It started with a last-minute trip to a doctor’s office and my obsession with operational excellence. An obsession that has fueled my interest in hospitality and medicine: particularly restaurants and medical practices.
I am fascinated by the similarities that exist between running a shop and running a busy restaurant or doctor’s office. The parallels are apparent. At least, they are to me. Many people with varying skill sets and responsibilities working diligently to ensure a successful result. The ultimate satisfaction of a client.
Restaurants employ shift managers, hosts and hostesses, servers, bus staff, chefs, porters, and dishwashers.
You can find registered nurses, certified nurse’s assistants, and/or licensed practical nurses—all with varying levels of skill and responsibilities—in almost every medical practice. Perhaps, even a Nurse Practitioner or a Physician’s Assistant.
In order for either a medical practice or a restaurant to succeed, it must run smoothly, and the patient or patron experience must be consistent. Everyone involved must know and understand their specific responsibilities, both up and down the organizational chart. Especially with regard to how their efforts impact the other members of their team as well as the end result.
If you look at the profile of a busy repair shop, there are similarities that are hard to ignore. We have managers and service advisors, consultants, or advocates (Think carefully about the nuanced differences in meaning each of those titles brings with it.). There are technicians, often with different specialties, skill levels, and expertise. As well as tire busters or lube techs.
It’s All About Them
As fascinating as the operational dynamics of each of these environments can be, there is one thing that remains to be discussed… That is the powerful and positive experience every business owner seeks to create every time service is delivered. Experience that can make or break a restaurant, medical practice, or an independent repair shop.
In every case, success or failure has to do with expectations: realized, or unrealized. A result or outcome that will either soar above what was expected or, all too often, fall sadly short.
This particular exploration into operations and execution was prompted by my visit to the medical office I referenced earlier. A doctor I’ve been seeing since she opened her practice almost twenty years ago. An office I’ve watched expand to include Physician Assistants, NP’s, and a fairly large staff.
The office has gotten so busy seeing the doctor is not always possible. This is exactly what happened the other day. I needed a medical condition assessed and a related prescription renewed. In this case, by someone other than the doctor.
I made the appointment, arrived on time, and was ushered into an examination room. The Physician’s Assistant—the equivalent of an A-tech—entered the room, looked at my Chart, asked me where I wanted the prescription filled, and left. There was no examination or assessment. No evaluation. Certainly, no communication. There was only a question. “Have you had this condition before?” Something that was in the Chart. And an almost comical, “Well, I guess you’ve got it again!” Not exactly what I wanted or expected to hear.
Sure, I made the appointment to have the prescription renewed. But I also wanted to know why I needed to have the prescription renewed. Why the problem had returned. A conversation that never occurred.
The Client’s Why
We go to restaurants with the shared expectation of a good meal provided in a pleasant, stress-free environment. Just as we seek to solve a problem, eliminate a condition, or resolve a mystery when we go to the doctor’s office. We expect to be seen at the appointed time. More than that, we expect whoever sees us will be both competent and interested. Focused on the resolution of whatever problem or condition that brought us there.
A motorist seeks automotive service to avoid the inconvenience of being stranded or the unexpected expense of a catastrophic failure. They don’t come to see us because they are lonely or bored. For companionship or social interaction. They come because they either have a problem or want desperately to avoid one.
They come with their own set of expectations. Expectations about the time it should take to have their problem resolved or how much it should cost. How they should be treated. Or, more to the point, how they should not be treated.
We seek service—just about any service—to pursue pleasure or eliminate pain. Everyone carries around a bag filled with wants, needs, and expectations. Wants, needs, and expectations that are realized or go unrealized. Satisfied, or remain unfulfilled.
Our responsibility as small business owners is to know and understand what those wants, needs, and expectations are. Our job is to address them fully and completely. To ensure they are exceeded or at least met.
The ultimate task of an owner or manager is to keep your staff focused. To recognize what your capabilities are and then reconcile them against the ability of your people to successfully meet or exceed those expectations.
Your mission as a leader is to create the kind of feedback mechanism that immediately lets you know just how well you are doing. Policies and procedures that will help you to avoid failure and celebrate success.