Friday, March 2, 2012

Who Is the EAP Customer (or Client)---Really?

This is really an interesting question with many opinions in the field. Let's assume for this post that the client definition the "one" who must ultimately be reckoned with? Many, even after 30 year of EAP activity, remain confused. In the past, host organizations were more easily viewed as customers. Then came the morphing of programs into "benefit model" products as managed care dominated the field. This unwittingly gave way to the "EAP client in office" model for clinicians joining the field. Of course, if you are in a top management role in managed care, you are concerned with performance bonuses and percentages of financial reward for containing the use of behavioral health dollars. This is the mission as viewed by managed care stockholders. The "employee-as-client" is seen by many experienced EA professionals as an improper model, and has contributed to the witnessed impotency of the EAP field in many respects compared to its former peak period in the late 70's and 80's. Employees are part of the organization and EAPs serve the organization by addressing issues associated with human capital -- behavioral risks and exposures. Other service/professionals address other concerns of the host organization. For example, CPAs deal with the company's finances, but they do not see the "finances" as the customer. It is the host organization who is the customer. This precise analogy applies to EAPs. By the way, when EA professionals use the "organization as customer" orientation, more risk and exposures are identified and more lives are saved. This is our mission and purpose. With this model, EAPs also gain more influence and more often do not wait for the phone to ring. In turn, there are many more opportunities to assist the organization and more knocks on the EAP office door by employees. The search for "value added" becomes less urgent for these viable programs.