainly appreciate. What could you do to create this in your practice?
- Validate parking on a special day (election day, the practice’s anniversary, veterans day, etc.) for a location where patients usually have to pay to park.
- Provide information on local pharmacies so patients can easily find the closest pharmacy to your office, or find a pharmacy that delivers. This could go hand-in-hand with helping patients to find the pharmacy with the lowest price for their prescription (see my post on getting started.)
- Send new patients an email thanking them for coming to your practice and making sure they know how to get back in touch with the practice if they have any questions or concerns. Most practices may not be ready to open this door, but I suggest you be one of the first and set the pace for your competitors.
- I suggest you take down the signs saying “no cellphones”, and recognize that patients are trying to multitask and get things done in exactly the same way that we are. Invite loud cell phone talkers to step outside and give them a pager to call them when you’re ready for them. Meet patients on their terms.
- What are your ideas?