The year’s kicked off and the phone’s buzzing with new referrals and requests. Hours have been dedicated to juggling clients into timetables, bringing new families into programmes and preparing materials. Everything is ready to go, lots of clinical variety and professional relationship to manage. Where in the busy schedule does regular clinical supervision and customer service training fit? Great discussion, de briefing, clarification and words of wisdom will support therapists to provide effective modern therapy services. Ultimately great customer service and outstanding clinical skills serve the business, the therapist and most importantly the client optimally.
During my conversations with families themes of punctuality, reliability and respect arise constantly. Therapists are not on time, paperwork doesn’t arrive when promised, calls aren’t made to other team members, non user friendly reports, summaries aren’t provided for meetings and mobile phones are answered during sessions. Customer service, team wide communications, clear report writing, delivering on your word are all critical skills that may not arise during professional development planning conversations. They are however mission critical to great outcomes for children and families and perhaps as important as the clinical intervention.
The professional development plans I review in the course of my consulting work seem a little narrow. The nature of working with children, families and teachers is constantly changing, allied health professionals often need to quickly develop new skills, knowledge and appropriate strategies to manage their daily work challenges. For example collaborating with teachers and assistants is a critical stand-alone skill set, the mechanics of which are rarely identified and taught. Yet professional development plans seem hyper focused on core clinical skills at the expense of collateral skills such as customer service, teaming around a client and serving true family centered practice. How much better could the outcomes for our clients be if we stepped back a pace and identified and developed the collateral skills that support great therapy.
For therapists what steps you can you take to line up the support and training that you need?
For managers how can guide your therapist’s clinical skills and customer service to new heights?
A productive team exercise may be to unpack all aspects of customer service along with clinical management and explore how they can align in a way that suits your business. Policy and procedures can then be reviewed and adjusted to align with new initiatives. Ideas and change will only be as effective as they are managed so set some time lines and measurement touch points.
Could technology provide part of the answer, group conference conversations, recorded Skype calls, google hangouts? Peer supervision, cross discipline supervision, reflective learning are also interesting options that may add appropriate variety and support. Before the year gets too busy nut out a professional development plan that includes professional learning goals, customer service expectations and strategies for reaching those goals. Outline how these goals will be reached, include regular supervision, internal and external training opportunities and review dates. Think a little outside the clinical skills square and weave this goodness into the PD plan. Terrific customer service and sensational clinical skills have the best chance of achieving brilliant results and happy clients.
Occupational Therapist, Disability Service Consultant, Coach, Facilitator