“There was dust on the table in the MD’s waiting room,” she lamented.
“Coffee stains on the tray table are not a good sign,” sighed the veteran of the skies.
“The outside door needs painting,” remarked the middle age lady with disappointment, commenting on her dentist.
None of these are indicators of the competence of the medical doctor or airline pilot or dentist. Yet the reality is that people judge you by what they know.
They don’t know how to judge your competence except by what society, life, or education has taught them.
The first competence is to be an expert in your profession or area or field.
Strangely, once you have declared your competence or have been given a professional designation by some authoritative body or received an educational degree, the consumer assumes competence in you until proven wrong or some problem occurs that they did not expect.
The consumer’s reality is his perception of the reality.
Perception may be correct or false. But it is still his reality, so to him it is true.
The second competence however, can change his reality of the first competence -your professional competence.
What is the second competence? It is how well you do everything else with the running of your business, your practice.
The second competence is an additional yardstick of your professional competence.
When nothing else is available to further the belief in your first competence, the second competence holds a lot of sway.
For many, the leap from incompetence at the second level to incompetence at the first level is zilch.
Many say “If the Doctor runs his practice this badly, then I can’t be sure how good he is.”
Others say that that ‘pain” caused by the lack of the second competence is too great to stay with a particular provider. This is particularly true, if the doctor had not distinguished himself in some way.
Everyone wants an expert. They want someone who knows what he is doing and has proven results. They want those results for themselves. And they only know what they have figured out on their own. They only make judgments based on their perceptions.
What do patients remember about their time with you?
They remember the experience, how well they were greeted, the appearance of your facility, how well maintained it is, how you and your team look and act and if they suffered pain.
There are dozens and often hundreds of “little things” by which you are judged. These all comprise the second competence. And they are important. When neglected, your first competence gets questioned – and there goes your patient looking for a Dr that does deliver on both competences.
A brief word on why people are this way. You and I and everyone else have to make judgments all the time based on limited information. We use what we know, what we have available to make these judgments.
We base our evaluations on what we can “divine” based on the limited information.
We use our experience to compare what was true before, based on circumstances, to evaluate what is true or real now, based on present circumstances.
We look for congruence.
Do the pieces and parts match?
Does the appearance of the office match the value system of the Dr, in reality and perceived reality?
Does the level of communication provided by the team match the expectation of communication that would be delivered by a superior office?
So what do we do as practitioners?
Two recommendations that never wear out are given here.
You will never be perfect in either one, so forget that. Still, you must work towards excellence and becoming better at both.
(A piece of good news: most other practitioners fall short here so your efforts when compared to your competitors can be perceived as stellar.)
Teach your prospective patients and current patients how you are different.
Demonstrate your competence to them.
Tell them why they were right to choose you or how smart they would be to choose you.
Show them your competence through word, experience, deed and images.
Become an author. Our society holds authors in high esteem.
“My Dr wrote the book,” means a lot in declaring your first competence to the public. For some, this higher level of perceived expertise is enough to render the second competence only marginally important.
Deliver on the Second Competence.
This means taking a hard look at all the other parts of your practice other than clinical delivery. This takes a constant and consistent vigilance.
Hold yourself and team accountable for proactively leading and guiding the patient experience.
This means that standards of conduct, appearance, behavior, communication and more must be developed.
It means paying attention to the little things that matter to your patient. This is a never-ending state of affairs.
You must always be looking to improve on the second competence.
Prioritize these. Get the big ones in order first, and then go down the line. It is wonderful to have fresh flowers on the counter, but most patients want you to first get their billing and insurance right.
Start by doing a practice audit of the second competence.
One particular area needs shoring up in virtually every professional practice – too little communication when the patient is not in the office. For some, communication inside the office is still a problem. More communication is better.
Caring about what is going on means paying attention.
It means continuing vigilance.
It means doing whatever it takes to make things right and then keeping at it.
You’ll never do this perfectly. Get over that. Pursue the excellence.