Sunday, December 22, 2013

Applications: Sun Tzu's "Art of War"

This post is a follow up from my Martial Arts Musings. This follow up post continues for a series which I've labeled in the sidebar appropriately under "martial arts." This particular post focuses upon highlight excerpts and my own reflections from Sun Tzu's Art of War. The follow up to this post will feature Musashi's Book of Five Rings.

From my last post, I concluded that, for myself, all martial arts have merit to study so long as they meet these three criteria/principles:
  • The system must be biomechanically sound (it must make sense)
  • The art must employ and value efficiency of movement (it really cannot be "flashy")
  • The training must yield situationally adaptable skill sets (it needs to work in the vast majority of possibilities, environments, and scenarios)

For this post, I'm going to center around the writings of Sun Tzu. Thousands of years ago, the most famous Chinese military strategists, Sun Tzu, compiled content for which the "Art of War" was composed. This book contains topics and tactics for which are readily applicable not only to war and martial arts - this book spans wisdom into social psychology, economics, politics, and business.

Here begins a collection of my favorite quotes and content from Sun Tzu with some commentary from yours truly:

Favorite Quotes from Sun Tzu's Art of War

"Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without peril. If you are ignorant of the enemy and know only yourself, you will stand equal chances of winning and losing. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you are bound to be defeated in every battle."

I find this to be one of the self-evident and classic of Sun Tzu's writings. How true it is, whether in the world of martial arts, business, politics, or even customer service (not necessarily seeing the customer as "the enemy" but the problem set of satisfying the customer as "the enemy) - self awareness and situational awareness are the keys to success. Particularly when it comes to customer satisfaction, the firm providing the service must be very keen on being sure they are providing what they customer wants, not necessarily what the firm wants to provide.

"There is no fixed pattern in the use of tactics in war, just as there is no constant course in the flow of water. He who wins modifies his tactics in accordance with the changing enemy situation and this works miracles."

Being adaptable; fluid; amorphous, yet determinant - aren't these also of pivotal importance in life? If we are stuck in our ways, we will become stuck in rough terrain. If we do not change with the situation, the situation will overwhelm us. SO MUCH APPLICABILITY to our current times of healthcare economics. 

"There are five weaknesses of character for a commander. If he is stubborn and reckless, he may be deceived and killed. If he fears death more than anything else, he may be captured. If he is hot tempered, he may be provoked. If he is honest but has too delicate a sense of honor, he is open to insult. If he is too compassionate towards his people, he may be easily troubled and upset."

I feel that this quote is very telling for all levels of management. If anything, this quote tells us how to position ourselves against our "enemy" - but more importantly - how to position ourselves that we might not get manipulated by those who have studied the Art of War.

"If the enemy is close at hand and yet remains quiet, he is relying on the natural strength of his position; if he is at a distance and yet provokes you, he is luring you to advance; if he positions himself on level ground, it is because he has some advantage... If his emissaries sound humble and yet he steps up his readiness for war, he plans to advance; if their language is belligerent and they put on aggressive air, he plans to retreat..."

I just love this quote. How true! This should bring particular light to business dealings. Or, perhaps, if you enjoy a flutter at poker. #KeepItInMind!

"There are five factors leading to constant victory: A commander who has the trust of his sovereign and can direct his battles independently wins; one who knows the way of war wins; one who has the support of his soldiers wins; one who can unite his subordinates wins; and one who is adept at analyzing the enemy and sizing up the terrain wins."

This is a great expansion on some of the situational factors in warfare, and, in any business dealing. If a corporate structure is untrusting of line staff, the staff will get frustrated. If line staff do not respect nor like their managers, a department will eventually fail. This is true also for the team leads, shift leads, etc. which serve under their managers - much like the NCO's of our current world military systems.

"There are five factors leading to frequent defeat: A commander who is constrained by his sovereign loses; one who does not know the way of war loses; one who is at cross purposes with his generals loses; one who does not know how to use spies loses; and one who does not have the support of his soldiers loses."

I feel the lesson here is that when any level of management micromanages the tier below, it spells T-R-O-U-B-L-E. All lines and levels of business should be appropriately empowered to deal with their own frontline issues. I believe Ritz Carlton allows their line staff levity up to $1000 of value for service recovery until a supervisor needs to be informed/approve further value options. The line about "the spies" tells me that those who do not know how to acquire nor process information are lost - you will know nothing about your enemy.

Regarding Strengthening the Army:
King - "What then is the most crucial (to strengthening the army)?"
Sun - "Make the country prosperous."

"Against an enemy superior in number, it is possible to divide it into pockets so that they are unable to help each other... it is possible to make the well-armed troops unable to fully display their power, to make the courageous and fierce soldiers unable to protect their generals... Once you have exhausted the enemy and demoralized his generals and soldiers, then you are sure of victory. You can attack his right flank while tying down his left flanks so that it cannot come to the former's rescue, and vice versa. Then the enemy will find that his troops have been immobilized and cannot fight a battle, that he has few troops close by to meet his needs and the other forces have been distanced far away, rendering them useless to him..."

Bigger doesn't always mean better. Better means better. I feel this quote helps me during situations when the task seems insurmountable. Recalling that I can tie down the flanks (an item/facet/variable) of the situation allows me to deal with the mass of the situation at large. When the situation no longer remains a moving target, it becomes quiet easy to deal with.

Regarding Five Types of Army:
"There are five types of army: 1) powerful and tenacious, 2) arrogant and imperious, 3) head-strong and self-willed, 4) timid and suspicious, and 5) weak and hesitant.

When up against a powerful and tenacious enemy, appearing to be weak and await your chance. When faced by the arrogant and imperious, appear to be respectful and find an opportunity to eliminate him. When tackling the headstrong and self-willed, overcome him by inducement. When handling the timid and suspicious, threaten his front, harass his flanks and cut off his supply line by digging deep gullies and building high ramparts. When tackling a weak and hesitant enemy, frighten him with an uproar, disturb him with probes, set on him should he ever dare come out and encircle him if he doesn't."

Sun Tzu opened up his book with his famous quote: "All warfare is based on deception." This is an expansion of wisdom surrounding that opening statement. Again, I feel this is a big point of knowing yourself as well as your enemy. These are things you can do to subdue an opposing force; these are also ways you can, yourself, become subdued - be aware!

"An army will end in ruin if it hesitates when favored with excellent conditions, if it does not know how to make timely use of opportunities and if it realized its mistakes but does not know how to act correctly."

All too often, people hesitate at the moment of truth. When sparring, I'm certainly guilty of it - so many missed opportunities if I just wasn't mentally worried about "What if this doesn't work? I'll lose my position... THEN, I'll have to struggle the rest of the match." Additionally, if things are going wrong, one must develop the awareness to reverse the course swiftly and avoid disaster.

