Spring & Sprout: Week 11

Wow! In spite of all of the wonderful feedback I have received throughout my internship (both internally and externally), this week was undoubtedly the point of culmination for my time at Spring & Sprout this semester. Listening to the final, digital versions of the voice queue projects rendered me speechless. While I remain conscious of the fact that no one will know—let alone question—were these voice messages came from, this project was a personal victory for me for two primary reasons.

First, while I recognize this is an admittedly selfish mindset, I hold this project as a personal victory because it represents one of my first “published” pieces of work, intended for public consumption. While my other projects this semester (including the social media calendar, dashboard metrics, etc.) have been released to the team at large, the voice queues are the first project(s) to be released for consumption by communities outside of Spring & Sprout; the thought alone is mind blowing to me. Moving forward with my endeavors, not only after my time at Spring & Sprout but also after Transylvania, I am eager to be able to present these queues as viable, professional work that I am proud.

Secondly, and most importantly, the final voice queues represent a victory as they are a “tangible” representation of my positive contribution to the team’s vision for their role as a dental management company. In particular, I find this project aligning with Spring and Sprout’s mission which reads:

We strive to positively affect the lives of our patients, their families, our employees and our communities. We accomplish this by treating all parties with respect and empathy. We support our patients and their families through multiple locations and specialists, patient education…and access to superior dental care…

Having spent the past six months dealing with my own phone calls to insurance providers and doctors for a myriad of reasons, I understand all too well the festering frustration that builds as you are put on hold more frequently and for extended periods of time. In light of this, I have strived to harness my own experiences for the benefit of the Spring & Sprout patient experience in every perceivable way available to me.

In conjunction, my own experience as a patient alongside my rhetorical background have allowed me to critically examine the work I produce in relation to Spring & Sprout’s mission. Accordingly, the following ideals played an integral role in the drafting of the phone queues I produced:

  • Respect, Empathy, and Ethos. Spring & Sprout’s mission is largely centered on respecting their patients in a manner that acknowledges parent’s concerns for their children via validation of their worries and concerns. In turn, this facilitates an ethos-based appeal on behalf of the team as a trusted, credible resource for pediatric dentistry needs. My phone queues were crafted in accordance with both ideals as they work to balance patient education of operations and procedures to facilitate transparency between patients and practices.
  • Support and Pathos. From inception, the phone queues are intended to emphasize Spring & Sprout’s role as a support system to parents. Through patient education, Spring & Sprout is able to more easily exhibit their support to patients in a manner that establishes an appeal to emotions via reassurance and support. This connection is integral in developing and maintaining a strong patient-base. Accordingly, the phone queues serve as an excellent means of opportunity for patient education in areas of establishing good oral hygiene habits, regular care, and frequently asked questions.
  • Superior Dental Care and Logos. While Spring & Sprout’s primary function is to educate and support parents in caring for their children, at the end of the day, they are still a growing business. In this regard, it is still important for the team to be able to highlight what makes them competitive in the industry in terms of state-of-the-art technology and services. By doing this, the team is better able to show parents that choosing to place their trust in Spring & Sprout practices is a logical decision.

Overall, I think the queues are one of the works I am most proud of. They were the perfect opportunity to tie together my personal, academic, and professional experiences in a manner that is befitting of the team’s mission and vision for Spring & Sprout. As my internship comes to a close for the semester, I am shifting my focus to Spring & Sprout’s social media usage. I aim to garner a foundation for the team moving forward by identifying audiences, mediums, and messages that will be most beneficial to their efforts in the future as they continue to develop their own brand.

Spring & Sprout: Weeks 8-10

In the week leading up to and immediately following Spring Break, I found most of my work to be focused on minor tweaks to the macros and voice queue projects I have been working on. These tweaks included various alterations to formatting and wording in order to better align the finalized products with their intended purpose. In keeping with the Zingerman ideas of servant leadership, I have largely utilized my role in these projects to make the patients’ and scheduling team’s experience more enjoyable/efficient.

