I’ve been thinking a lot lately about service quality. How do we know we’re providing a quality service and how do we get good feedback to provide better service? When I’m recruiting therapists into my network I always ask if they evaluate services with their clients. I want to make sure that they don’t just finish every session with “See you next week.” I want to know that they’re checking in with clients to make sure that they’re on track and addressing the issues that clients want to address. I want them to hear from the client that things are getting better.
The problem is that while most therapists say they evaluate services with clients they may not be getting feedback that is helpful. When clients are really dissatisfied with services and thinking about dropping out they will often say that everything is fine and on track, just so that they don’t have to deal with a difficult encounter with the therapist. Evaluation forms help because the client doesn’t have to look the therapist in the eye when telling them that they don’t feel heard, but if the survey just asks simple yes and no questions about satisfaction how do therapists improve? Once again, the client will usually give the therapist simple praise and if the therapist doesn’t probe they won’t learn anything.
Yesterday I looked at the evaluation form that I have sent to my clients and realized that I’m guilty of the same thing. My questions are legitimate: Did we help you clarify the nature of the problem you’re seeking help with?, Were you able to connect with the provider you were referred to?, etc. But they don’t give me information to help me improve. Today I revised my form. Many questions now require more than a simple yes or no. They go beyond “were you satisfied” type questions to ask how it could be better, and what they expected that they didn’t get. I specifically ask about our initial phone contact in hopes that I’ll learn something about those who say they’ll call me back to schedule, but don’t. My hope is to learn something and do things a little better so that people will feel that services like mine are worth their time and money. I challenge the ongoing therapists that I work with and others out there to take a look at your evaluation techniques and think about whether you’re getting useful information too.