Closing Thoughts:
I gather that much of Sun Tzu's writings have much to do with a keen application of military strategy, martial arts, political science, economics, and psychology in the form of having a heightened levels of awareness of the situation, yourself, and your opponent. All three elements are required to ensure success and all three elements are equally important - one cannot just rely upon the single dimension. I feel that much of the wisdom written by Sun Tzu has amazing applications in business - particularly in business negotiations and in advanced marketing concepts - primarily in branding a service (which is quite a difficult thing to do).

I hope you've enjoyed this martial arts musing post and look forward to any stimulation discussion that sprouts. Take care!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Service Experience Value Statement

No matter how much we want to avoid it, the healthcare industry has been and will always remain a service industry; a place where humans practice the care of, compassion for, and satisfaction fulfillment of others.

What the consumer cares about is not necessarily about the number of minutes of service delivered, the ir clinical outcomes, performance efficiency, etc. They care about the service experience itself. Key questions such as:
  • Am I satisfied?
  • Did I wait long?
  • Did I receive the outcomes desired/expected?
  • Were the explanations of service satisfactory?
In my time, I've been given the opportunity to be a part of several service branding initiatives in large and small organizations alike. What I've noticed is that nearly all organizations look to their industry top performers for guidance; as a model of what "perfection" can and should be like.

On a quick aside: I've always found it curious that many firms rarely seek out the goal of surpassing their professional mentors - and - that it is indeed, those industry leaders that have held those intentions and maintain their resolve that become the veritable "king of the hill."

For this post, I'd like to share some of the best service experience tenets I've come across - and - I'd also like to share a case study in how such principles can be used to rebrand through the service experience itself.

Service Expectations

1. Customer Acknowledgement
Perhaps there is nothing more important than a proper "Hello." Also, there is probably nothing more annoying to customers than employees bustling about when you are obviously in that "deer-in-headlights-lost-need-help" posture, and... they are IGNORING YOU. Engaging your customer at the first possible point of contact is a great way of communicating through actions that they are "numero uno!" This, rather simple and obvious, first step is the key to setting the tone for the entire service experience. And yet, this basic tenet of customer service is perhaps the most commonly botched concept by so very many companies.

2. Service Introduction
The service introduction simply that - an introduction. It should only cover the "what" aspect of the service. A brief summary of what is about to happen - that is all. There should be no elements discussed as to the who, when, where, why, and/or how... that's all for later. This is a critical moment where you set the tone of the service experience past the point of customer acknowledgement. If the customer wants to know more, you can assure them that all those questions will be answered by *insert name here* in a quick, short while.

The reason you do NOT want to go into too much detail in this moment is a purposeful tactic; by simply letting the consumer know of the Reader's Digest version of "what" the service is about to be, the provider delivers the focus of the experience which then pervades into the customer's immediate psyche. It is a great tactic to prevent any derailing or hijacking by easily distracted consumers.

Example: "Hi Mr. Smith. I'm Dr. Fung, your physical therapist - I understand we'll be taking a look at your knee pain."

Notice that I won't talk about the special tests I'll perform, the movement analysis, the history I'll take, or any other elements in the service itself. I just want to set the tone that today, this service is all about Mr. Smith's knee pain.

3. Defining the Experience
This is where you take your time in answering all pre-service delivery questions & concerns. This is also where you define not just the detailed "what"... you also want to carefully define "who" is providing/receiving the service, "when" the service will occur and the time frame of the occurrence, "why" the service will be delivered in the manner described, "where" they can expect the service(s), and "how" said service will be rendered.

Make sure you define the boundaries of the service expectation so that the experience isn't perceived as inadequate or as an unwelcome surprise. This is also a good time to discuss alternatives; ie. if the customer is able to bail out if they get nervous, what the financial implications may be, etc.

Perception is reality; defining the expectation is a great way to make the perception positive from the get go while strengthening the focus of the customer's perception on precisely what you want it to be keyed in upon.

4. The "Thank You"
I'm a big believer in ending strong. Just as strong movies with bad endings leave a mediocre taste, and, mediocre movies with strong endings leave a fairly good taste - the same goes for the emotional content during the completion of a service experience.

Since satisfaction is a highly emotional construct, it is important to end strong. Thanking your customers for their patronage should go beyond the auto-tuned "Thank you for coming!" The "Thank You Moment" needs to also incorporate a short summary of what they are thankful for. This is an excellent time for quickly going over home programs, exercise prescriptions, etc. with the intent of impressively conveying how much was done during the service - and - also leaving them with that satisfied buzz of wanting to come back for more.

Additionally, a very sincere and emotionally positive "Thank You" is a great way of harnessing the power of cognitive dissonance. Subtly reminding patrons that they chose you over your competitors is a clever way of cementing in the emotions of: "Hey! I *made* this choice." Since cognitive dissonance would make the average bear be less than inclined to point out they made a mistake in the choice of service (ie. choosing you over someone else *wink*), the logical thought would be to focus on the post-choice bias and ruminate on all the positive elements of the service experience. There's no way *I* made the "wrong" choice - this was the right choice! Let's validate this choice internally by focusing on all the satisfying elements of the service experience I received.

In the same vein, the consumer is then, more likely to dismiss any points of dissatisfaction as industry norms which would be found at any other competitor. Besides, *they* (the consumer) made the right choice in choosing you... right? Of course, now, you're thinking of all the quasi-satisfying consumer choices you made... how many were less than satisfying, but, you convinced that you were indeed satisfied? If you're human - quite a bit, is my guess.

Rebranding Through Service Experience - A Case Study
San Diego is the birthplace of Rubio's, a hometown pride and a personal favorite, Mexican cuisine of choice. Rubio's is famous for their Original Fish Tacos and healthy mix menu delivered with quick service. Haven't heard of them? Well... they are primarily here in the southwest. Nevertheless, they have over 90k Facebook Likes and almost 8.5k Twitter followers.

Oh... and: NO. I am not receiving any type of royalty, or benefit thereof, for this part of the post. I just love their food - and - their new found service brand.

So how did this all start? Well, Rubio's restaurants originally owned the brand image of a clean, Mexican take-out with the specialty of fish tacos. There really wasn't any service. It was your typical grab and go place; a taco shop... not so much a sit down environment. It was affordable, quick, clean, and easy. That was their brand.

Recently, Rubio's started to spruce up their chains. The one that I'm a most loyal patron of, began to use actual silverware and plates - rather than plastic utensils and cardboard dishes. Additionally, they began a revamping on the internal image of their stores. They made for artistic backgrounds, improved music selections, cleaner bathrooms, new tables and chairs, bar seats, new paint, and a very welcome serve-yourself-salsa bar. Oh, yes..! Smile big! They also serve beer now. But, is this the rebranding I'm talking about? Certainly not, this was just the skin deep expression of things already in motion.

