We have all been to a doctor who had an impeccable bedside manner, and we tend to remember it for a while. Bedside manner is the way doctors interact and communicate with us, their patient, and it is most memorable when we have an ailment that is extremely concerning, painful, embarrassing or all of the above.
Typically, a physician with a good bedside manner is a strong communicator, while one without a good bedside manner may offend or be overly abrupt with patients. When we are fearful, in pain or uncomfortable, those medical personnel that readily put us at ease and make us feel that we have come to the right place are those that we depend on time and time again. They are those advisers that we come back to, even if they are more expensive than others in the field.
In the world of business, we don’t typically talk about bedside manner as it relates to how we communicate and serve our clients. We reserve it for the medical world. I believe that professionals have a great opportunity to focus on improving their bedside manner for the good of the profession, as well as for the good of the companies and individuals they serve.
Health is a very personal thing, but so is money. People take their businesses seriously, get excited about the possibilities, nervous about risks and sometimes experience great anxiety and pain when sorting out their decisions and next steps. So, who is in a better place than you to show great empathy, listen well and ask questions in order to help put your patient, i.e. client, at ease?
Increased competition and marketing efforts of competitors have sparked many professionals to step up their communication with clients through what we call The Client Action Plan. This plan is a document that acts as a guide for professionals and allows them to ask relevant questions of their top clients about their goals and issues and plans. This is one way to improve bedside manner. Many others have their own version and have begun communicating with clients more often and scheduling more face-to-face meetings to counsel their clients. Either way, the point is that many are out there asking pertinent questions and listening to clients’ concerns better than ever.
A good bedside manner for a doctor might include showing empathy, being open to communication, involving the patient in health decisions and helping the patient feel more comfortable. A poor bedside manner can appear as hurried, a failure to listen to a patient, abruptness, a dismissal of a patient’s fears and arrogance. I would argue that the same goes for the business owner.
In the medical profession, concern about bedside manner has increased in the past few years. Some medical schools for nurses and doctors now offer specific courses in practicing an empathetic approach to patients. In some hospitals, doctors are tested on their bedside manner with mock patients who are meant to test their tolerance. These courses and tests hope to improve the bedside manner of doctors who are not good communicators and who have little apparent sympathy for patients.
While you may have perfected your communication and treatment of your clients, how well have you passed down these standards to others in your company? With such a strong focus on meeting budgets and realization, many companies are finding that managers feel hurried and stressed and skip the connecting and listening phase when dealing with clients in order to be efficient. What happens is that the relationship suffers, true needs and wants go undiscovered and the relationship does not flourish the way it could. The full potential is lost due to the unintended lack of focusing on the actual client or person instead of the work itself.
A similar issue affects the modern physician. Doctors now see far more patients per day than in the past. Some doctors are abrupt and appear rude because they do not have time to listen like they have in previous years. This is a monumental problem because crucial information can be missed when a patient is not given enough time. Studies show that doctors who listen to their patients thoroughly before diagnosing are more likely to order the proper tests and make a correct diagnosis than those who are hurried and are not listening well and jump to immediate conclusions based on their past experiences.
Bedside manner can affect the quality of care a patient receives in a doctor’s office or hospital, just as it can affect the quality of advice and work in your office or your clients’ offices. Now may be a good time to look at the quality of the bedside manner both you and your staff are offering your clients. This includes how your phone is answered, how your material is gathered and the time that you spend getting to know their business and the people in the business. This also very much includes the way that you communicate solutions and actions steps.
Think about times that you really helped clients and you could see it in their eyes that you made a difference in their lives and businesses. Strive to have more of those moments. You don’t have to cure a disease to have these.
Improve your bedside manner, use your gifts of financial literacy and accounting and have more moments like this. Encourage your staff to focus on the people, the pain and the problem so that you can do what you do best and have a long-term impact on the financial health of your clients and their businesses. Trust me. They will remember it.