As counselors and social service workers, one thing we learned in grad school was to check in with our clients at each session to see how they felt about the work being done during the session. We were taught that it was a way for us to get consistent feedback about the therapy process and our relationship with the client. As group practice owners, striking the right balance of providing clinicians with autonomy and ensuring that clients can give feedback about the practice and staff can sometimes feel like a tightrope walk.
First things first: We should, as clinicians first and as a business second, be sure we know how clients feel about their work in sessions. That is how we grow, make changes, and give ourselves a nod of a job well done.
Secondly, it’s standard business to have a way of evaluating employees’ work. In any business, the work we do has to be measured so that we know where we need support, and as business owners, where there are gaps in how our clients are being supported. Group practice owners who don’t have a structure for receiving feedback from clients about their experiences are missing information about how the clinicians (and administrative staff) in the practice are doing. We rarely get to see how the therapists we hire do therapy, so we need to ask the right questions during the interview process and make sure we have a process for evaluating their work.
So, how can we get feedback from clients about our clinicians’ and administrative staffs’ work? Surveys.
There are great rating scales made by Scott Miller specifically for outpatient counseling practices called the Outcome Rating Scale and Session Rating Scale. The Outcome Rating Scale was made for clients who have completed treatment or are ending treatment and asks general overall session experience. The Session Rating Scale is meant to be given to clients after each session to gauge in-the-moment feedback.
I’ve found that these rating scales are great but are missing some crucial questions that group practice owners need to get the full picture on client satisfaction beyond just the session itself. To get the full picture, it’s important to measure additional aspects of your group practice that the client may encounter, like administrative, billing, and reception departments. To do this, you’ll want to build your own rating scale. What I’ve done is adapted Scott Miller’s ORS and SRS by adding questions related to the different departments in our practice that clients will encounter.
Here are some tips for conducting surveys:
- Regularly schedule client satisfaction surveys. It is easy to forget to send them, and the best way to measure satisfaction is to do so consistently (think once a month, quarterly, yearly, etc.).
- Be sure that your survey measures what you want it to measure. Questions that don’t measure what you intend are a waste of a client’s time and do not encourage trust from clients.
- Find a simple way for clients to complete the surveys. Having clinicians hand them to clients is one way, and having an iPad in the office with a Google Forms (if you have Google Business with a BAA, it’s HIPAA compliant) survey is a great option. Google Forms can score the data for you as well.
- Make sure to do something positive with your collected data. Nothing is less helpful than collecting surveys and not interpreting the data and making changes to improve the processes and clinical support in your practice.