In all aspects of a person’s life, the first of the year affords an opportunity to “start fresh,” begin again, and resolve to improve. Every year, I humbly suggest all business owners and managers take a look at their organizations, take stock in what they’ve accomplished, consider opportunities for improvement, and resolve to make the next year better than the last one.
The DME industry has been hit with significant challenges that leave most owners and managers, well, not in a partying mood. Those of us in the industry for decades remember the days of big Christmas bonuses and lavish holiday parties. Profit margins aren’t what they used to be. As the year winds down and the holiday season approaches, it’s important to reflect on the positive and what we DO have rather than what we don’t.
Nobody wants to have a customer complain about any aspect of their business. Complaints are negative feedback, indicative of an unhappy customer, and generally a bad thing. They can be harsh or mild, constructive or destructive, fair or unfair, deserved or not deserved. But at the core of any customer complaint, there is feedback about a customer experience, or at least their perception of that experience. And this information and feedback can be a treasure trove of information to use to improve the customer experience, your internal processes, and how your organization does business.
I had the opportunity to work with a “twenty-something” person for a few days last month. They were bright and ambitious and we bonded quickly. During the course of our work together, we went to restaurants and stores several times each day for several days. I noticed something very interesting that I’ve seen before with other people, but not necessarily paid attention to: Every place we went, my colleague and new friend pulled their smart phone out and looked up not only directions to the place we were going, but also reviews. Several times, they found restaurants without websites and quickly dismissed them as places to go. When I asked about this, the person said something to the effect that “if a business doesn’t have a website, they aren’t credible to me.”
Statistics vary, but a general rule of thumb is that 35-45% of all new employees will leave the company that hires them within two years. One piece of the data that is consistent is that the rule of thumb applies to all industries and sectors, high wage earners and workers making minimum wage, young and old, male and female. That statistic should stun managers, supervisors, and business owners and should serve as a “call to arms” encouraging companies to study how they hire and orient new employees to their jobs.
Think about this: In many/most cases, a patient’s first experience with -- and impression of -- your organization happens when they are set up on equipment and admitted to service. Thus, when your organization delivers equipment or supplies for the first time, or when your respiratory therapist sets up your respiratory device, or when a pedorthist “fits” someone for diabetic shoes, they are forming an impression that will be with them for a long time. It’s certainly possible they will talk to their friends and family about that experience.
A few years back, at 5:00am Saturday during the coldest February Northern Minnesota had seen in decades, a longtime home care patient’s oxygen concentrator failed. The patient’s wife retrieved an E cylinder that was for back up from the guest bedroom and proceeded to try to open the gauge. Her husband—the patient—tried as well but neither could get the tank to open. The couple was a little panicky because the patient had been using oxygen continuously for over a year with only a few moments here and there off oxygen. Regular delivery for portable cylinders was Monday, and they were down to two small portable cylinders with a total of about one hour of oxygen combined.
Memorial Day Weekend, the end of the kid’s school year, or the first day of June all mark the beginning of summer for most of us. Sure, scientists will tell you that summer begins with Summer Solstice, around June 21st, the day the Sun is the farthest north; but we all start our summer season based on man-made demarcations and arbitrary dates and times. For many of us, summer means swimming pools, picnics, a long break from school, and of course, summer vacations.
Last month, we looked at fire safety in the DME industry. Safe oxygen storage and fire prevention/safety were mentioned, but not in the detail a subject so important deserves and requires. Handling, providing, storing, processing, and manufacturing oxygen comes with its own unique set of potential hazards and therefore its own set of guidelines and safety measures.
I’ve known two DME owners whose businesses were destroyed by fire. In one case, a consulting customer of mine owned a DME in a Upstate New York strip plaza. Two doors down was a laundromat and fire broke out and actually traveled through the walls. The structure remained standing, but their inventory and the entire interior of their storefront were destroyed by smoke and water, despite the best efforts of the fire department. The second case was a business in the south, located in a rented warehouse in a rather remote location. The fire was arson, and investigators eventually prosecuted the building’s owner for arson and insurance fraud. In both cases, the businesses had adequate insurance, and the owners rebuilt. However, in both cases, the owners bemoaned their losses, suffered terrible inconvenience, and recounted stories of the irreparable harm the fires did to their operations.