In the week prior to break, I was able to focus heavily on the Patient Support Center (PSC) macros. As a reminder, these macros are intended to create a more personalized experience for patients through intentional language aimed at developing a personable voice for the call center while simultaneously increasing the efficiency of the team’s patient interactions. That in mind, I have worked to embody the role of both the scheduling team and the patients they work with. As a team member, I recognized the need for macros to be efficient in terms of clarity and conciseness. As a patient, I recognize the need to accommodate all patient types (e.g. returning patients, new patients, orthodontic patients, pediatric patients, etc.).

In terms of team member experience, I strived to create enough macros to encompass each of Spring & Sprout’s offices as well as the “typical” questions the team receives in order to increase the efficiency of the team. As explained by Laurel, the scheduling team often receives online requests for new patient scheduling, existing patient scheduling, office location, and appointment rescheduling.  Prior to the implementation of macros, each team member would type out a full response to patient questions. In this way, having preset macros for each office based upon commonly asked questions allows the scheduling team to increase their  overall efficiency in terms of patient contact as it allows them to hit a series of buttons and send a fully developed response, rather than having to type out the same response to five patients in a row.

An example of a new Spring & Sprout macro in action.

An example of a new Spring & Sprout macro in action.

Pertaining to patient experience, I have had to be especially mindful of the rhetorical choices I have made in terms of the responses I crafted. As emphasized by Todd, patients are more likely to return to a practice they feel respected at. As a result, patients who receive “personalized” contact with the scheduling team as opposed to a generic, system-generated response, are more likely to build a relationship their practice, and consequently, Spring & Sprout; thereby, contributing to their loyal patient-base.

To ensure these goals are being accomplished, I have had regular contact with Laurel in her role as Office Manager) and Tiara (in her role as a member of the scheduling team). While I knew my work was valuable in theory, I still had internalized fears that the end product might not live up to the expectations that I had set for myself. Little did I know, these fears would quickly vanish with one email from a member of the scheduling team which read:

I just wanted to take a moment and tell you THANK YOU for the wonderful tweaks you made to Zendesk [Spring & Sprout’s scheduling software]. The macros are amazing and help tremendously! I’m not a big word person so having those responses are great!…[Y]our help and insight is so appreciated!!!

Comments such as the one above from every member of the team ranging from Todd as VP of Marketing to individual members of the scheduling team are what continue to drive me and acknowledge that my work is meaningful to Spring & Sprout’s mission.

Another source of encouragement for me has been my work on the voice queue for the PSC. In the last week, I received feedback from Todd on my initial draft. He was incredibly pleased with my first draft and sent me to work on two additional scripts to target Spring & Sprout’s offices which reach outside of direct pediatric dentistry (e.g. Orthodontics, dentists which focus on, but do not specilaize in children, etc.). Upon completion and review of the two additional scripts, I was able to work alongside Todd to select the music track for the message and then Laurel put me in contact with the team’s voice talent, “Chloe.”

Chloe was incredibly responsive to our scripts and worked alongside me diligently to tackle any concerns we had about the voice queue. After receiving an e-mail over the weekend from Chloe notifying us that the messages were ready for delivery, I cannot wait to get back into the office to hear the final products! Although relatively small in comparison to the work of seasoned professionals, these messages will be some of my first work to be projected large scale as opposed to the work I typically submit for a formal grade. While I imagine I’ll be preoccupied with replaying the voice recordings over and over for a bit, after I’m able to curb my excitement, I intend to jump back into the social media project mentioned in my earlier post.

Spring & Sprout: Week 7

Squirrels and fires and rhetoric, oh my! To say this last week was eventful would be a severe understatement. While all was quiet Wednesday, Thursday brought a whole new bout of excitement for the team at Spring & Sprout. From a first-floor building fire early in the morning to the appearance of an unexpected furry friend in the afternoon, the office was far from uneventful. Nonetheless, there was plenty of work to be done.

