Dealing With the Worried Well
post # 154 — August 7, 2006 — a Client Relations, Managing post
In medicine, there’s a long tradition of the concept of “triage” – quickly dividing emergency room or battlefield patients into groups so you can decide where your efforts as a doctor are best spent.
The word itself comes from the Latin (or is it Greek?) meaning three groups, but along the way a scheme was evolved which put people into four groups:
(a) the sick (who really need you but can be hard to help),
(b) the early sick (who you can usually help),
(c) the worried well, (who don’t really need you but want to hire you) and
(d) the well (who don’t need you).
This is a very handy scheme to use in other environments. For example, if you are a manager in charge of a group of people, the scheme can help you decide how much personal time to allocate to each of the individuals in your group.
It can also apply to customer groups. In some businesses, including consulting, the economics of these different groups vary wildly. The sick, since they cannot really be cured, are often unprofitable. The early sick are reasonably profitable.
As long as they’ll pay for your time, the “worried well” can be a source of very high profits – there’s nothing really wrong with them, but they keep coming back for one more reassuring examination or study.
Of course, this is not all good news. There’s an ethical issue here – do you really want to make your income from people who don’t really need or benefit from your services ?
In addition, unless you have the pricing right, the worried well can choke up your delivery capacity, making you unavailable to those who really need you.
Who are the worried well in your business life? How do you deal with them?