‘Creating and Sustaining a Service Culture’ Category


Creating and Sustaining a Service Culture: What is the SOMC Way?

Kara Redoutey, MBA

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

An article in The Harvard Business Review shared a quote from a professor at Columbia University saying, “It’s all too easy for businesses to become inward focused, to think about their own activities rather than what the customer is going through. They think they’re focused on the customer, but they really aren’t.”  This quote was a great reminder that we don’t always put ourselves in our patients’ shoes.  We often focus on our own processes and outcomes, rather than thinking about how our patients feel in the interactions with us. At times, we don’t really think about the overall impact that our everyday service has on our patients and the long term effects of failing to deliver on our commitment of giving perfect service.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Our mission to make a difference in our community is served in part by providing excellent service to our patients.  The more consistent we are in delivering positive patient experiences, the more patients will support the organization and continue to choose us for their care.  It is an amazing feeling to have made a hard, time consuming, or difficult situation just a little bit better for our patients by demonstrating to them how much they matter to us through our service to them.

How can you do it? 

Do your best to model The SOMC Way in every interaction with our patients and co-workers.  We will all be better for your commitment to focus on making each patient experience a positive one.

THE SOMC WAY

  1. I will acknowledge my customers with a warm smile, friendly greeting and eye contact.
  2. I will introduce myself to my customers, sharing my name and my role in caring for them, and I will call my customers by the name they prefer.
  3. I will make a personal connection with my customers by treating them like I or my family would want to be treated and remembering the “little things” to make them feel special.
  4. I will communicate respectfully with my customers by listening attentively (sitting down if in person) and displaying positive, open body language.
  5. I will explain the tasks I am performing for my customers by narrating while I am completing them, using terms that my customers can understand.
  6. I will keep my customers informed of the duration of their tests and treatment and up-to-date on any delays in their care.
  7. I will thank my customers for choosing SOMC for their care, and always ask if they need any additional assistance when my interaction with them is ending.
  8. I will take ownership of issues or problems for my customers, apologizing for the concern, working to find a solution or someone who can help me, and following through to fix the situation.
  9. I will be professional while representing SOMC through my neat, clean appearance and professional conduct.
  10. I will be a respectful team player at SOMC by anticipating my co-workers’ needs, helping where and when they need help, and acknowledging that all jobs and departments are important in delivering a positive patient experience.

Creating and Sustaining a Service Culture: Why is Patient Experience so Important?

Kara Redoutey, MBA

SOMC has recently started an organization wide journey toward Giving Perfect Service.  We engaged front line and provider service zealots to get their input into the consistent behaviors they demonstrate every single day with their patients and customers.  We then developed The SOMC Way, which has become the organization’s expected service behaviors for every interaction.  The next 16 weeks of the SOMC Blog will be focused on delivering perfect service to our patients and colleagues.  It is my hope that you will start commenting and sharing specific stories about how you deliver a positive patient experience, so we can all learn from one another about the different ways it can be done well.  I look forward to hearing from each of you.

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

We sometimes lose sight or focus when we are performing better than national averages.  Why fix something that isn’t broken?  We are busy.  We are focused on so many things already, such as quality, patient flow, coordination of care, data tracking, documentation, and the list goes on and on. Our teams have enough to focus on without the added worry of ensuring they are doing all this work with a smile on their faces. It can be difficult to confront members of our team, who are extremely busy and performing their work exceptionally well, for not meeting the organization’s service expectations.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

There are a number of reasons for delivering a positive patient experience in every interaction, whether it be in person, on the phone, online, or any other way we are communicating with our patients.  First, patients who have an exceptional experience will choose our organization again for their care, meaning that we have helped to create a loyal customer.  We have discussed word of mouth marketing on this blog in the past.  Remember that loyal patients will talk to other potential patients and bring new customers to our organization.  The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has shared that positive patient experiences increase patient engagement in their healthcare, ultimately improving overall quality of care.  Reimbursement will be impacted by the hospital’s service scores.  But the most important reason for focusing on giving perfect service is that our patients, friends, neighbors, and family members, deserve for their experience to be as pleasant as it can possibly be.

How can you do it? 

  1. Learn from staff on the front lines doing it right.  Most team members aren’t shy about sharing ways that they deliver a positive patient experience. We can learn from them and find new ways to connect with our patients.
  2. Re-educate your teams on service expectations.  We all need reminders from time to time. Simply taking the time to talk through different service expectations in a staff meeting can be a great reminder to team members.  Also using an opportunity when a situation didn’t go well to educate your teams can be a wonderful coaching moment.
  3. Hold leaders and staff accountable for delivering exceptional service.  We all have the opportunity to deliver excellent service, whether we are serving our colleagues who are directly serving patients or directly delivering care to patients. If you see an opportunity to coach a colleague on giving perfect service, take a moment to do so.  A coaching conversation could positively impact the care that patients receive every day!

How do you deliver a positive patient experience?