As I awaited feedback from Todd on the first draft of my phone queue script, I made arrangements to meet with Laurel the next time I am in the office to discuss the macros I have drafted. In the meantime, I was able to delve into Spring & Sprout’s social media presence in order to begin crafting the foundation for the team’s voice. By doing this, I hoped to accomplish three primary goals:

  1. Uncover Spring & Sprout’s social media philosophy (i.e. why are they on social media). As explained by Todd, the potential for Spring & Sprout’s social media as a means of outreach is limitless; however, this has to exist within the confines of a specific purpose. For this reason, I am working to create a social media plan which explains the purpose of social media in terms of Spring & Sprout’s overarching vision.
  2. Define what social media forums Spring & Sprout is using. While I know from my work the first week in the office that Spring & Sprout utilizes Facebook and Twitter, this week’s investigation took me further into both spaces. I devoted time to each forum as a means of determining what each has been used for. As expected, Facebook appears to be the primary source for patient interaction and education; whereas, Twitter has been utilized in a more professional manner (i.e. to promote and connect Spring & Sprout at large). Understanding the role of specific forums will help the team to better understand how to reach their intended demographic in an effective manner.
  3. Investigate additional platforms and determine their worth in terms of use for Spring & Sprout. As I looked through a wide array of dental practices’ social media accounts, it seems as though the consensus has become “the more the merrier” when it comes to online forums. Nonetheless, in many instances, it appeared as though practices were forsaking quantity for quality. Rather than maintain a few, quality accounts, many practices have numerous accounts to which the same content is repeated; thereby, rendering their message(s) redundant. As I move forward, I will continue to investigate the advantages and disadvantages to adding a variety of platforms to Spring & Sprout’s social media plan (e.g. Instagram).

Heading into the next week, I will not only invest myself in building a social media plan continue to pay mind to my previously submitted projects for additional feedback. As projects are released to their intended audiences, I am prepared to reevaluate my rhetorical decisions as needed in order to ensure each project is suited to its intended audience.

Spring & Sprout: Week 6

At this point in my life, it’s safe to say I am a self-proclaimed Type-C personality (yes, it’s a real thing), as change is not something I would say I eagerly welcome, but nonetheless something I inevitably embrace. In this regard, my internship has certainly been an opportunity for growth for me–both personally and professionally. As a relatively young company, Spring & Sprout is in a continual state of revisions (a mindset companies of any scale would be wise to embrace). For instance, as mentioned in my last post, I was set to begin work on my Patient Support Center (PSC) project; however, after meeting with Laurel upon her return from Austin, my plans took a slight detour.

As Laurel and I sat down to discuss the progress I had made while she and Todd were out of the office, she told me they had a new proposal to throw into the mix–a phone voice queue script. While many of Spring & Sprout’s individual practices have their own script to play while patients are waiting for their call to be answered or to be placed on hold, the PSC in Lexington does not. Laurel and Todd recognized that this could be a missed opportunity to educate patients (both new and returning) about Spring & Sprout’s role in pediatric dentistry. Luckily, this new proposal was not something completely unrelated to my original plans. In fact, it fit in quite nicely!

For me, this project began by analyzing an existing phone script from Spring & Sprout’s Oregon office. I took note of what seemed to work well (e.g. patient-centered language, balance between education and empathy, etc.) and what did not appear to work as well (e.g. the idea of the script as a marketing tool). After this analysis, I knew the phone queue I drafted needed to address each of these issues because they have everything  to do with what sets Spring & Sprout’s offices apart from other practices.

To gain accurate information about this and utilize language already employed by Spring & Sprout, I referred to the resources already put into place including their primary web page as well as their 2020 Vision. I also relied heavily on the thematic social media calendar I created earlier in my internship as a source of general information about pediatric dentistry. Ideally, this phone script will serve as a resource to parents calling into the PSC while simultaneously increasing the efficiency of subsequent calls/appointments as it prompts old patients to notify the scheduling team of any updates in personal information and for new patients to have their insurance information ready to relay to the scheduling team. Although a seemingly small tweak to the overall scheduling process in theory, in practice this small bit of information can help to expedite the calls received by PSC; thereby, increasing the overall efficiency of the team as it helps to alleviate long wait times for callers. Although I recognize each of my projects will never be perfect, I am incredibly pleased with my first draft of the script. Accordingly, upon reviewing the queue with Laurel, I sent it on to Todd for additional feedback. As I waited for his response, I began work on my next project.

As mentioned in an earlier post, Laurel proposed a project which is aimed at helping the PSC develop a voice tailored to the unique needs of Spring & Sprout’s patients. After discussing this project more in-depth, it was decided that the best way to accomplish this (aside from the phone script) is through the creation of “macros” within Zendesk (the group’s primary support center software). At the most basic level, macros are plug and play templates which can be utilized for questions/concerns/requests the team encounters frequently.

