Last week I traveled to Melbourne for all things Purple Co.  It’s not the first time I’ve been to Melbourne, in fact we know that Melbourne is one of the world’s top 10 Liveable cities .  I’ve always enjoyed travelling to Melbourne for work.  Apart from great food and wonderful coffee, transport has always been easy.

Except this time.

I rode the red bus from the airport to Southern Cross station and history tells me that once I get to Southern Cross station, getting to my hotel won’t be difficult.

Until this time.

There was an offer of a free shuttle bus to my hotel, however after 40 minutes of waiting no bus had arrived and it was explained to me with the shrug of the shoulders from the bus operator, that he did not know when the bus would arrive.  That was not helpful. However, it didn’t annoy me after all it was free, and when things are free there is often some sense of a “catch”.  I didn’t want to wait for a bus that might arrive, any longer.

I walked to the taxi rank where there were 5 people waiting for taxis.  Now with the rise of Uber and other ride sharing in Australian capital cities, what I am about to share with you might be such a surprise – but then this is the Taxi industry so maybe it won’t surprise you at all.

We waited.

We watched Taxi’s drive by.

And then, we had a taxi pull into the rank, wind down the window and yell across the passenger seat that he could take a passenger “up the road” as far as the Taxi interchange and that was all.  The 5 of us were all from out of town and to be honest I had no idea if the Taxi Interchange was in the direction of my hotel.  Before I could even reference Google maps on my smart phone he was gone.

There was still 5 of us.

Then the 2nd Taxi came and did the same thing.  He however explained to us that it was “change of shift” so we were lucky that he stopped at all.  I wasn’t feeling so lucky.  I pointed out to him that there were 5 different fares available and surely, he could call some of his colleagues to help us out given it was dark, the traffic was incredibly busy and we were all becoming rather annoyed.  But nope, he took off without even offering to take any of us anywhere.

Can you imagine the words now being used by those of us waiting…

By now I was really annoyed and so I got out my trusty Uber app. I then proceeded to teach the 4 people at the rank how to do the same thing.  While we were all downloading the Uber app and uploading payment details (which is like the easiest thing to do) another Taxi driver drove in to share with us the good news “no one will stop for you until after 7.30pm” and that “the traffic is crazy so it will be a long time before they come”.

We smiled and pretended like we cared, by now all 5 of us had our own personal Uber divers within a 2 minute radius to take us all where we needed to go.  We had all confirmed our prices and you know what – the traffic wasn’t so bad because none of us got hit with the Levy indicating a higher volume of people wanting to use the service. Uber 5-Taxi 0.

My Uber driver called me on his way, he was a bit concerned that I was asking him to pull into a Taxi rank because apparently the taxi drivers are quite protective of their turf – I calmly explained what had just occurred and personally stated I would handle any issues that might arise from pulling into the rank.  I seriously doubted any taxi drivers really cared given it was change of shift and the traffic was busy.

I watched 3 of the other ex-taxi customers get into their personal Ubers and drive away.

My diver greeted me with a smile and an unopened bottle of water.   And he didn’t care that my hotel wasn’t too far away because the fare had already been agreed to.

Why tell you this story? 

Like the Taxi Industry health professionals have a massive problem when it comes to managing the intersection between compliance and customer service.  Between following rules and procedures and customer service.  The GAP is huge and it’s turning clients away from working with us.

We have so many rules we need to obey, then there is registrations, credentialing and ethics.   Then we have internal processes, policies and procedures.  What happens too many times, is that clients get missed in our desire to be professional, to remain complaint and to follow all the rules.  Even the rules that don’t help the clients.

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Now I am NOT for one moment suggesting that we should not be registered, or hold ourselves to a much high ethical standard.  That is NOT what I am saying.

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What I am suggesting here however, is how many times do we miss an injury; a cry for help; a new client, a contract with a large organisation because we are too focused on rules, procedures and the right way of doing things.

How many times have you said or heard things like

  • Mr Smith‘s crisis will have to wait until his next appointment because his report isn’t completed.
  • Ms Brown will just have to wait for that piece of mobility equipment until I have funding approved, the request for which hasn’t been submitted yet.
  • Mr Jackson can’t book weekly sessions 5 weeks in advance because the EHR doesn’t work like that.
  • Mrs Paterson can’t pay using cash because we don’t take cash anymore.

I know in my clinical practice Purple Co there have been times when I have felt like I could not breathe on account of all the rules that have to be obeyed before a client can receive timely and necessary services.  I get that we need governance, I get that we need to hold ourselves to a high standard, but our clients and our customers DON’T get it for them it’s just an unexpressed expectation.  Clients simply want

  • Their pain taken away.
  • To feel safe and cared for.
  • To know that we are reliable and can be trusted.

I can’t tell you how many times a client has thanked me for treating them like a person and not a claim number.

Unfortunately, compliance driven service provision largely ignores the needs of client as the customer.  Our client’s (who are our customers) have a lot of choice and come to us very well informed (if not accurately informed), about how they want their treatment or intervention to progress.  How foolish do we look when we throw up some comment about a piece of paper, or a EHR glitch or “I don’t know how you can pay” type of statement.  We are better than that.

We as an industry need to get much, much better at navigating this intersection between compliance and customer service.

Here are 5 ways I have sought to make a change within Purple Co to make sure that we don’t become redundant, unnecessary and unprepared because we have an over focus on compliance.

  1. A foundational value of Purple Co is excellence in customer service.  Everything we do is to meet this value statement, which means that our systems for managing compliance support our commitment to customer service.
  2. We will always inform our clients of any restrictions, time-lags etc that may occur because of a third-party payer or funder. This is a conversation that is often needed to be repeated throughout service delivery, however we want to partner with clients and customers and not triangulate anyone.
  3. If a piece of equipment is low cost and is not contraindicated, we will simply purchase it and seek reimbursement for the funding body.
  4. When we visit a GP or a medical specialist we will pay for the Consultation first and then seek reimbursement.
  5. If we can’t give a client a document or a report we have written, then we explain why and the given them the details of how they can go about obtaining the document they are requesting.

We all have the opportunity to become the Uber of our industry.  We all have some sense that things need to be done differently.  Many of us went into private practice because we wanted the freedom to do things our way.

So, let’s not lose our nerve, don’t become a Melbourne Taxi of the health care industry.

Interested in knowing how I could help you make some customer service changes in your practice?    Book in for a free discussion here and let’s see how I can help.

About Jo

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Jo is passionate about private practice.  Her goal is to help clinicians build successful, sustainable and profitable businesses that serve their life goals.  Jo is a speaker, trainer and coach who  empowers clinicians to engage with those they are best positioned to serve.  A healthy, vibrant clinician, will create healthy vital clients.

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