While the image of each shop is quite important to the brand, we've all "been there before" - some place with great internal elements with awful food and even worse service. Rubio's did not fall into that trap. Instead of having your number or name called for you to come get your food, this Rubio's branch began to have patrons sit down with the food brought to them. Only take-out customers would have their names called. Even then, team members were encouraged to recognize and REMEMBER which patron ordered which dishes.

The high impact changes occurred when, Rubio's team members began a regular system of (non-intrusive) rounding on the dine-in customers. A number was given to each party, and the number was not to be removed until the entire dining experience was completed. Patron who were accustomed to the former etiquette of self serve & bus were kindly interrupted on their way to the trash cans by Rubio employees who would offer to complete the task of cleaning up. Should a party seem to be just a tad bit hungrier than expected, chips were commonly served on the house.

This Rubio's branch was also very active with reaching out to the immediate community; offering all sorts of sampling and dining specials to which customers got to vote in their favorites to be added as part of the menu (which is fantastically congruent with critical rebranding concepts - making your consumers part of the new idea). Not only are these special offers free - they are a regular occurrence. And! Not only are these special a regular occurrence, I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Ralph Rubio in person - only to find out later that I met him years ago - apparently, I went to the same secondary school as his children did some time ago. Surprised me too!

Perhaps the element of this service experience that affected me most as a marketing guy is the fact that team members are encouraged to add their own personality into the work environment. Part of this is getting to know the regular customers. This is something I did not expect from a large chain like Rubio's. You figure, you go to a big chain like this - people are working to work, it's not the most serious or invested job in the world. Right? Wrong!! These team members got to know me; who I was, what I did for a living, and even got to watch the process of my family expand - they would constantly ask me how my wife's pregnancy was going. When my son was born, they would ask me how my boy was doing. Incredible stuff!

This particular branch (among others) changed their brand image from a take-out-taco-shop into an finer-higher-end dining experience. Much of this had to do with the servicing. The service experience re-branding was successful because the focus was more than just the appearance of the shop. The focus was the level and quality of interaction between the Rubio employee and the customers they serve. These actions and employee behaviors created the brand elevation into a classy (and affordable) sit-down environment with the convenient option of take-out now positions Rubio's as both a great place to grab & go as well as sit and enjoy. Although improving the appearance of their restaurants certainly played a part of this, the real magic occurred during the renovation process.

Patrons already began to change their own expectations of the Rubio's dining experience as the employee's behaviors changed prior to the physical remodelings. Moreover, business got better and better before the aesthetic improvements because the service got better first. When the service got better, the funds to create improved cuisines were available. THEN the funds to remodel the exterior to match the intrinsic service experience was ready as the finishing touch to the new service experience brand.

Closing Thoughts
The service experience value statement is a power piece in chess game of business. It can be changed, modified, re-created, re-imagined, and delivered in a manner which is so powerful it can easily be harnessed to rebrand a business. The crux of the issue is consistent training, delivery, and accountability of employee behavior. Service is a professional behavior. However, the culture of service runs deeper; culture is identity and is an existential facet of working life. Making service valuable? That's the art of business administration.

Moreover, value, in and of itself, can be a brand. Want an example? Look no further than fine watches for gents - Rolex, Omega, Tag Heuer, Cartier, Mont Blanc... just to name a few. They all tell time. Sure some are jewel encrusted and made of gold - but they all tell time. For these products, the perceived value (material, social, fashion, etc.) is the brand. In the service industry, the experience is everything - the service experience is the brand and it is being measured with by every passing customer.

If you want a strong and unique brand in the service industry, things must be done differently - better, faster, more quality, more quantity. Do it this way across an entire discipline, you have a new brand amongst the profession at large.

My question to my fellow physical therapists: how do *you* want to reshape the way we service our customers? Perhaps, more importantly, how do *THEY* want to be serviced? In these questions hold the answers to the real answers of solving the problems in our profession.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Another Disney Post: Learning Retail Smarts

On a recent Physiospot Voices post: Business Opportunities: Services versus Products, I mentioned the need for physical therapists to move into the business of researching, developing, marketing, and selling products. This post is a partial follow up to that post filled with gleaned wisdom from my most recent visit to Disneyland.

Oh! If you're interested in my previous Disney posts, look no further!

Learning Retail Smarts from Disney
I've always been a big believer that if you are to learn anything, learn it from the best. Disney is perhaps one of the best companies out there when it comes to customer service and retailing. Specifically, Disney excels at turning the retail experience into one of welcome entertainment and gleeful spending. Their secret: set your products up for success! It sounds so simple... so easy... so matter of fact / common sense. And, yet - why is it so difficult for just about any other retail enterprise?

Well, after another trip to Disneyland, I decided to pay careful attention to the specific retail practices which Disneyland employs. Additionally, I made note of what commonalities every retail location had in common. This is what I found out:

Disney retail is always linked to the Disney brand
It didn't matter which store you were in: the Buzz Lightyear store, any store on Main Street, the Bippity Boppity Boutique, even the "Sword Store" next to Peter Pan, in close vicinity to the "Sword in the Stone" attraction - ALL Disney retail locations served to link it's content, design, culture, and service experience to the Disney brand. One of the strongest examples of this is the Star Trader at the exit of Star Tours.

A most popular collectible, now on its third series, is the Disney Star Wars Vinylmations. Blending the figure of Mickey Mouse with the visual design of popular Star War characters, Disney has been effectively linking Disney & Star Wars far before Lucas sold the rights to the Walt Disney Company.

Such products serve to not only strengthen the specific themes of each attraction or area of Disneyland, it also reinforces and EXPANDS the brand at large - seriously increasing market share. This is an area for which some physical therapists seem to struggle; there seems to be a sense of disdain to be associated with another setting of practice - as if "those" PT's shouldn't be related to "you". There's this climate of fear; fear of being blended into generalities. However, the broad generality is what comprises the strength of Disney: Star Wars, Avengers, Pirates, Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, the train station, Toy Story... they are ALL Disney. Unity will always be more powerful.

Disney + Star Wars Blend

Star Wars Potato Head 

Classic Mickey Mouse Hat blended with R2D2 (even the ears are formed in the geometrics of the Death Star!!!)

Even Star Wars Angry Birds! Talk about brand expansion and explosively penetrating ranges of market shares.

Disney retail is themed by the attraction
Alluded to in the point above, each store at the end of each attraction is specifically themed to reinforce the attractions importance. At the end of Pirates of the Caribbean, there is a large store where you can buy pirate toys. Across the exit of the Indiana Jones Adventure is a large store full of paraphernalia for which you'd expect an adventurer to wield. After exiting the Haunted Mansion or Tower of Terror, similar content is seen in the stores of which you exit into. This brings us to the next point.

Collectible Wall of Fame

Death Star Architecture!