For instance, when a patient submits a general contact request form from Spring & Sprout’s site, they receive a default macro which acts as a “receipt” of their request. While this serves its purpose, it can come off as cold and impersonal. For this reason, one of the macros I created is tailored specifically to a general contact form request. It reads:

Thank you for contacting us! We welcome the opportunity to assist your child with their dental needs and we look forward to providing quality dental care from birth to braces. A member of our scheduling team will be in contact with you soon regarding your request. To better accommodate your needs, please respond to this message and tell us if you prefer to be contacted via phone or e-mail.

Through utilizing methods of ethos, logos, and pathos, the macro above facilitates more, personalized interaction between patients and the PSC for several reasons including:

  • a clear exhibition of Spring & Sprout’s gratitude towards their patients (pathos via an appeal to emotions such as gratitude)
  • an explicit desire to work with new and old patients (pathos via an appeal to patients’ desire to be more than just a bill)
  • a promise of a response (ethos via an appeal to the trustworthiness of Spring & Sprout)
  • a direct willingness to accommodate the unique needs/preferences of each caller (logos via an appeal to logic that by meeting a customer where they are comfortable, the entire process can be expedited)

As I continued work on the macros, I intentionally worked to incorporate varying degrees of ethos, logos, and pathos appeals based on what was appropriate given the context in which each will be used. I will review my macros with Laurel starting tomorrow and revise them according to any comments she may have.

 

Spring & Sprout: Week 5

With Todd and Laurel out of the office, I utilized this week as an opportunity to begin to explore my next project! As mentioned in my last post, I have decided to devote my efforts towards helping Spring & Sprout’s Patient Support Center (PSC) develop a tailored approached towards their customers. To do this, I needed to first understand what Spring & Sprout aims to relay to their patients but even more importantly, I needed to understand the team’s guiding principles (i.e. what motivates them). While Spring & Sprout’s 2020 Vision lays out their specific guiding principles, I found myself inclined to understand where these principles came from. By understanding the origins of the team’s motivation, I hoped to better be able to identify their ultimate goals for PSC communication.

As I sat down to thoughtfully examine the printed version of the team’s 2020 Vision, it confirmed my personal observations that Spring & Sprout is a patient-based network. The team strives for and supports the best interests of the practices they sustain through all of their actions. In doing so, Spring & Sprout becomes what Zingerman refers to as “servant leaders.” As defined in their February Webinar, servant leaders are leaders which recognize their role is “first and foremost–to serve our organizations.” This particular ideology places emphasis on the growth and well-being of the people being served (e.g. patients). This type of people-based interaction (as opposed to corporation-based) serves to facilitate more personalized experiences for patients which lends itself to a high return rate and loyal patient base. As Spring & Sprout notes on their website:

We take pride in building lasting relationships with children and parents.

And as I look at this particular project and my informal analysis of Spring & Sprout thus far, my mind is continuously recalling lessons from Classical Rhetoric–particularly with regard to the Aristotelian canons of rhetoric.

While PSC has yet to actively craft their own voice, their actions have not been without thought. With regard to the canons of rhetoric, invention is an integral component to the group’s efforts that continually drives their progress. For instance, Spring & Sprout has not only made efforts to identify their audience (young parents) but has actively worked to craft services which are tailored to this specific demographic. Since the start of my internship, the group has already made adjustments to their modes of invention (by way of their website) in order to better align themselves with the needs of their patients.

As is exhibited in the image below, Spring & Sprout’s website is designed (i.e. invented) in a way that emphasizes simple and accessible use; however, this particular page recently received updates based on the evolution of the team’s understanding of their audience. Previously, the page merely listed the individual offices in a block format with a links to schedule an appointment or travel to the practice’s primary website; however, based upon data from Google Analytics, it appeared as though patients who landed on this page were not finding the specific information they desired (e.g. hours of operation, direct phone numbers, etc.). As a result, the team invented a new page layout which makes it easy to locate and contact an individual practice at a glance.

Spring & Sprout's updated page now offers more information about each practice at a glance.