Creating and Sustaining a Service Culture: It’s All About The People

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

We focus on quality measures. We talk about outcomes. We are hardwired to think about the tasks we have to accomplish. How can we make a statement like “It’s All About The People” and take ourselves seriously? Are we using double speak or talking out of both sides of our mouth? Obviously, we are performing these tasks for people, but what ultimately matters is that we got it done, right? I hope that over the past few months I have been able to persuade you that this line of thinking is not enough to achieve lasting success in our current service climate.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

What do I mean when I say it is all about people? I mean that in an ever-changing and ultra-competitive market place, the customer experience is our ultimate measure of success. Of course, we must produce quality results, but frankly, that’s a given. Our customers expect that! They demand it. They also expect a great experience. Even if there isn’t competition for our service, an unsatisfied customer can lead to a host of other issues. Our aim must be higher than just getting the job done. We must strive to provide an exceptional customer experience.

How can you do it?

Know the customer. We have to identify who we are working for and understand what they want.

Use AIDET. AIDET is a simple, but powerful tool. It outlines our interaction with the customer in a way that sets us up for consistent outcomes and a clear channel of communication.

Be honest with yourself. We must be willing to look at ourselves and our processes in a way that allows for honest critique. We have to accept that our processes can be improved and be committed to taking the necessary steps to doing so.

Creating and Sustaining a Service Culture: Not Just Lip Service

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

It is easy to pay lip service to the idea of customer service. It often becomes a catch phrase; a buzz word. It might even be a regular topic that is addressed in department meetings or pre-shift huddles. However, if it doesn’t become a part of your departmental or organizational DNA, it wont make an appreciably positive impact to your customer’s experience.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

You see, service isn’t just an idea, a strategic value, or a mantra.  It is a culture. It has to become something that is hardwired as part of your service delivery. We have to think about service all of the time. It is literally the purpose for which we exist.. The expression “actions speak louder than words” is especially true when it comes to service. Customers will judge you by what you do, not what you say you’ll do.

How can you do it?

Inspect what you expect. If it’s worth doing, it is worth measuring. As leaders, we can’t just settle for trying to create service culture. We have to follow up, observe, and measure how our teams are doing.

Walk the talk. Leaders….lead. We must be the first to serve. We must be the best at service. We are modeling this for our team and organization.

Listen to your customers. If you really want to know how good your service culture is, ask the people you serve. Sometimes you will have to seek their feedback out, but many times, there are built in feedback loops to help collect this information.

Creating and Sustaining a Service Culture: Thank You

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

The in AIDET stands for Thank You. We are in a hurry. We are going from one job to the next. Our work is done. All of these are likely common refrains about adding yet another (and final) step into this process that some may see as unnecessary. Even others may wonder why in the world we would thank anyone. Didn’t we just do the work?

What is the case for doing it anyway?

It is hard to say if any of the five steps in AIDET are more important than the other, but the final step may be the most important. Taking the time to double back and let the customer know that we have finished closes the loop on their request. Thanking them for the opportunity to serve them puts an exclamation point on it! It shows that we are grateful that they trusted us and chose us. It communicates that we are ultimately most interested in them being satisfied with their experience. It sets the stage for them to rely on us again in the future.

How can you do it?

Make an effort. It doesn’t take much work to follow up with someone. Make the effort to close the loop.

Human contact. There are systems that can communicate the work is done. A personal message is more genuine and goes further in letting the customer know you care about their experience.

Cultivate a concern for the customer. We must rewire our minds. Our tasks aren’t just tasks. They are opportunities to serve someone. Once we have cultivated this desire to serve, we can better implement the AIDET strategy.

Creating and Sustaining a Service Culture: Explanation

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

The E in AIDET stands for Explanation. We develop processes and routines to make sure that we are setting our teams up for success. Our goal is to consistently produce a desired outcome. This means that many things may seem like old hat to us. We don’t always think about each individual step and what role it plays in producing the outcome.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

However, our customer is thinking about each individual step. They are navigating the unfamiliar territory of a process that is likely unfamiliar to them. Even though we have told them how long it may take, we still have to engage them by telling them exactly what we are doing. Sharing this detailed information will almost always reassure them that they are in good hands. It also serves as a check and balance in case their perceived need and our plan are not in alignment. The customer has a chance to hear our plan, evaluate it, and critique it if necessary.

How can you do it?

Be transparent. Customers want to know what is going to happen. Help them see what your plan is.

Be thorough. Don’t skip steps that seem obvious to you. This assumes a level of understanding that the customer may not possess.

Be clear. Don’t use jargon or technical language. Make sure what you have to say is in layman’s terms and can be easily understood.

