Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Appropriate Attire Augurs Respect

I was called into an office because patients weren’t paying their bills as agreed. And they were not following surgical instructions.

Something was wrong. The doctor and his employees couldn’t identify the problem.

All his employees were lovely, young blondes, dressed identically in skirts, blouses, sweaters, saddle shoes and socks. It looked like a high school campus.

I conducted a private interview with each staff member. The first was the office manager. I asked a few key questions regarding office procedures. Everything was done right. She said the patients did not take her seriously. They would not listen well to surgical instructions. I asked about her family. She was in her mid 40's and had two teenagers. I was shocked. I thought she was around 22 years old.

The next interview was with the biller. Her procedures were proper as well. She said the patients did not keep the payment arrangements they made with her, although they did pay eventually.

The same scenario repeated with every interview. Each pretty woman looked about 22, but was in her 40's, married with children. Each had worked there for more than 10 years. They were grown women dressed like girls.

I pointed out to the physician that the patients saw them as teenagers and treated them accordingly.

We all agreed that they could continue to be dressed alike because it was akin to wearing uniforms and made it easy to identify them as staff. But they should be dressed in jackets, blouses, skirts and flats, appropriate to their age and status.

Lesson: Dress your staff like adults if you want compliant patients. Demeanor is important, but first impressions are visual and set the tenor of the encounter.