Spring & Sprout’s updated page now offers more information about each practice at a glance.

Overall, Spring & Sprout’s site implicitly suggests their commitment to servant leadership as they opt to take on more responsibility via invention (e.g. returning patient calls, scheduling appointments, tailoring communication to parents’ level of comfort via phone or email, etc.) in order to lessen the burden of their patients. This is a simple yet effective means of invention which is tailored towards the group’s primary demographic yet still lends itself to manageable operations.

As I move forward with this project, I aim to work closely with Laurel and the scheduling team to determine the needs of both the team and patients in order to devise a means of invention which will effectively serve both!

 

Spring & Sprout: Week 4

With week four down and the fifth on the horizon, I could not be more excited to look ahead at what is to come at Spring & Sprout. With Todd out of the office this past week, I focused on finalizing last week’s pivot tables for presentation. Majority of the adjustments I made to the tables were minor changes (e.g. heading alterations) that increased their overall readability. In this particular regard, rhetorical sensitivity played an integral role in my thought process as I worked to make the pivot tables readable and usable by a variety of audiences (e.g. marketing representatives, patient support center representatives, office managers, board members, etc.).

While most of my work thus far has been inherently directed at marketing, the later stages of each project has required me to draw upon my rhetorical background in order to work towards finalization. In doing so, I have recognized the need to do a brief audience analysis, based upon information given to me by Laurel and Todd, in order to ensure the artifacts I produce will be viable to those they are intended for. After sitting down to meet with Todd and Laurel yesterday (Monday), I was able to put into perspective the effect this document will have on Spring & Sprout as a whole. According to Todd and Laurel, this document is by no means a new idea but rather something that has been sitting at the back of their minds for quite some time, the problem is, no one has had the time to spare to turn their thoughts into action (that is, until I came along).

Ideally, Todd mentioned, this document will contribute to Spring & Sprout’s open-book management style as it is something easily accessible and digestible to all members of their team which allows them to see each practices’ individual progress in terms of social media, marketing, and patient support efforts in direct relation to Spring & Sprout’s overall progress. Todd, Laurel, and I were all astounded by how quickly I was able to put this document together and how much information it has already provided. While my introverted tendencies typically cause me to shy away from praise, Todd’s comments on my “entrepreneurial attitude,” has certainly given me a great deal of confidence in the work I am doing. After a few brief notes on how to finalize the tables, Laurel and Todd agreed this project will likely be unveiled to the board of Spring & Sprout in the very near future (which is mind-blowing to me)! Not only does the feedback I receive show that I am doing good work but it shows that I am doing it in a way that is contributing positively to Spring & Sprout. This, of course, means it’s time to prepare for my next projects. In addition to giving me feedback on existing projects, Monday’s meeting with Todd and Laurel provided me with parameters for my next two projects, which are more closely tied to rhetoric and communication.

The first proposal seemed to me to be the larger of the two. As Todd explained, the last two years have been spent focusing on getting each of Spring & Sprout’s offices to understand the team’s purpose. Now the time has come for Spring & Sprout to branch out into the market as its own entity, and that means developing a “voice.” The concept of voice is by no means unfamiliar to me as a Writing, Rhetoric, & Communication student; however, developing a voice for someone else…well, this will undoubtedly prove to be an interesting challenge. As explained in our meeting, Spring & Sprout needs a voice that is consistent and clear, yet distinct. Recognizing that this particular project will likely be riddled with challenges around every turn, I began to internally devise a game plan on how to proceed; however, before I could get too far along, Laurel introduced the second project proposal.

Spring & Sprout's primary web page.

Spring & Sprout’s primary web page.

The second project, admittedly smaller in scale, was aimed at developing a more personalized voice for the Patient Support Center (PSC). The Patient Support Center is the heart of patient services (outside of actual dental visits). For a large majority of Spring & Sprout’s practices, this is where the magic happens in terms of scheduling appointments, updating patient information, and getting answers about some of those annoyingly ambiguous insurance policies. While PSC has the infrastructure in place to handle the call demand posed by their numerous offices, it is virtually impossible to expect the scheduling team to personalize every call, e-mail, chat they receive while still operating at an efficient, functional level. For this reason, the team has a number of pre-set forms which are sent out in response to communication requests. While this ensures each correspondence is recognized in a timely manner, the team recognizes that it has the potential to come off as robotic and detached from the practices–something Spring & Sprout does not want to be perceived as. While Spring & Sprout’s scheduling team does not keep their location hidden from patients, they want each caller to feel as though the person they are speaking with is sitting a room or two over from their child’s dentist. This allows for a more connected and cohesive image for each practice and helps keep each interaction personable.

