What’s in a (Nick)name?

Merriam-Webster defines nicknames as “a descriptive or familiar
name given instead of or in addition to the one belonging to an
individual”. Businesses sometimes have nicknames. These nicknames can be
complimentary, cute or sometimes unflattering. Unfortunately, businesses are
not afforded the luxury of choosing their own nickname. Nicknames are bestowed
by others to reflect their feelings or perspective about you or your

Think “Taco Smell” for Taco Bell. Or “Needless
Markup” for Neiman Marcus.

People have a funny way of deciding on their own how they feel about
your business and that can determine your
reputation, which sometimes is reflected in your nickname.

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For purposes of this article, think of the words “nickname”
and “reputation” as interchangeable terms. Although your business may
not earn a specific nickname, it will definitely earn a reputation. Everyone
likes to think their business will earn a great reputation within the
community. Owners put lots of effort into specific important areas of their
business with the hope that these efforts will positively influence on the
perceptions of others.

Unfortunately, people have a funny way of deciding for themselves what
areas of your business are important to them. What is important to others, and
what affects their decisions about your reputation, may not be the same as what
is important to you.

Determine your reputation

How do people feel about your company? When you answer that question,
ask yourself how you determined your answer. Have you gotten honest opinions
from people who come into contact with your business? The community? Or is your
answer based on how you believe people should feel about your business?
Remember that people will determine on their own what your reputation is and
what criteria they will use when making their judgments.

What determines the reputation of your business? Is it having the best
practitioners on staff, or is it having been established for many years in the
local community? Is it having facility accreditation, or is it having a
long-standing reputation for community service? The simple answer is that
everything related to your business determines your reputation and what kind of
nickname you might earn.

Many business owners have shared with me that they have a very
successful business and that they do not plan on making any changes to their
operations in the future. They remain committed to doing things just as they
have always done and believe that this will ensure their future success.

But past success is often the largest barrier to future success. What
you have done in the past may likely not be enough, or appropriate, to ensure
the future success of your business. Every business must be open to new ideas
and embrace change.

There are many very large businesses that have experienced huge
successes in the past. Many of these have adapted their businesses to changing
trends in order to remain competitive. Others have not been so fortunate,
including TWA, Oldsmobile and Borders Books. What do all of these businesses
have in common? Bankruptcy. Each was hugely successful at one time, yet unable
to make the changes necessary changes for a healthy future. Some fell victim to
changing times that made it difficult to move forward, while others simply
ignored the changing trends and fell victim to their own short-sighted plans.

  © iStockphoto.com

Delight the patient

I have visited hundreds of orthotic and prosthetic facilities the last
30 years. Some have been absolutely amazing, while other facilities have been
disappointing. When summing up the quality of any business I usually reflect on
the question, “Would I be willing to send my mother to this
business?” Every business owner should be asking that same question.

Some owners have told me that the quality of their building or waiting
room is not reflective of the quality of care they provide. Do their patients
know that? While some may not agree, a patient may have already determined
whether or not you will be successful in their treatment before they ever meet
you or a practitioner in your office.

Let’s look at a common scenario. A patient needs O&P care for
the first time and is referred to your business. Let’s assume that you
have the world’s finest practitioners in your office. Either the patient,
a family member, or a close friend calls to make an initial appointment and
speaks to your receptionist. The attitude of your receptionist will likely
influence the opinion of the person making that call. If the receptionist
greets them in a friendly manner and answers all of their questions to their
delight they will likely have a positive first impression and opinion.

Notice I said that questions were answered to their delight, not to
their satisfaction. Everyone would prefer to be delighted over simply being
satisfied. Most businesses are capable of satisfying the needs of their clients
but few businesses are capable of delighting their clients. Your business can
have a significant competitive advantage by being able to delight your clients.

Next, we will assume for our scenario that the person who made that
first call will drive the patient to your office. In what kind of neighborhood
is your office located? If you are located in a great neighborhood it may
influence them positively. If the route to your business takes the patient
through less than ideal areas, a comfortable and welcoming office can help to
disassociate your business from those areas.

The new patient arrives at your parking lot and sees your building for
the first time. It looks clean and well-kept. The parking lot looks safe and
free of trash and weeds.

Next, the new patient enters your reception area or waiting room. What
do they see when they first enter the building? A clean, comfortable, well-lit,
modern and organized waiting room communicates a positive message.

How are people greeted at your reception desk? A friendly and
informative reception can help color the entire patient experience, as can an
unfriendly reception. People working your front desk are entitled to have a bad
day just like anybody else, but that doesn’t excuse them for being rude.
Every person coming into your office must be greeted with a smile and a
welcoming, positive attitude. This person sees 100% of the people visiting your
business and has the opportunity to influence the opinion of everyone who
visits the business.

Worst case scenario

Now, let’s take a look at a worst case scenario. The person who
originally calls the business to set up the appointment feels the receptionist
was rude. The drive to your office goes through less than desirable
neighborhoods. When the patient arrives at your office they see weeds growing
in the parking lot, broken asphalt, a building in need of new paint and
untrimmed hedges. When they walk through the front door they see old furniture
in need of repair or replacement, stained carpet, old magazines, and
décor from the 1950s.

What kind of opinion do you think the patient and their family have now
formed? The patient will likely have already formed a very negative opinion of
your business. Additionally, they may have already decided that the
world’s best practitioner they are about to meet is not going to do a good
job. In this scenario, your practitioner is already destined to fail before
they even meet the patient for the first time.

A great reception can make the difference

What if a practitioner is nice, but has average skills? In this
scenario, the receptionist may be very friendly when the patient, family
member, or close friend first calls and answers all questions well and with a
smile. She may give the caller more information about what to expect and put
them at ease about the upcoming visit and agree to mail some helpful brochures
before the visit.

On the day of the first appointment the drive to your office is through
pleasant areas and upon arrival they find your building and grounds
presentable. When walking into your reception area they find it to be clean,
neat and comfortable. They are greeted with a smile and called by name. When
the receptionist sees that the patient is in a wheelchair, she comes out,
kneels down and greets them at eye level. Keep in mind that the patient has not
even met your practitioner yet. However, the patient has likely already
determined that the practitioner must be friendly and helpful as well and
likely expects that their treatment will be successful.

The scenarios here are extreme, and are intended to be. We must remember
that everybody has their own standards for judging a business. Although those
standards may not be fair, they are real. We do the same things when we judge a
business. Think about what restaurants you frequent and which you have vowed to
never visit again. Why? It could be a rude person who greets you, an
uncomfortable or tacky dining room, or simply lousy food. However, any one
restaurant may be greatly liked by some and equally disliked by others.

Judgement is subjective. People will make their own judgments about your
business, determine its reputation, and sometimes they may give it a nickname.
What will yours be?

Michael Burton

Michael Burton is the president of Michael Burton Business
Solutions. He can be reached at mburtonemail@gmail.com.

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