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Acupuncture Today – March, 2008, Vol. 09, Issue 03

The Importance of Service and Value

By Marilyn Allen, Editor-at-Large

It was a Tuesday afternoon and I was returning from teaching the class in practice management at Pacific College in San Diego. I was fortunate to be riding the train to avoid the traffic between there and Los Angeles.

The compartment was empty except for me.

At the first stop out of San Diego, a group of seven people got on the train. The group found seats, and three men were now sitting across the aisle from me. It was difficult not to listen to their conversation. I am not saying I was eavesdropping, but it was easy to hear their voices. One of the three started playing a computer game. The other two men were looking at information on their computers and talking, while the man playing the game never missed a remark. In fact, he even added comments and pertinent information at just the right moments. I quickly figured out he was the owner of a company. Behind me, two other individuals also took part in the discussion on occasion. They talked and ate sandwiches.

As the ride continued, the conversation turned to sales. The owner commented that they would have to work smarter and more consistently, as their products were tied to the home and mortgage downturn. He said it was time to conserve and be wise in their spending. Their company was going to weather any problems that would come their way - and they were going to prosper. He also emphasized that the most important part of their company was service.

I found their conversation most interesting and began comparing it to the field of acupuncture and Oriental medicine. I eventually leaned out into the aisle of the train and just simply asked what product they sold. This opened the door to further conversation, just about as wide as you can possibly imagine. They were all more than eager to talk to me. They also introduced me to the people in the row behind my seat.

During the previous conversation, I had heard the name Kathleen. Then I heard the words windows and doors. There is an advertisement that runs on an afternoon radio show in the Los Angeles area. When I then found out that the (assumed) owner was named Bill - I put the pieces together. I asked the owner if he was the Bill of American Vision Windows. The resounding answer was "yes." I immediately heard the words from the radio advertisement in my head and realized that this is branding. People hear one or two words and immediately think or remember the attachment to a certain product or service. I began to wonder how well acupuncture and Oriental medicine are branded in the U.S.

Please do not think the conversation was just about them. Bill first asked me if I had bought anything from them. I mentioned that I was doing a remolding project and would soon need windows. At that point, one man took out a card and gave it to me, and then wrote down my name and number for a future call.

They asked about my line of work and I began to talk about one of my favorite subjects, acupuncture. Bill quickly replied that his wife is a faithful acupuncture patient. Then he said that he had been bothered with a painful elbow and went to see the acupuncturist. He described where he had been needled and the other procedures he had experienced. He didn't know how it worked but it was "great" and he felt fine. I thought he had a great testimonial and was reminded of medical doctors who somewhat think the same way. MDs are not interested in how acupuncture works; they just want to know that it works and when to refer their patients.

All of this was to bring you to the words service and value. These are key words for acupuncture and Oriental medicine businesses. The practitioner begins by attending school and learning the medicine. The acupuncturist has a desire to help people. We want to help sick people get well and will do this by delivering service. Look at your office and ask yourself, "How can my staff and I improve our service?" Well, what exactly does improved service look like?

Service begins by talking to people. Sometimes this means getting out of our comfort zone and reaching out to someone else. You never know from where that next referral will come. Service comes by talking about the healing properties of acupuncture and Oriental medicine. Everything done in the office is a service to the sick. Just the very act of answering a phone call is a service to a person in pain. A key factor in delivering these services is creating value for the patient and the medicine. We have the responsibility to share the value of acupuncture service and how it can improve the lives of your patients. It is a miracle-working medicine, and we must share it with everyone we meet in our daily lives.

Click here for more information about Marilyn Allen, Editor-at-Large.

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