Disney retail is typically part of the attraction exit
When you are emotionally pumped up on the experience you just had, the store is there, offering you the opportunity to spend money on souvenirs, collectibles, clothing, and the like to memorialize how much you liked that particular experience. Not only are you on a high from the ride, you are now exiting into another sort of high where you can take a piece of the experience home with you. While I cannot clearly recall what Paco Underhill, author of "Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping", says on this type of architecture, I can confidently surmise that research would demonstrate higher percentage of purchase conversions to stores attached to the exit of an attraction vs. stores which are merely adjacent or across the street. Applications to business practice??? MANY!

As you exit the ride via these bay doors...

You arrive at this ramp to exit into the Star Trader store...

You see amazing photos of Star Wars content on the way...

You walk down this ramp, and...

See the exit... And! Oh, what's that? TOYS?!

Disney retail experience is part of the attraction's experience
All Disney stores, restaurants, etc. have cast members who help accentuate the thematic experience of each attraction, world, or area. Additionally, the presence of such cast members indeed perpetuate the experience if the ride, attraction, and/or show. The Star Trader cast members are dressed like they are right out of a sci-fi film. The cast members at the Golden Horseshoe look like they are out of the 'ol West. This goes for every possible nook and cranny of Disneyland. And, it is significant because this adds something very valuable for which most retail operations forget - THE EXPERIENCE. If people have a positive experience at a retail location, they are more likely to stay in a store longer and buy more things.

Be honest now... you're thinking about how you can climb into that X-Wing cockpit, aren't you?

Disney Retail is Done with a Service Experience
Instead of the hard driving bargains or intrusive interest in your retail behaviors, Disney retail is done in a welcoming environment where shoppers aren't crowded out and intimidated by the cast members. This is executed via body posturing, the mellowed intensity of eye contact, the vocal projections which invoke a sense of calm... all elements which make you feel very at home and unpressured to buy.

When a choice is made, Disney cast members always ask if you found everything you were looking for, or, if there was anything else they could do for you. Pride is taken in their work; gift wraps, boxes, and bags are put together with care and precision. Upon payment and exit from the store, the cast members continue to give this service experience by continuing the "on stage." For example, when leaving the Star Trader, it's common to hear cast members say (as much in the previous point above) "Thank you! And, may the force be with you!"

Beauty and the Biz: A Quick Tangential Anecdote
The retail experience is flashy, emotional, in the moment, and based primarily on perception. If you'll indulge me in a slightly tangential anecdote: a few months ago, Japanese visitors toured the facility where I serve as the Rehab Director to learn about the senior living and skilled nursing/rehab business. This business pattern is quickly rising in demand in Japan - and - it is a business that has yet to be full established in that country.

During their tour of my department, they spent a significant and disproportionately long amount of time asking questions regarding physical modalities in rehab services. I tried to give spiels about manual therapy, therapeutic exercise, neuromuscular re-education, and the educational level of my therapists - just to see if they'd bite - nada. In fact, the interpreter kept telling me there were more and more questions/curiosities on the "healing technologies" of physical modalities.

Lesson: Things that are attractive are valuable. Additionally, technology means relevance. Regardless of what anyone thinks of the clinical significance thereof, anything that has lights, gismos, gadgets, screens, sound, switches, touch pads, etc. - all these elements are perceived as cutting edge, valuable, and worthy. If it is beautiful, then it has business potential - it's up to you to make it a worthy business to pursue. Think about it... ;)

Retail Truth: To Sell, Is To Solve
In retail, if you've sold a product, then you've solved a problem. A customer may need a gift for a friend, a tool for home improvement, a cleaning product, food, a toy, a movie, a book, or perhaps a hair product - by making the trade, the retail establishment has satisfied the need of their patron through the physical transference of the product.

Most healthcare professionals are not comfortable with sales and retailing. As we all know too well, sales goes against many deep running, cultural fibers in our professional identity. Sell up, ourselves? How dare we? Our skills, knowledge, and outcomes should speak for our value. Right? WRONG! Couldn't be more wrong, in fact. In my opinion, when the purchase moment arrives, very few buyers care about the details behind their choices. Recommendations, first impressions, reviews, and presence of the sales experience comprise much of the winning ticket.

For myself: when people arrive at The Remington Club and meet me as the Rehab Director, I tell them about how much "therapy" their family members will receive. I tell them how experienced my rehab therapists are, and, that I am quite involved in the overall care as the director. I say all this in a warm tone with a quiet understanding so that the touring family can fully absorb what they are about to commit their family members to. I express that I, personally, add as much value to patient care as I can; offer the expertise of my doctoral education to the highest benefit of all of our residents. I share that the nursing/residence ratio is much above the par of competitors. The food here is gourmet quality; my first meal at this facility was beef tips with red wine sauce! I expound that the Remington Club is the highest-end senior care facility in the region; it is very expensive and extremely exclusive - fortunately, your family member has a medical need which will be covered by insurance... their care will be a 5-star experience.

You will all be in great, very caring hands.

Sold and sold!

Closing Thoughts
So! What changes will you make to integrate Disney retail smarts? Will you involve new training to your staff to include a service experience to your retail operations? How will you solve the needs of your patrons? 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Management Tips: #AcutePT

Alright!!! This post has been a LONG time coming - I've waiting so very long in the gathering of my thoughts to bring these #AcutePT management concepts together. I'm very excited to share and discuss this very exciting, dynamic, challenging, and often "controversial" pattern of physical therapy practice.

Management Tips: #AcutePT

Sucks... It's still a business
One would figure that the hospital environment could and/or should be the one place where science and clinical common sense would reign supreme. In a practice setting where peoples lives are at stake on a second by second basis, shouldn't such values outweigh the bottom line? Unfortunately, they do not. Most Acute PT departments are budgeted through an internal capitated fund; department A gets X amount of dollars no matter how much work they do or do not do. This, of course, leads to the discussion of PRODUCTIVITY!

Keeping Productive
The most generous productivity standards I've seen are held at or above 75%. Unfortunately, most departments measure this level of productivity as units billed per total hours worked. What this allows for employees to do is to spend generous amounts of time (as if one was working with RUG levels in the skilled nursing setting) with less numbers of patients when rmore patients could have been seen in the same amount of time. The reality is that staff members who spend 45-60 minutes with patients who could very easily be completed in 15-20 minutes seem more productive than PT's who are blazing around the hospital, picking up 2 or 3 evaluations per day while only pulling 70% "productivity"... Yeah. There needs to be a better way.

Acute PT is a Supply Chain Problem
Honestly, the best way to operationally view Acute PT is to see it as a business problem requiring a solution. In the end, Acute PT is an ongoing supply chain management task. There are X amount of patients required to be seen on a daily basis. Y amount of patients get referred for consults a day in which most physicians (and nurses) "expect" evaluations to be completed the moment the order set has been confirmed in the computer. Sound familiar? Oh yes, and patients should all be BID if not TID - and - the difficult ones that never seem to want to leave the hospital should be seen 4 or 5 times a day! Right...

