High Performing Hospitals Don’t Leave Patient Experience to Chance

Last week, I posted a story about a hospital where parking attendants from an outsourced management company were less than sympathetic to a visitor who had spent the night by the bedside of her best friend’s dying child. The incident underscored for me the importance of alignment and accountability across an organization – including independent contractors and vendors – to deliver on brand experience and customer service expectations.

Brand experience is not created by accident. Well, at least great brand experience is not. Establishing and communicating brand service standards clarifies for employees – and contractors – the specific actions and behaviors that are expected of them in delivering great customer service and generating customer loyalty. High performing organizations define and frequently communicate the standards of excellence required to create experiences that are meaningful and valued by patients and their families – and lead to achievement of the health system’s business objectives.

Kristi Peterson is a consultant (and long-time colleague) that has helped hundreds of organizations address organizational alignment to service standards. She left this comment on last week’s post – I wanted to share her advice for building accountability into your contracts with outsourced service providers. Writes Kristi:

“A poignant story that makes a very important point. It also hinges on a major concern of mine, thus an editorial comment first. We get so caught up in collecting patient satisfaction data (and feeding on percentile results) that the voice of the customer isn’t heard. The numbers do the talking. The relative impact of contracted service providers on the experience is overlooked. It is challenging to capture meaningful feedback on some of these services (such as the one featured). The last thing that’s needed is another survey to monitor the performance. Who experiences the customer’s frustration, disgust and dismay? Employees. It’s important to collect their ideas.

In terms of holding contract service providers accountable for contributing to the patient/customer experience – build into your contracts/reviews the expectations that they will:

  1. Regularly capture feedback from front-line employees (e.g., “What procedures/policies create confusion, inconvenience, dissatisfaction for customers?”) and internal departments/stakeholders (as appropriate);
  2. Reinforce employee communication/service skills through training/coaching;
  3. Adopt and hold their employees accountable for your service standards;
  4. Report at least quarterly one service improvement they have instituted; and that
  5. Executive/manager representatives of contract service firm will regularly visit to watch, listen to, touch and smell your customers. That’s the only way they can get a taste…correction, if they mystery-shopped their own services, they would get a better taste of what the service experience is really like, for customers and employees alike!

We should all spend time being underground bosses.”

Amen, Kristi.

Kristi Peterson consults on customer experience, patient satisfaction and leadership effectiveness. She was a pioneer in the movement to raise customer service standards in hospitals and establish the link between patient satisfaction and employee engagement.  You can contact Kristi at kristi@kristinepeterson.com.

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