The Search Meter, Customer Service, and Fulfilling Your Need to Know

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In your pre-advocacy lifetime, you may never have thought you would be dealing with “customer service.” And yet, now that you’ve started working with clients, that’s what you’re required to do every time you interface with a customer (client) in any way: in-person, through phone calls, or email, or even postal mail. Your website represents customer service. Even the signature on your email is a form of customer service.

Most new business owners who have never before lived in a customer service world believe that all they need to do is listen and respond. But that’s really only a start.

Today we’re going to look at finding ways to provide customer service that provide an experience with you and your practice that may be expected, or may instead be totally UNexpected, or provide a delightful surprise.

Of course, in these posts I’m all about providing examples…  Do as I DO and not just as I say!  Here’s an example of how we, through the myAPHA membership website, provide that customer service in a way you might not have expected.

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Simon and Garfunkel – an Anthem to Advocacy

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OK, yes, I’m dating myself…  One of my favorite Simon and Garfunkel songs is Bridge Over Troubled Water. I’ve been humming it repeatedly over the last few weeks, and last week, we let the advocacy world know why.

When you’re down and out
When you’re on the street
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you (ooo)
I’ll take your part, oh, when darkness comes
And pain is all around
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

The lyrics – are like an anthem about advocacy, aren’t they?  The idea that one person can help another person by creating a bridge over the problems, to make the path to the other side smoother. It’s the work advocates do every day, proudly, passionately, and most often with incredibly positive results.

Beyond the lyrics, the metaphorical bridge goes even further, which is what has prompted the song to run through my head most recently.

So – what happened last week?

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Assessing Value: The Cost of Meat and Potatoes

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An Open Letter to an Advocate Who Questions Her APHA Membership

Received last week from Esther (not her real name):

If you would please clarify a few things I’d really appreciate it.It’s time for my PACE membership to renew and I am trying to decide whether to spend that money.

I want to have my name listed in your directory in the future, but your Premium membership is quite out of my budget. . Do you not offer beginner discounts?

Secondly, I currently am an unemployed family caregiver and have no income. A basic renewal at $49, which is more in my budget, is only for 6 months time, why not a full year? And it really lacks access to the meat and potatoes of your site which would most benefit me starting out in this line of service.

So as you may have gathered, I’m at a crossroads for renewing at this point in time. I’m trying to understand the real value in APHA membership for me. Perhaps you have other financial options for people in my situation?

I do look forward to hearing from you.

My reply to Esther:

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What Do You Want to Learn?

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While many independent advocates and care managers spent their holiday time either celebrating, spending time with their families, and/or putting out fires for clients…  I’ve been right here at my desk during the holidays, preparing for THE LAUNCH.

It’s been SUCH a long time coming…many years, really. Certainly not because the will wasn’t there, nor because the technology wasn’t available.

I plead only the lack of enough hours in my days along with a few conflicting priorities (like completing the launch of patient advocate certification, and rebuilding the AdvoConnection profiles site, and moving 1200 miles!)  Those aren’t excuses. They were realities.

But now these new efforts have (finally!) moved to the TOP of my to-do list…  all to the benefit of advocates and care managers who want to improve their knowledge and skills in the many areas of building successful practices…

So what required so much effort?

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Like Learning to Ride Your Bike…

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In an email conversation with one of our APHA mentors last week, a point that is so often lacking in the understanding of an independent advocacy practice was made:  That it usually takes 3 to 5 years to know if someone will be a successful business owner, advocacy included.

That so many advocates quit before they get there, never giving themselves a chance, really. They start out thinking it will be easy because, afterall, many been advocates for decades in previous careers…  just a simple switch to self-employment, right?

When they finally understand that the first few years are more about business than advocacy, it’s a rude awakening. When that lightbulb goes off, when they begin to understand it’s about running a business, they begin to panic.  That’s when I hear:

But I’ve never done this before!

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