Posted by ajamison 2 years, 8 months ago

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I recently called to schedule my daughters 13-month check-up and while I was on the phone with the receptionist, I was informed that her pediatrician is moving out of state and I’d have to schedule with another doctor. I was not only caught off guard and surprised, but irritated with the way in which this news was relayed. Shouldn’t this change of been communicated to me prior to me calling to make an appointment? I asked the receptionist why we hadn’t received a letter or email announcing this change and she claimed that the doctor wanted to tell his patients face-to-face. That’s why we hadn’t heard anything yet. What about the patients he wouldn’t get a chance to see (like us) before he departs? There should have been some sort of formal correspondence in place so everyone found out around the same timeframe.

This is a perfect example of communication gone wrong. I can only image how many other parents were shocked to learn this news when calling to schedule an appointment. To date, I still haven’t received any sort of official notification of this change. Our pediatrician was very well liked so I’m sure parents are scrambling to find another doctor they like and trust.

Whether you’re a health organization or a small business, here are four things that companies should keep in mind when preparing to communicate change.

1. Determine a plan and timeline.
So you have news to share? Sit down and hash out all the details on how you’re going to announce the change. First, consider all of your audiences. You’ll likely want to ensure changes are communicated internally. When the public is informed, there will probably be inquires from customers and you want team members to be prepared to respond accordingly. When are you going to announce the chance? How will you announce it? Will you hold a meeting? Send out a formal letter? Distribute a mass email? Consider what option will work best for your audience. In my situation, planning to tell parents face-to-face wasn’t the best decision. A formal letter or email should have been distributed.

2. Create an FAQ document.
When a change is announced, there will almost always be additional questions. For instance, I wanted to know who the other pediatricians were in the office. Create a document that lists all of the possible questions you might be asked. If appropriate, it’s not a bad idea to share the FAQ documents to help alleviate the mass number of phone calls your company might receive. In addition, it would be wise to create an area on your website where you can provide all of this information. Lastly, it might be a good idea to provide a way for customers to follow up and ask additional questions. Consider creating a separate email address when customers can reach out in regards to this particular issue.

3. Execute
Once you’ve mapped out a plan of attack, follow the schedule of how you’re planning to execute. If you’re announcing the change on a Monday, ensure the section on the website (if you go this route) is up and has been tested to eliminate any kinks.

4. Evaluate
There’s something about change that people don’t like. Obviously some people won’t be happy with any sort of negative news, but it’s important to determine if you took the correct approach in how the news was disseminated. For our pediatricians office, I hope they’ve learned that the “face to face” approach probably wasn’t the best form of communication and something on a larger scale should have been conducted.

Communicating change isn’t always easy, but if handled correctly, you’ll lessen the backlash.

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