Outreach management tips: The seven things you must do
Outreach management is not taught in a formal training program. The path can be diverse, with different means and methods for success. Whether you inherited a mature program or have built one from the ground up, chances are you have learned some valuable — perhaps even painful — lessons along the way. Below are seven suggestions to help you succeed in an outreach leadership role.
As competitors in your market come and go, new regulations are released, and opportunities and challenges reveal themselves, your program’s viability will rest in your ability to forecast these changes (if possible) and quickly adapt to them. Being able to meet the needs of your customers in a fluid landscape will generate customer loyalty and ultimately, program success. The phrase “this is the way we’ve always done it” cannot be in the vocabulary of the modern outreach leader.
Price is often thought to be the single issue that can sway a customer. And while it is important, it has been proven that price is not the sole decision factor. It can be numerous other features, such as a quicker turnaround time, stellar customer service, seamless electronic integration, or an onsite phlebotomist. Examine your price list to ensure it is competitive, but also focus your energy on improving and marketing your program’s differentiators to win your customers over.
Whether it is requesting new personnel, more capital, or an expansion to current services, translate your request into the financial language of executives. Do your homework and arrive at the meeting prepared with multiple options and the supporting documentation. Assemble a compelling business case with prepared financials. This will not only demonstrate your ability to plan strategically but presenting them with choices increases your chance of gaining approval.
Having real-time and accurate financial data on the performance of your program can make a significant impact in your ability to make needed adjustments before they become problems. The information can be available through dashboards or recurring reports and should be readily available to you and your managers. Study your metrics and become comfortable with the information so you can detect trends as they appear. Collaborate with your technology team to create the best tool for you.
To make sure you fully understand the processes within your own program, regularly follow a day in the life of your staff and your outreach specimens. Observe phlebotomy processes and specimen collection for untapped opportunities to improve the customer experience. Ride with the courier and watch their interactions with your customers. Sit elbow-to-elbow with the accessioning and processing staff as they work through exceptions. Examine the testing and resulting phase for ways to help staff absorb an increasing number of specimens. Sit with client services as they field questions and concerns from customers. A leader with a mental map of the specimen journey will be better versed on the impact of their decisions.
Engage in regular conversations with the departments that touch your customers and their specimens. Departments such as Registration, Billing, Logistics, Supply Chain, and IT can provide invaluable information on how your program is perceived by your customers and within your own organization. Schedule regular visits to your external customers to gain valuable feedback and keep an open dialogue. Consistent communication will remove the silos that can inhibit the growth and success of your outreach program.
Attend conferences such as Mayo Clinic Laboratories’ Leveraging the Laboratory to hear from industry experts and educate yourself on best practices in all areas of outreach operations. Build a network of colleagues and explore creative solutions to navigate common outreach challenges. Staying current and connected is your best defense against program stagnation.
While no two outreach programs look the same, you will gain hard-fought experience through your daily work and learning from others, refining as you go. These seven steps will put you on the path to success.