Solving the productivity problem will naturally solve the supply chain difficulties. The inherent problem with most productivity standards in Acute PT is that there is no natural system for accountability. As a PT, I could easily see 6 patients for 1 hr treatments in an 8 hour day... taking my sweet time to get my minimal requirements of 75% productivity. While some programs have allowed for PT's to have a booster unit in their productivity calculations for evaluations (ie. 1 extra unit calculated into the 4 unit, 1 hour patient encounter), this typically leads many of the PT's to cultivate an even lazier approach.

"Now that I get FIVE units for one hour evaluations, AND, I only need to get 24 units a day - well then, I only need to see 5 patients instead of six!"

Sound familiar? Yeah. No wonder there are so many dysfunctional Acute PT departments. My suggestion is this: make your staff become stakeholders in their work. Much like many emerging outpatient programs are now giving a lowered base salary combined with a percentage of billed services as a bonus, Acute PT programs need to start thinking in this manner. For the outpatient clinic, if a PT is only 50% productive, the amount of billed services will be lower and their overall pay will reflect this. The unproductive employee will hurt from this behavior; the facility does not hurt as bad. So what's the Acute PT version?

I suggest that a dual productivity scale is necessary in a capitated environment. PT staff should be held to a minimal standard of X amount of billable units a day - AND - be held accountable for the NUMBER of patients seen per day, rewarded if they exceed the average. Why is this? Because it goes back to the supply chain management problem.

Most Acute PT programs are limited in their funds. Managers are only allowed to hire so many rehab staff because they are only given a certain amount of dollars to work with no matter what the census needs are. When complaints occur, it is typically because patients are not seen on a certain day (ie. a weekend day), because an evaluation wasn't completed in 12-24 hours, or, because "special" patients haven't been seen BID or TID. The problem really is a service response, not a clinical one.

If staff is held to the understanding that their contribution of value is the number of services rendered per day vs. the number of units billed for, staff that have made habits of "occupational comfort" will naturally performance themselves up - or out.

I'm also a big believer in rewarding outstanding staff performance. Those who pick up extra evaluations, treatments, or are engaging with nursing staff (an element which is absolutely critical in Acute PT) should be rewarded as such in monetary form (bonus or raise) or via fringe benefits. Oh, the flip side is true; you're a manager, after all - don't be afraid to terminate employees that simply don't make the cut. One weak link will destroy the entire infrastructure you've worked so hard to strengthen.

However, even with solving this productivity-supply-chain issue with a dual accountability scale, the problem isn't completely solved. Supply chain means that when demand is made, supply MUST be delivered and done so quickly. Solution? Expand your service window by working longer hours.

Working Longer Hours
The most successful Acute PT programs I've seen have a mixture of 8 hour and 10 hour per day employees. This allows for late surgery patients to be see on post-op day zero, and, for "STAT" discharge evaluations to be attended to - you know the ones, those "get them out the door" cases that all curiously get "ordered" at 4:30 pm. These longer hours are also highly attractive to the younger generation of employees who relish the opportunity to work four, ten hours days. However, to truly make this successful, staff will inevitably need to rotate in and out of weekend schedules. Also, this is where the dual accountability scale for productivity is so important. Ten hour days in the acute care setting is a great way to physically burn out and begin the process of disengaging, and, getting slack or even lazy. This requires management to keep keen eye on employee engagement (to be discussed later in this post).

Prudent Use of Physical Therapist Assistants
It's odd that lately, only the PT progression has culturally undervalued its support staff. In medicine, physician assistants and nurse practitioners have only become all the more valuable and in demand due to their cost saving skill sets. And, let's be honest - does it REALLY require a DPT to gait train the average, run-in-the-mill patient with pneumonia on the medical floor (with no other significant conditions)? Now the ICU, orthopedic floor, spine floor, cardiac floor, oncology, neuro unit, short stay/observations, emergency department - those are certainly different issues.

Again, Acute PT is still a business, and, the business is supply chain management with a fixed amount of profitable funds. The only way to keep black on the financial ledger is to cut costs. This is where PT Assistants come in. High level, functioning patient populations, uncomplicated orthopedics and other elective surgeries, as well as the generally stable medical patients - these are great candidates to increase utilization of the PTA labor force.

In my humble opinion, the most efficient use of PTAs (at least under California law) is to utilize them by the hour, two at a time, under the supervision of a salaried PT. The best case scenario would lend such that several management tiers of PT's exist in the framework of an Acute PT department. Some hospitals may call this a zoning model.

This would require a supervisor/manager to administrate several lead PT's on salary, a handful of per diem/hourly PT's, and an army of hourly PTA's. Lead PT's would be responsible for managing the PTA's labor and clinical interventions as well administrating evaluations and case managing (hint hint) for their respective units/floors. Per diem PT's would serve as labor overflow for evaluations and treatments.

Why this structure? It runs, once again, back to the issue of supply chain management. The bottom line for most hospital PT departments are most related to discharge and patient safety in house. Business is business; this is a point that NEEDS to be understood for departmental success.

The Future of Acute Care PT Practice - Case Management & Value Development
The bottom line for hospitals for physical therapy departments are these: (1) when can the patient discharge? And, (2) to where (and with what equipment) can they be discharged to? Number (3) is a very difficult to measure value-added presence for fall prevention/safety and a global culture of mobility/health improvement for both patients and staff.

I mean, let's be honest here: how fed up is just about EVERY Acute PT department and their nurse-case manager/social worker compadres by which communication is constantly bounced back and forth between patient, nurse, physician, physical therapist, and case manager/social worker? The best solution is to cut out redundant loops of communication.We all know this: the more people that play the telephone game, the more inaccurate the end message becomes.

The best option is to have the lead physical therapists work along side of (if not as part of) the case management department. Each unit/floor should have a physical therapist, a nurse-case-manager, and a social worker to comprise the discharge planning team. Imagine all the PTA management challenges which would be so easily conquered if a salaried PT were to also act as a designated case manager for a unit/floor/zone, say 25-50% of the time on each unit/floor? Food for thought.

The other future aspect of acute PT practice is value development. Being a very present and active part of physician interaction and nursing practice is the key to a dynamic and valuable PT program. Helping develop a nursing mobility program where nurses are encouraged to screen mobility, develop their own mobility plans, fall prevention programs along side of PT assessments, etc. - these are the future marks of a cutting edge acute PT program. Oh! P.S. - in a hospital, nurses run the show - make the nurses happy, and they will make you happy.

What would really push an Acute PT program into warp drive would be long term outcome trackings for population groupings, diagnosis groups, and treatment segmentation in measurements of bio-markers, overall health recovery, and other non-functional (but critical physiological markers) along with readmission rates/causation and length of stay projection/prediction/adherence. Again, this drives physical therapy practice in the direction of feed-forward case management.

