Before I was the client service loving magnifico and ridiculously fantastical chief client officer around these parts (too much?), many of you may know I spent a brief period of time in medical school.
Call it a young life crisis.
Call it a result of my often all-consuming desire to learn as much as I can (and what happens when you read too many pubmed articles).
Or maybe a type of self-help as a result of a long recovery from an illness.
Anyway, I went to medical school and then realized, “What the heeeeeck am I doing. I don’t want to be a doctor?!?”
And I realized. out of all the dumb ideas I had, and acted on impulsively in my life…that was among the dumbest (not to mention most expensive).
But the reason I’m telling you this story is not to explain my existential young life crisis, but because—even though I didn’t become a doctor—I walked away with many important learnings.
One is the value of a SOAP note.
What is a SOAP Note?
A SOAP note is a method used by many types of health care providers to document—in a consistent way—notes about a patient’s visit for their chart.
The SOAP not only provides the provider a comprehensive way to evaluate the issue the patient presents with at the current visit, but also a historical record, and a way to communicate clearly among other healthcare providers.
Obviously, all of this helps provide the best solutions for the patient and the best care possible.
SOAP is an acronym for Subjective, Objective, Assessment, Plan.
So why do you care about SOAP notes?
Because they are also an amazing tool for client service.
A great way to ensure you have a clear vision for the client’s needs and communicate that with the rest of your team, or other client partners.
Client Service SOAP Note: Subjective
So let’s break it down and take a look at how each section applies to client service.
The subjective section includes the information and self-observations your patient (or in our case, client) share. These could be done verbally, through email, through chat, or however else you communicate with your clients (most likely that means allllllll the ways: Text, Zoom, Skype, Slack, Google chat, Facebook, Snapchat….I could go on).
This section is subjective because you can’t measure it. It’s observational and, at times, emotional.
Now you will want to try to put some sort of measurement around it, but that takes place in the objective section.
Your goal for the subjective section is to be able to get as comprehensive of a report from the client as possible.
This means you need to listen. REALLY listen. Don’t come in with preconceived notions or ideas. Don’t come in with opinions. Listen openly to what the client says. You can form your opinions later.
In the medical profession, they use the mnemonic “OLDCHARTS” to do this.
Each letter stands for a line of questioning to consider when documenting observations and feedback:
- Onset: When did the problem or need first begin?
- Location: Where? Isolate the origination of the problem or desire if possible.
- Character: The type of problem or goal (complaints, sales, growth, internal….)
- Alleviating factors: Has anything reduced the issue (if it’s a problem), improved the issue (if it’s a goal). What are they currently doing to try to reach a solution?
- Radiation: Is it affecting other areas or is it isolated? For example, if there is a problem with the sales team, how is this radiating through the rest of the organization?
- Temporal patterns: Is there a set pattern of how the problem starts or continues? For example, do customers complain more when X happens? Or Do sales drop during a certain time of the year consistently?
- Symptoms associated: In addition to the chief issue at hand, determine if there are other associated issues or symptoms that might be affecting the current problem and/or about to cause additional ones.
Client Service SOAP Note: Objective
That brings us to the objective section of your client service SOAP.
This is where you gather all the information you received in the subjective section and pull together observations you CAN measure.
It’s your responsibility to follow-up on the client’s subjective observations with questions that can lead to objective analysis.
- Them: “Sales have dropped.”
- You: “By how much?” “Over what time frame?”
- Them: “We are getting negative feedback?”
- You: “What type of feedback?” “Concerning what?” “How many incidents?”
In healthcare, this is also where you include all vital signs, test results, lab work, and x-rays.
In client service, we like to use data: Google analytics, revenue, social media data, CRM information, and all other PR metrics you have available to give you actual measurement around the issue or objective.
Client Service SOAP Note: Assessment
Time for your diagnosis.
Just like in medicine, at times the solution will be straightforward and clear, but more often than not it will take deeper digging and analysis
Good communications pros, like good doctors, will take the time to think about each situation individually and strategically.
Bad communications pros, like bad doctors, will make assumptions, come to quick conclusions and throw some tactics at it that “worked for everyone else.”
You all are good communications pros, so we don’t have to worry about the later.
Which means we really we need to think of the assessment section in two parts: Initial and deep dive.
The Importance of BOTH Assessment Levels
We‘ve learned that the value of initial assessment, once you’ve first put the subjective and objective components together, is huge.
Because communications is an art and a science, there is something to be said for that initial reflex, especially after hearing and observing some of the nuances from the client observation.
The things that can’t quite be communicated, but are there…and important.
That nuance can be easily forgotten when you put your analytical brain on and start digging deeper and developing a sound strategy…and you don’t want to forget it.
There have been times I’ll be deep in the weeds of a strategy, and something just feels off. I go back to my initial assessment and BOOM, there is something there that stood out, but wasn’t necessarily measurable, and I had forgotten.
So do both.
Also don’t be afraid to have several different assessments.
If you have a team work on the project it’s always valuable to have everyone do their initial assessment alone and then review each other before you work together to work on a more detailed assessment or the overall strategy.
Client Service SOAP Note: Plan
Here is where we put together our plan.
This is what we are going to do to address the problem or reach the objective.
It’s important to remember the plan might not be the endpoint. It could simply be gathering more data, testing some solutions, scheduling an interview or call with someone else.
The plan simply gets you to the next step and in bigger issues or goals you might need to go through the client service SOAP process many times to get to an “end point” solution. A complete, measurable PR Plan.
Diagnosis through Client Service
This system can be used for big and small projects.
It can be used on weekly calls to simply to record the climate of the client and situations he/she is in.
Employ it to launch a client relationship and prior to strategy development.
We use variations through multiple aspects of the client service process and find it helps keep workflow streamlined and focused.
So keep the health of your client service in tip-top shape and add the SOAP note to your process (you knew I couldn’t end without a cheesy metaphor, right?).