The following is a guest blog post from Charles A. Lewis, the Administrator of Palatine Nursing Home in Palatine Bridge, New York.
High quality customer service is critical to the success of any business. This statement is especially true in the healthcare industry. From hospitals to nursing homes, and everywhere in between, one of the most common complaints made relate to ambivalent staff; patients and residents being made to feel like numbers rather than people.
Here are some tough questions to assess your facility’s customer service situation:
-Has your staff been properly trained?
-Do they seem to lack motivation?
-Are you getting complaints under the general heading of ‘they don’t seem to care’?
-Is your line staff receiving low pay?
-Is their performance hurting your competitive edge?
-Are your employees working together as a team?
Any healthcare manager has at some point, and probably more often than they would like, had to contemplate the above questions and spent considerable time and effort to combat poor customer service. Although common, this situation is not without hope. Your staff needs to become a cohesive team focused on providing the best customer service possible.
Customer service is the attitude and approach that staff take with everything that they do. It must be taught and reinforced from top to bottom, and that expectation needs to be clearly expressed. Every single person in your facility needs to understand how valuable what they do is and how much the rest of the team depends on them. Consider how many interactions your staff members have each day with customers, patients, family members, co-workers, visitors, and vendors. In each interaction there are dynamics that usually require some type of give and take. Does your staff understand and exceed expectations? How much better could these interactions be if there was a consistent focus on customer service?
Here is a time tested, no cost method to help turn your business into the benchmark for customer service. I have tailored these examples for the healthcare industry, but really these can be utilized across industries for great results. Use the L.E.A.F. system to drastically improve customer satisfaction in your company:
Listen: Take the time to listen carefully the first time a request is made. Exactly what is your customer asking of you? Is there something else you can do to satisfy their needs? Ask while you take care of the initial request and make sure to repeat the person’s name: “You need another blanket, John? Let me get that for you right now. Was there anything else you needed?” Put yourself in their shoes. How frustrated would you be if you perceived your needs were being ignored? Do everything you can to address the concerns raised as soon as possible.
Empathize: Let’s imagine we are in a strange place, alone, ill, or confused. What would make you feel better in that position? A little reassurance and genuine concern will go a long way in making someone more comfortable. Never forget that these are people we are responsible for. Taking a few moments from your day to engage in some small talk, for example, can go a long way in making a resident’s day. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel here. Compliment a new hairstyle, comment on a recent visit or photos, talk about a recent event that the resident participated in, or just stop by to see how their day is going.
Act: If you promise to do something, then follow through. Ever hear these customer service killers –“You’re not my patient,” “I’m just with housekeeping,” “This isn’t my floor,” or “I’m new here?” These responses to requests for assistance only serve to let your customer know you couldn’t care less about their needs. If you’re unable to take care of your customer’s need right away, get someone who can. At the very least, tell the customer honestly how long it should take and ask if there is anything else you can help with in the interim.
Follow Up: Check back with the patient later and initiate a quick conversation that reinforces that you took care of their need. “Are you still thirsty, Jack? Can I get you another cold drink?” They will remember that you took the time to make sure they were all right.
If we exceed our customers’ expectations and consistently use simple customer service practices our satisfaction levels will skyrocket, our staff will receive positive feedback, and THEIR satisfaction levels will increase. Staffing turnover rates will decrease and each member of your staff will feel like a valued member of the team. Implementing the L.E.A.F. system will encourage positive growth in your employees and facility.
Charles A. Lewis is a Licensed Nursing Home Administrator in New York State and he has three decades of experience as a small business owner. For questions or comments he can be reached via LinkedIn or by sending an email to email@example.com.
If you are interested in being a guest blogger for Whelan & Whelan please send an email request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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