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Wait List Wasteland

By April 12, 2017 No Comments

Do you have the beautiful problem of having your phone ringing with more clients than you can handle?  Once you start gaining traction with marketing your practice, it is not uncommon to find yourself in this situation.

In the beginning it feels so exciting…”My worries for where I will get enough clients are a thing of the past!!!  I’ll set up a wait list…then whenever I have space, I will just call the next person on the list.”  Sounds great, right?  Well, maybe for you…but what about for your clients?

You know that feeling…of waiting in line for something that you really need…or…being on hold with a company where you have to discuss a problem with your account.

That feeling is exactly what I think about when I explore the topic of a Wait List.

When someone calls your private practice, especially as a new client, there is a sense of urgency that accompanies their request for service.  The situation has reached critical mass and they are now ready to reach out to you for support. 

Imagine how it feels, in that moment, to be told, “I don’t have any space, but I can put you on our wait list”.  See, clients know just like you and I do, that all wait lists are not created equal. 

Some wait lists are well managed, orderly, first-come first-serve environments where clients that are ideally suited to work with you are able to peacefully wait their turn.  There is a constant flow of communication and everyone knows where they stand. These wait lists are checked often and ALL new clients have to stand in line behind the other potential clients that called first.  Perfect…like a well maintained beautiful flourishing garden…lots of work, but functioning well.  
 
Now, what about the other wait list…you know that one.  The one we forget to check when scheduling that new client that happens to fit perfectly in the last available time slot.  Or maybe the wait list that waits and waits and waits…where clients are continually calling back to inquire about their turn.  When your practice is full and you don’t know when you will have new space available, it can be frustrating for you and your client.

In those instances, the wait list sounds like some sort of small deserted island or an abyss where there is no way to tell what will happen next.

There has to be a better way.

In our practice, we have adopted the idea of collaboration and networking as a possible solution to this issue of over-abundance.  We actually have a list of clinicians that we are familiar with and will recommend that clients contact them to see if they have space to work with them more immediately. 

This accomplished two things.  

1.  We are able to establish a healthy professional alliance with other providers in our area.  They see us as supportive allies that refer to one another when appropriate.   

2. The second and arguably most important impact, is that clients get access to needed services on a time line that fits their lives not our availability.  Clients respect us when we are willing to provide them with the access to the support they need, even if it means that don’t become a client of ours. 

This approach positions each one of us to be a resource that continually takes a stand for quality in behavioral health.  We can all do our part to see to it that clients get the support they need in timely and respectful manner.

Now, one last side note about that referral process.  I don’t recommend sending clients to practices you aren’t familiar with.  Pick up the phone, talk to other providers…find out what insurance they take (if any), learn about their niche and most importantly…are they interested in new clients at this time.  The more you know the more useful and appropriate your referral will be.

So, what are your thoughts on waitlists?  Have you seen it done in an efficient and helpful way?  I would love to hear from you on this one.  Who knows…your suggestion might help another practice adopt a client friendly wait list policy.  Share and Let’s Grow!

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