The Broken Window Theory

Have you noticed that there always seems to be one spot along the highway that collects trash? Have you ever wondered how it got started or why that particular spot is the trash magnet?

When the former Mayor of New York City, Rudolph Giuliani, confronted the trash and crime magnet called Times Square he set out to solve the problem and restore his beleaguered city. It took two criminologists to figure out exactly what human behavioral quirk contributes to this phenomenon and how to stop it.

The “Broken Window Theory,” conceived by James Wilson and George Kelling, argues that minor nuisances, if left unchecked, turn into major nuisances. That is, if someone breaks a window and sees that it isn’t fixed immediately, he gets the signal that it’s alright to break the rest of the windows and maybe set the building on fire!

By now you’re probably wondering what this has to do with growing a thriving Chiropractic business. Well your office has ‘structural integrity’ similar to any building. What are your broken windows? What are you attracting? Let’s look at a few examples and see what we can glean.

Identifying Your “Broken Windows”

Have you gotten into the habit of arriving at the office a few minutes late each morning? Have you become so complacent that you no longer need to prepare for the new patient or report of findings? Does the Team see these minor infractions as acceptable behavior and begin to follow the leader? How about patients? Do they begin to arrive late or not at all? Come on, it’s only one window.

What minor nuisance is created when you change the financial policy on yet another patient? Does this breach, add, or detract from the structural integrity of your practice? Come on, it’s only one window.

What kind of minor nuisance is created when your attire has become so casual that your patients say, “You look so comfortable doc, I wish I could get away with that in my office.” Come on, it’s only a window.

Has the scuff mark on the wall been there for a while? Is it inviting others to add to the graffiti? How about behind the front desk? Has it been collecting a few piles of meaningless paperwork and personal items? Have you been invaded by “dust bunnies” breeding under the tables and in the corners?

Selective Perception

Remember, patients have ‘selective perception radar’ that continually scans their environment and dramatically affects all of their decisions. Their senses are highly tuned and demanding. Selective perception refers to the fact that people, once they form a good or bad impression about something or someone, become sensitized and more alert to information that supports the initial impression.

For instance, if the patient has had a bad impression in the beginning of care they will be attracted to studies, or other authorities who questioned their decision to become a chiropractic patient. You might hear things like, “My friend says that coming here will make all of my joints loose,” or “I heard that once you start coming to a chiropractor you can’t stop,” or “I read that getting your neck cracked causes strokes.”

Conversely, if their experience leaves them with a positive emotional impression you will have 1- 3 referrals within the first couple of weeks. At the very least you will hear statements like, “I didn’t realize so many different kinds of people go to a Chiropractor,” or “Doc, I wish I had heard about you before.”

Naturally human beings look for conscious reasons to justify their gut feelings. If their gut says you, your staff or your office is lackadaisical about one thing it must mean it applies to the care plan as well. They might ask, “Am I really that special here or am I just another body?”

Take a look at yourself, your staff and the office aesthetics. Fix all the ‘broken windows’ and service nuisances immediately and set a higher standard of service. Company is coming!