Creating and Sustaining a Service Culture: Duration

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

The D in AIDET stands for Duration. We might not always know how long something will take. Furthermore, we almost certainly have to go out of our way to provide communication about how things are progressing. This could be perceived as yet another step that gets in the way of “getting the work done” in the face of an ever-growing list of things to do.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Maintaining regular communication with the customer allows the customer to remain engaged as the work progresses. While we may prefer to not waste time and get right to work, this method does not engage the customer. Furthermore, absent some interaction and stated expectation, the customer is likely to think nothing was ever done if the service performed is not readily apparent. For example, if a service technician addresses a temperature concern by making a repair in an unseen mechanical room, the customer may never realize their request has been addressed. Such an experience would almost certainly lead to dissatisfaction. Providing status updates about progress also allows you to manage expectations as the job unfolds and address any unforeseen obstacles that could have a negative impact on the initial plan or schedule.

How can you do it?

Keep in touch. Don’t check in and check out at the same time with the customer. Maintain regular contact so that they know what is going on.

Communicate delays. Delays and interruptions are inevitable. A key to great customer service is communicating these obstacles and providing both an explanation and an updated duration.

Own your actions. Some delays and interruptions are out of our control. Others are our fault. Try as we might, we will still make mistakes. We must own those mistakes with our customers. Accepting this responsibility communicates to the customer that we are engaged on their behalf and that we can be trusted.

Creating and Sustaining a Service Culture: Introduce

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

The I in AIDET stands for Introduce. We want to focus on the task at hand and not the broader experience of our customer. We don’t want to make ourselves a part of the focus of the engagement with the customer, but that is exactly what they want.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

The customer wants to know that we are committed to them and what they need. The best way to do this is to establish a relational common ground with the customer. We can accomplish this by introducing ourselves to others politely and telling them who we are and how we are going to help them.

How can you do it?

Be friendly. No one wants to deal with someone who is unpleasant. It doesn’t take much to be kind and courteous when engaging with stakeholders. Do it.

Be intentional. An introduction is about allowing the stakeholder to put a face and name with their service provider. It gives us a personal identity. It is an intentional act we do to better serve our customers.

Be consistent. Many of these habits seem out of step with the most basic task assignments. It would be easy to revert back to a more impersonal methodology, but we must lead by example and be consistent in our practice of making the service engagement one that is both personal and an experience enhancer for our stakeholders.

Creating and Sustaining a Service Culture: Acknoweldge

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

The A in AIDET stands for Acknowledge. Why are we wasting time doing anything besides the task we are responsible for? If you haven’t been asked a question like this before, you will be if you continue down the road to overhaul your service culture. This is a common refrain of frontline staff and leaders alike. In the world of do more with less, it seems adding steps that aren’t essential to completing the assigned task is at least inefficient, right?

What is the case for doing it anyway?

In short, this approach is inefficient, but that does not make it non-essential. We have spent a considerable amount of time trying to reshape how we think about a service culture. In today’s marketplace, completing the task is merely a component of the customer experience. We must become experts in shaping the customer experience and AIDET helps us ensure that each time we engage the customer we are putting our best foot forward. The first step is to acknowledge who your customer is. In our world, that means a service tech should make every effort to find and identify the person who has entered the request. This acknowledgement ensures to them that we know who they are and we are here for them.

How can you do it?

Identify the customer. For us this starts before we ever go to perform our task. It starts with our process of receiving the request. We work very hard to identify a specific individual, an owner, for each request.

Seek out the customer. Some cases are easier than others. When the task consists of performing work in the immediate area of the requester, we don have to work hard to seek them out and acknowledge who they are. In other instances, we may have to go out of our way to find them and let them know we are there for them. In cases where the person is unavailable, we find a colleague and make sure that they are informed.

Engage the customer. Be personal. Use their name. Let them know you’re there for them.

Creating and Sustaining a Service Culture: Understand Customer Experience

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

We will often accept that if our service satisfies our customer that we have hit the mark. We can settle for this definition of our win. While a satisfied customer is a good goal, there is a tremendous amount of information to be found in digging deeper, beyond satisfaction and into the customer experience. We might not want to do this because we already have a satisfied customer, right?

What is the case for doing it anyway?

I would encourage you to take this deeper step to better understand how your customer was satisfied. What part of their experience made them satisfied? Was it because what they needed was done? Or was it because our team has successfully engaged them, performed the task to their satisfaction, and communicated with them to close the loop? We should strive for quality in all three components of this experience. Engage. Perform. Confirm. This cycle is essential for hard-wiring our success as a service department.

How can you do it?

Engage. Prior to performing the task, engage with the customer or stakeholder. Acknowledge them and introduce yourself. Explain what it is that you are going to do and how long it may take. This will level expectations and provide the opportunity for each party to clarify should is become apparent that it is necessary.

Perform. This is the bread and butter. We have to do what we say we will do when we say we will do it. Period.

Confirm. Follow-up with the customer or stakeholder and make sure that the task has been completed to their satisfaction. Thank them for the opportunity and move on.  Closing the loop in this way seals the deal and ensures a customer’s satisfaction. I

AIDET. This format contains a key concept that is utilized throughout various clinical services. Over the next few weeks, we will unpack AIDET (Acknowledge, Introduce, Duration, Explanation, Thank You) and how it can transform our service culture.