Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Selecting a Specialist

Rigid SeeSnake: Gastroenterologists Use Devices Like These

Recently, I've had to select two specialists: a gastroenterologist and a podiatrist. The way I picked each was wholly different, but entirely similar to the way people select any specialist, including plumbers, air conditioning contractors, electricians, etc.

The Gastroenterologist

During a check up, my primary care physician recommended a colonoscopy. If you aren't familiar with the procedure, it's a little like a plumber performing a video inspection on a pipe... only you're the pipe. Yikes!

If the mere imagery makes you shift uncomfortably, imagine hearing that you're going to get to go through it. Guess what? Sooner or later everyone gets to go through it (or the other way around).

Colonoscopies are performed by gastroenterologists, the sewer & drain cleaners of the medical profession. Since a gastroenterologist isn't the type of professional one sees for fun, I had no idea who to choose. No problem, my doctor provided me with a handy list of local gastroenterologists, complete with phone numbers and addresses. "They're all pretty good," he offered unhelpfully.

How was I to choose? How would you choose? Probably like me. I picked the first one on the list and called. I got a recording, telling me the office was closed, informing me of the hours, and asking me to call back. It was 11:00 a.m.!

So I called the next one. I got another message.

I called the third. Eureka! A human answered.

How did I select this specialist? I picked the first one who answered the phone.

The Podiatrist

I've also been diagnosed with achilles tendonitis, which means I'm not supposed to run. I like running. My alternative is the elliptical, which isn't as good a workout and confines me to the gym. My primary care physician, who is into sports medicine said the next step is for me to see a podiatrist. I wasn't too enthusiastic.

On one of my wife's neurological appointments, I asked her doctor if he knew of anything that could help with achilles tendonitis. This neurologist is also a pharmacologist. This guy knows drugs.

He suggested some pain medications, then recommended a podiatrist. He was enthusiastic about his podiatrist, claiming that the podiatrist really helped him. He wrote down his name and office location on his prescription pad and handed me the sheet.

I'm going to see this specialist. I'm not even considering anyone else. Why? Because he was enthusiastically recommended.

Consumers often have no basis for prejudging specialists. Who's good? Who knows? So the smallest difference can be the difference between getting a call and getting passed. Review your telephone procedures. Call your company from time to time. Use an answering service after hours (and use a good one). Review your external image, your advertising, your trucks, your website, your uniforms. Are you doing anything that could turn off customers?

Of course, the small mistakes won't matter if the consumer is referred. Referred consumers generally don't compare or shop for health care or home services specialists. So do all you can to encourage your customers to refer others. Bland referrals generally result in calls. Enthusiastic ones almost always do.

Now, if I could just read the neurologist's writing...

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