Let's Not Forget The Clinical!
With all this talk about business management, let us not forget about the clinical side of life. After all, physical therapist are clinicians at the practitioner level providing a service in this setting. In the more challenging areas of ICU, neuro, emergency department, etc. - clinical savvy and interpersonal schmoozing is a must! If an employee isn't getting along with patients, family members, nurses, physicians, and other support staff - forget it... You've got a dud in place; reassign that person to another unit/floor. In the same vein, if you have an employee strapping on the gait belt and doing nothing but transfers on the neuro floor... *insert buzzer sound here*.

This all sounds so sad, doesn't it? But why? Well the answer is employee engagement. Acute PT is a setting which is quite easy to burn out of. The patients can be difficult, clinically challenging, and uncooperative. The interdisciplinary climate can be frustrating, interest competing - new ideas mix about as well as oil does with water.

With lack of employee engagement, much of the problems seen such as developing lazy ways to make minimal productivity standards and "seeing" patients for mere transfers/chair exercises becomes increasingly common. With such drab levels of clinical practice, nursing staff will quickly view physical therapists as glorified human walkers and people movers. I can guarantee that if you're hospital nursing staff has even a hint of this view of your department, you have some weak links that need tightening - I bet you already know who they are. If you don't, you better find out quick!

Employee Engagement
Since we mentioned employee engagement, let's flush it out. The biggest threat of employees at risk for burn out, complacency, or resignation is lack of purpose and passion in the workplace. Meaninglessly walking patients down the hall way, performing nothing but Max x2 transfers... these situations put at serious risk, the existential value of what people do for work.

Additionally, physical therapists are PROBLEM SOLVERS. This is the inherent nature of our practice and needs to be fueled for continued passion. When jobs become mechanical, they become boring. What physical therapists need to be considered for is hospital administration and leadership.

Managers need to quickly identity acumen, talent, and influential individuals within their departments. The hospital climate is all about operational philosophy and social power. Popularity is key. The sad thing is, the more popular a physical therapist is with other departments, the more commonly this PT will be the target of intra-departmental angst and jealousy. Management must squash this sentiment and associated behavior as well as protect the talent. When word gets out that one of the PT staff members shines out extra bright, snatch them up and put them in a position of leadership BEFORE their threatened co-workers get the better of them.

Additionally, individuals who wish to rise up above the "director of rehab" level of administration MUST pursue an additional degree. I've mentioned this many times on posts and tweets - health systems consider nurses and physicians the natural choice for leadership at the executive level. Despite physical therapists being educated at a DOCTORATE level, they do not fit the conceptual mold of officer level leadership in healthcare. An additional degree such as an MBA, MPH, or MHA is a requirement to break the mold.

It is also most helpful if a physical therapist demonstrates exceptional performance in driving the marketability of the hospital itself. So often, rehab stories are the stories that marketing departments melt over. A stroke patient who is learning to walk, a trauma patient who stands for the first time with teary eyed family members at bed side. THESE stories are the stories that sell - and - anything that sells, by definition, demonstrates value. The individuals involved with such stories should also be quickly groomed for leadership opportunities. Again, the hospital environment is all about politics. If you are known, that much more power is behind your name. If you are liked, that's even better. Make sure you highlight your employees! And, once again, make sure you protect them for collegial jealousies.

Keep your employees engaged, interested, and passionate about what they do and who they are! We must break the mold and set expectations of the hospital culture. Acute PT's need to be more than "eval machines" and PTA's need to be more than commando treatment gurus. The entire concept of Acute PT need to be re-imagined and revolutionarily administrated. To do this, it requires much grit, thick-skin, and business savvy. To do this, management needs to be supportive all the way up and down the chain of command. Sadly, for many administrations, one must get up there first before the support can be given. Once given, highlight and grow those with talent, demonstrating acumen & performance - be sure to develop the new ideas and the new solutions - these are the sparks that will continue the flames of passionate workplace engagement.

Closing Thoughts
The acute care physical therapy practice will play a very intriguing and important role in the coming days of the healthcare industry. With payer source in question, length of stays to be decreased further, and more work to be done with less funds - the expertise and acumen of physical therapists can certainly be the booster charge hospitals need to reach their true potential of decrease the overall cost of healthcare. Perhaps more importantly, physical therapists in this environment will be best positions to make positive, long term impact on the future life choices of individuals in a health system.

The barriers to this include a stagnant, if not fearful culture to change within PT departments ranks. Lack of physical therapy leaders in the hospital environment who are savvy with business, nursing/physician politics, and stakeholder dynamics for which is the beating heart of almost every hospital based "issue."

As always, to make change, it is easiest to do it in-house rather than to gun for things out-house. Fix those productivity and operational factors first. When the department is up to snuff, then options will open. Many businesses and administrations work with the philosophy of "It pays to be a winner." The more a program is successful, the more funds, technology, support, and toys they get. Once this level of performance is reached, THEN the iron will be hot to strike for grander improvements to the hospital operation at large.

I hope you've enjoyed these management tips for acute care physical therapy practice. There is certainly much to be discussed and flushed out. By no means are these the only tips out there, however, I do find that these tips are quite useful to the majority of acute care PT programs. I hope you will find them helpful in your pursuit of best practice.

Warm Regards,
-Ben Fung

Saturday, September 21, 2013

To MBA, or not to MBA

This topic has come up a LOT in the recent weeks amongst #DPTstudents: Should I get an MBA? These are my thoughts as to the reasons, advantages, and career paths which a leveraged MBA could provide.

First, a little history. Harvard was the birthplace of the world's first MBA program in 1908. It's an old degree; recognized, proven, respected. The content in an MBA can be quite extensive - see link. In my mind, I see the content in an MBA to be the study of human behaviors in regards to flow & function of money, services, products, operations, organizations, and perceived value at various levels of social circumstances.

In the end, an MBA is another degree - it confers no license and guarantees only that your mind has been (once again) trained, honed, and shaped specifically for the discipline of making money and administrating business flow.

So then, why is it such a big deal? Why does it seem that at various levels of career paths, upper management is dominated by those who have completed their MBA programs? At the same time, why is it that there are individuals who are filthy rich who seem to have no formal business training at all? And also, how does this fit in with "my goals" as a physical therapist (or physician, or nurse, or entrepreneur, etc.)?

Let's Break It Down!

If you are interested in quickly moving in directions of:

  • A corporation
  • A health system
  • A hospital administration structure
  • Formal business training in economics, finance, marketing, supply chain / operations, information systems, human resources, healthcare administration
Then you should pursue an MBA. Most corporate structures, health systems, and hospitals have the utmost respect for formalized credentials, not necessarily demonstrated acumen or success. These organizations are highly risk adverse and don't like taking chances on wild cards. Additionally, such structures are usually very slow moving and tend to run behind the cutting edge as a safety mechanism - simply put, they don't want to be the first one to test the waters.