After hearing both proposals, I have decided the best course of action will be to begin with Laurel’s PSC project, as the finished product can be something we build on to construct Spring & Sprout’s larger voice. That in mind, my first step to initiate this project will require me to go undercover as a secret shopper, albeit known to the scheduling team, to understand all of the scheduling systems in place from a patient’s perspective. This will allow me to better understand the rhetorical framework of Spring & Sprout so that I can begin to collaborate with the team to create a voice that is reflective of their principles and work.

Spring & Sprout: Week 3

Never did I ever think I would hear myself say I am thankful for exhaustion; however, that is just where I have found myself this evening. Having just finished my third week at Spring & Sprout, I am more exhausted than ever. Between my classes, working part-time at the Explorium, interning at Spring & Sprout, and remaining active with all of my other on-campus activities I find myself pushing harder than normal to stay on top of everything. In spite of this, I cannot bring myself to regret anything in the slightest—least of all my internship. Over the course of the past three weeks, I have been presented with a multitude of opportunities I would not have been afforded otherwise including the ability to work in a safe space where I can strengthen skills I already posses and experiment with those I wish to hone. As I await feedback on my first project, I initiated the first stages my next, much larger project this week.

As explained by Todd, Spring & Sprout collects a LOT of data on their practices; however, as a relatively young company, the team still struggles to make this information easily accessible across all channels. Thus, the concept of a dashboard was born. A dashboard would allow vast amounts of data to be compiled into a single space, easily accessible by any team member; thereby, sustaining Spring & Sprout’s open-book management style. That’s where I come in!

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A quick glimpse at the metrics I am compiling from 2015 (I may have gotten a tad too excited about color-coding).

Information is constantly coming in from Facebook, Google Analytics, Adwords, and the team’s support center software (just to name a few). Todd and Laurel (Spring & Sprout’s Patient Support Manager) decided that the most productive way to provide the whole team (both locally and in sister offices) with information pertinent to their successes would be to compile metrics from Spring & Sprout over the past year. This project is the first step of many in developing the team’s dashboard.

Marketing is not something I claim to be an expert at; thus, this particular project has proved to be quite challenging. I was at a loss of where to even begin with all of the information Spring & Sprout has collected over the past year and a half. As a result, I had to develop a working understanding of several skills in just a little time. Not only did I have to develop a proficient working knowledge of Pivot Tables (something I am proud to say I have done quite well), but I also  had to work diligently at understanding the mass of data I was presented with from differing hosts. To do this, I broke my working document into manageable segments of data identified as either “marketing” or “patient call center.” Patient call center data was relatively straight forward and what I could not find or could not interpret was easily explained by Laurel. On the other hand, marketing data took quite a bit more effort to get a handle on.

Rather than exist in neatly compiled reports, the data for marketing existed in a variety of hosts. Accordingly, Todd ensured I had access to the team’s dummy Google and Facebook accounts. This allowed me to go into each system retroactively and gather backed data on each practices’ Facebook likes and reviews, Google reviews, site visits, etc. Because this data is so extensive and in a variety of places, this is an ongoing project that I have no doubts will take me several sessions to compile and organize. Nonetheless, at the conclusion of today’s shift, I was able to review my work thus far with Todd and Laurel—both seemed incredibly pleased with the progress I have made and could not stress enough how useful this document will be to the team in the future.

Overall, this week has been especially prolific, both in terms of personal development as well as my level of productivity. In spite of the struggles I have encountered while attempting to make sense of all of the unfamiliar data I have faced, I can say with absolute certainty that this experience is challenging me in a productive manner while still allotting me space for trial and error. Moreover, I am incredibly proud to be working on a project which I know positively contributes to the team’s efforts at Spring & Sprout.