Since the coronavirus outbreak started, companies have had to shift their strategies to keep their employees and customers safe. Business owners and managers are making difficult decisions and acting fast to adapt to the current unpredictable and challenging time.
I’ve been curious about how leaders are implementing changes without negatively affecting their staff and customer experiences. I interviewed several people across different industries who are known for HUMANIZING BUSINESS. My goal is to provide helpful tips for people migrating to an online business, remote workforce and other ways of operating in a new environment. The following is my first article of a series.
Meet Dr. Grant Brenner
board-certified physician-psychiatrist, entrepreneur, author, teacher, speaker, and not-for-profit board member
Dr. Brenner is the principal and co-founder of Neighborhood Psychiatry, an NYC-based group practice. He has been featured in a variety of top-ranked psychology resources and media as a thought leader and contributor. With almost 20 years in private practice, Dr. Brenner developed a creative, results-driven approach to help his patients understand themselves, identify and breakdown limiting patterns, and realize their most fulfilling and complete potential. It is his personal mission to help others, and through this, change the world for the better.
1. How did you transition to an online business so fast? What advice do you have for others who want to do the same?
GRANT: We were already equipped in terms of software and the expectation that we wanted to incorporate telepsychiatry into our practice in the future. The element of serendipity combined with general preparedness gave us the technological resources required to make the switch. Two other factors were important. First, we were already using real-time messaging to coordinate workflow and enhance team communication. It was easy to extend this tool to a work-from-home environment. Second, we established a culture of regular team meetings to improve performance on a rolling basis, as our company is in start-up mode. This allowed our staff to feel comfortable with the level of trial-and-error required to make the shift, as our company has been going through ongoing reinvention for the last couple of years anyway.
2. How is technology helping you to humanize business?
GRANT: While we believe that there’s no substitute for person-to-person interactions, our ability to communicate to all customers on our digital platform enables us to send meaningful and pragmatic messages daily throughout the Covid-19 discovery phase as New Yorkers were realizing more drastic adaptations would be necessary.
Technology alone is not sufficient. We make use of good risk communication practices, focusing on supportive, understandable messages based on quality information. Clear and useful instructions, reassurance about continuity of service, and on-demand assistance allows us to connect personally with the majority of our clientele. Even though we made heavier use of direct messaging given the difficulty in playing “phone tag” to have a synchronous conversation, most people nowadays experience a strong sense of messaging using asynchronous communication. Our messaging system feels like texting but has the security needed for a mental healthcare environment.
3. What’s your greatest challenge in continuing to humanize business?
GRANT: For us, patients interact with both administrative staff as well as clinicians. Especially because we are a psychiatric group, this can create an “intimacy divide.” We have to pay attention to the perceived split between caring and business and make sure that the patient journey is compassionate at every step. This is an area we continue to work on, so that clinicians support the office practices, and administrative staff supports the healing environment.
Creating policies that support the patient experience while also respecting the needs of the business can be challenging, especially when financial issues are as murky as they tend to be with commercial insurance companies. Patients already feel like they are getting the short end of the stick from their insurance plans. We’re in the same boat but are often seen as an extension of a broken system than standing side-by-side with patients. We sometimes catch the heat from disgruntled patients when we’re in the same predicament. We encourage patients to advocate with their insurance companies because that often gets more done than our solo efforts on behalf of patients.
4. What’re your next steps to ensure customer (patient) satisfaction?
GRANT: We are focusing on tightening up the communication process, getting greater subscription to our messaging platforms, and continuing to provide effective messages and patient care. We are looking to expand our services to meet the needs of the current environment, and partner with other service providers to enhance access to a range of services.
We want to offer value to patients beyond useful medication management and are training our staff to offer targeted interventions over the next few months. This is also part of a larger wellness-oriented initiative to lead with “positive psychiatry“.
We believe that in addition to warm, useful and clear communications early on in patient engagement, offering effective care and therapeutic interventions based in compassion and resilience-building are the best way to build patient satisfaction. There is no substitute for effective treatment. We are in the process of integrating evidence-based tools to track progress and provide actionable feedback for patients to get the most value from working with us.
5. What are some ways you are or plan to keep employees engaged and satisfied to deliver customer excellence?
GRANT: We are serious about taking care of our employees, now more than ever. We encouraged employees to work-from-home ahead of the curve, for example. We have been providing staff development on a regular basis, flexible vacation policies, on-the-job mentoring while expanding employee benefits. Because our leaders are clinicians immersed in direct patient care, coming from integrative, wellness and trauma-informed perspectives, we deeply understand that the well-being of ALL the people involved is critical. Patients, clinicians, administrative staff — if the community is healthy, the customer experience will be robust.