Specifically in the health system and hospital structure, physician and nurses dominate the command tree. In fact, the culture in these arenas typically prescribe that unless you are a physician or a nurse, your "understanding" and "ability" to demonstrates success in upper management is negligible - even with a doctorate in physical therapy! The only way one can "prove" the ability is with another advanced degree, typically a masters in business, healthcare administration, or public health.

An MBA trains the mind to process information in a systematic fashion in terms of administrating flow of business, finance, supply, human factors, large scheme operations, and market behaviors. It creates a language which most corporations, health systems, and hospitals appreciate and value.

However, an MBA does not necessarily teach you how to open up your own clinic. It certainly requires more grit than an academic degree to become the next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates.

Not to MBA:
If your thoughts run more to becoming more self made, then the MBA degree may not be the right one for you. If your passions are more aligned with:
  • Private practice
  • Entrepreneurial pursuits
  • "I care more about clinical excellence"
  • Or, if you wish to remain at the lead/supervisor or operational manager's level on the command tree
If these are true, then there is really no need for you to seek an MBA. To be successful in the above, situations will force you to rely upon creativity, innovation, ingenuity, and the "spark." The creation of a business (ie. a clinic, online service, product, or specialty education) draws more from learning the right content from the right people - and - having the right mentors, stakeholders, and investors.

While an MBA will teach you all of these things, is it really worth it? Most graduate students already have enough debt, do you really want to go through this again? Is this really worth the debt profile you will further accrue just to learn content you can easily ask your peers and mentors for?

Remember, the MBA credential is one which is respected by corporations and organizations. Investors already have strong business sense; they are interested in the profitability of you - your ideas/products/service/skills, and, your work ethic.

In a nutshell, if you are interested in acute care, acute rehab, the skill settings, or health systems - and - you wish to rise up the chain of command... become a CEO of a hospital perhaps - you will need an MBA. However, if your dream is to own your own clinic... nay, own a chain of your own clinics and publish the next best book on how to rehab a young athlete, you need to work on YOU, not another degree.

I do have to say one thing, however: the content I have learned and the mental training I've received from my MBA program thus far have been some of the most enlightening and useful experiences. In fact, I feel that I've learned more from this program about "life" than was gleaned from attaining my DPT. For myself, going through the MBA program has been completely life changing.

So then, the question remains: To MBA, or not to MBA. What will your choice be?

Saturday, August 31, 2013

#brandPTchallenge - Wrap Up Post

First off, I want to thank everyone who participated in the month long #brandPTchallenge. For those that missed it, check out the previous posts of week 1, week 2, week 3, and week 4. I especially want to highlight the All Star players that took participation to the next level. In no particular order, they are:

Some lessons learned:
  • Facebook is still an environment where people who already know each other continue their connections. Groups and threads are useful and certainly powerful, however, reaching out can come across a little "creepy" and forward under even the most pure-intended circumstances.
  • Google+ is still quite silent when it comes to post interactions; it remains largely a content distribution platform, not so much of an interactive arena. However, the Google Hangout feature is one very redeeming function for G+.
  • Twitter remains the most dynamic social media outlet. Utilized by professionals, celebrities, and people from all walks - it is one place where thoughts can be openly shared, interactions can be freely made mention of, and, where reaching out - while still a little awkward - is no more awkward than stopping a stranger on the street with some free advice.
We also reinforce the lesson that the days of old school advertisement are truly phasing out. If not done correctly, advertisement becomes an arm of marketing that causes more intrusion and disruption than value creation. However, strong marketing develops a relationship between the consumer and the supplier - a smart marketing department offers content for which the consumer already needs and/or wants.

Also, good marketing acknowledges that the consumer already has an image for a brand identity; meaning, they see brands in a certain light which may not always be the way the brand sees themselves. The strongest brands have congruence between their own perceived brand identity and what the public sees as a brand image.

This brings us to the core of #brandPT. What is our brand? How should we brand physical therapy and physical therapists at large? How does the public regard our brand? Where should we go with our brand for the future? Many other questions need to be considered...

What is the condition of brand image/identity congruence for physical therapy?
How else are we regarded? Are we counselors? Guides during recovery or relief from pain perhaps? Compassionate health practitioners? Are we truly acting as "therapists"? Do we specialize in movement? Human performance? Functional performance? (What's the difference...? some may wonder) Does the public consider movement the way we do? When the public hears "I'm going to see my therapist" - which therapist are they thinking about? I'll give you a hint: it's not physical.

However, I must say this: brands shape public opinion, favor, and support. In regards to the United States, we are a nation of laws; these laws are written by the people - the public has the power (theoretically) to make changes. The public's perception of our brand is what will shape our legal rights - not the other way around. Our license will not provide us full practice patterns until the PUBLIC consumer recognizes our ability, and, favors us to serve as such. Want direct access? Want even more? Get public favor! Market your brand in efforts to close the gap between brand image and brand identity.

Wrapping It Up:
What the #brandPTchallenge taught me is that, as a profession, we have a long way to go in reaching brand image/identity congruence. Closing this gap is a matter of stepping into the perspective of the consumers and driving market demand.

I'd like to close out this wrap up post with a branding project being done with excellence. Enter @MakovickaPT! This group has issued a branding raffle asking for What has Physical Therapy allowed you to do?

I LOVE THIS! Not only does this brand PT as a conduit for which people reach ability (presumably from being once "disabled"), this statement presents a service experience. In any case, there are prizes to be won, content to be driven, experiences to be shared, and most importantly, we are receiving from the CONSUMER - their perspectives; from here we can discern what our brand image is and where we can strengthen our brand identity. There are some pretty cool prizes so check out #makovickPT on Twitter, Facebook, and G+!

Take care, until next time!
-Dr. Ben Fung

Sunday, August 18, 2013

#brandPTchallenge - Week 4: #BackToSchoolWeek

We are now on week #4 of the #brandPTchallenge! Last week's topic was #shoulderpain & here is a snapshot of early last week and our participants:

This week, we're going to tackle a rather universal and less specific topic: #BackToSchoolWeek! This hashtag is averaging 15-30 new tweets every couple of minutes, so, it is certainly an active one - good for making connections.

This should be a nice, open topic since physical therapists can help students out with everything from posture, ergonomics, headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome, scoliosis, school athletics... the list is endless! Also, the reason I've decided to go with this topic is because of how widespread of a reach this can be.

Some of the best marketing tactics include the intention to go to the consumer rather than to draw the consumer to you.

Good luck! I hope you all enjoy this week's #brandPTchallenge!

Oh, yes! One last thing, Symplur has been kind enough to add #brandPT in their analytics! How cool is that!?

Sunday, August 11, 2013

#brandPTchallenge - Week 3: #ShoulderPain


Last week's #brandPTchallenge was the topic of #kneepain. While not as popular as last week's #neckpain, addressing #kneepain was very important because those of you who have accepted the #brandPTchallenge have organically begun to reach out to other users mentioning & hashtagging #kneepain.

Here's a snapshot of you rockstars participating in the #brandPTchallenge earlier in the week:

Now originally, this #brandPTchallenge was issued to the big three social media outlets. However, after a market survey, it was pretty much agreed that the hashtag volume and interaction on Google+ and Facebook are both pretty much silent. So, save your strength... for now - Twitter is still the best place to interact through the "reach out" method amongst social media users. However, if you are on Facebook & Google+ and snipe an opportunity (which some of you certainly have shared!), please do & share via #brandPTchallenge or #brandPT! (And rest assured, the #brandPTchallenge will soon move forward to it's next phase as is explained below)

Another quick note for those of you social media marketing nerds (like myself); Twitter is the place for new connections; an environment where politely stalking is just another way of making eye contact - just before you say "hello" in person. Also, a trend in G+ has shown that the environment is far more visual than written, almost a blend of Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram... the best way to utilize Google+ is that type of area... however, this arena is still maturing. Additionally, Facebook has been and seemingly always will remain a place where people connect with people they already know - OR - have found a page/topic of common interest for open forum. 

In light of these social media trends of etiquette, the extension for Week 3 of the #brandPTchallenge is to: 

Focus on #ShoulderPain (quite a popular topic) and GO TO THE CONSUMER!

Find the hashtags, the patient blogs, the consumer forums... find these places and make yourself known - and most importantly - share with your fellow PT's where our presence is needed!! Make connection with the social media users whose lives are affected by #ShoulderPain - AND - gather other PT's to demonstrate goodwill to these people who could very well benefit from our help.

Note: This week's challenge will continue the momentum of utilizing hashtags in social media to brand, reach out, and interact with other social media users. Additionally, this week's challenge begins a group, market survey to discern where our presence is most needed online.

In a very dynamic #solvePT chat last week, Tracy Sher MPT, CSCS (@PelvicGuru1) was one of the first to demonstrate her concentrated involvement in online forums and groups for her speciality. It is high time physical therapists follow her lead en masse to best #brandPT and help our communities!

Next month, our focus will expand beyond reaching out - our focus will turn to becoming part of the already active communities of discussions online.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

#brandPTchallenge - Week 2: #KneePain

Last week, I issued a challenge to strengthen the physical therapy brand via the hashtags, #brandPT and utilizing the #brandPTchallenge for internal discussion amongst the profession itself.

We set out to tackle #neckpain (see last post). What I intended on encouraging later, quickly evolved naturally - physical therapists reaching out to other social media users who had complained about their own neck pain experience. Customer engagement is something that is quite difficult to do when trying to expand a brand image; I'm very encouraged to see it happening organically.

The desire to quickly make these connections in a short period of time is a natural instinct, however, based on marketing principles - taking time is the best way to build stable brand equity in the long run.

And so, I issue week 2's #brandPTchallenge: #kneepain!

Remember that the additional challenge is to reach out to the users out there suffering from the topic of the week. Also, the deeper layer of this challenge is to reach out via Facebook and Google+ as well.

Oh, yes! One final thing! Props to the snapshot below - it's an early snapshot of those who participated to the #neckpain #brandPTchallenge of last week. Keep it up everyone!!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Best Practice ABC's for Customer Service Branding

One of the biggest areas for a successful #brandPT generation is utilizing our compassion, our empathy, our sincerity, and the quality time we spend with our consumers as key brand identifiers. Being that we are technically part of a service industry, it is keenly important to develop best practices for customer service and customer experience. So very often, it is the service experience that develops brand equity and market value which necessary for closing the brand perception gap - the difference between what a firm identifies themselves to be versus what the market imagines that firm to be.

So! Without further ado, please enjoy this short post on my personal approach to Best Practice ABC's for Customer Service at my Physiospot Opinion Column!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

A #BrandPT Challenge!

For the last few months, much discussion has been devoted to the branding of the physical therapist's service identity. With Vision 2020's due date drawing close, and, with yet another vision statement issued by the APTA's House... I felt it was high time for a grassroots, social media movement.

I'd like to propose an organized #BrandPTchallenge! ... A weekly challenge to be precise. Personally, I see physical therapy practice to encompass four key elements: movement, health, pain, performance. Sure, there may be subspecialized segments that may appear to be outside of these four descriptors, however, I think the general consumer can appreciate these four to keenly represent who we are and how we can serve them.

And so, without further ado, let me issue my challenge! The weekly #BrandPT challenge is to utilize any and all of your social media outlets to link #movement, #health, #pain, and #performance with #physicaltherapist. Additionally, you are to discuss (in person) the content of this challenge with one allied healthcare professional who is NOT a physical therapist.

"Living with #backpain? A #physicaltherapist can provide manual therapy and corrective exercise to reduce #pain & improve your daily #movement."

"Need help with a #sportsinjury? See a #physicaltherapist for rehab and regain your #performance!"

(In person): "Hello Jane! How has your neck been feeling? I remember you complained about some pain last week...." etc etc etc.

However, it isn't THAT simple. I wrote in a guest blog post via WebPT: Four Critical Rebranding Concepts that branding need to be systematic and repetitive. If we all ran out there and started to hit up any of the four key concepts without a concerted front, the grassroots movement via social media would quickly lose momentum. This challenge requires longevity, consistency, and organization.

So the challenge will be to utilize the #brandPT hashtag on (but not limited to) the big three: Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. Every Sunday, reach out to the PT community using the #brandPTchallenge hashtag & propose an area of expertise; say spine/back, ankle, shoulder, dizziness, balance, pain, hospitalization, joint replacement, etc. I'll more-or-less "randomly" select the area and challenge you to tweet, share, and post about. Link your thoughts with #brandPT, one of the four key elements, and #physicaltherapist. The real challenge is to do this once a day, every day of the week!

Every Sunday, we'll all shout out another segment/area of expertise... say #strengthandconditioning which I'll continue to select and roll through the submissions. As you all know, I'm mostly a Twitter kind-of-guy - so - this will require for me to grow and expand my reach further into FB & G+ (a good thing!)

The secondary challenge is to look into those areas of expertise; many social media users hashtag things like #arthritis and #jointreplacement or #totalkneereplacement because they are or are about to experience some health/life event. It is wise for us to survey the market and see what people are interested in such that we can build awareness of our availability to serve them.

So, once again, we'll identify the topic of the weekly #brandPTchallenge using the aforementioned hashtag. Shout out your suggestion & I'll announce with something like:

"This week's #brandPTchallenge is: #fallprevention."

For sake of consistency, let's use #brandPTchallenge as the hashtag to discuss the organizational aspect of the challenge; we'll save #brandPT for the external marketing efforts.