Improve Customer Service from the Inside Out With The Work Expectations Profile
The HR department of a state healthcare provider system needed training that would enhance the relationships among their administrative coordinators and staff. These 250 employees were spread throughout the state and worked in varying environments: hospitals, rural and urban clinics, etc. The staff also represented office managers, receptionists, bookkeepers, and accountants.
The organization was transitioning through a number of acquisitions; as a conglomerate of hospitals and clinics, they were constantly adding facilities to their organization. In addition, they were embarking on a transition to a new system-wide database that would be time-consuming and involve a great deal of training and skill development.
The organization was committed to recognizing their staff. They understood that they couldn’t grow and provide quality service to their patients without the commitment of their employees.
The organization wanted to focus on customer relations, but poor customer service was typically a result of how the coordinator treated his or her staff. For instance, if the coordinators were curt or didn’t communicate well with their staff, they were more apt to communicate poorly with their patients on the phone or in the clinic. It was the age-old adage that employees treat their customers the way they’d been treated by their boss.
Training was necessary to prompt discussions about employee needs and the relationships between managers and their employees to improve customer service from the inside out.
The Work Expectations Profile was used in a three-part process. Part One was “Management’s Role in Managing Expectations” with all clinic coordinators. Part Two was “Identifying Employee’s Expectations” with all clinic employees, and Part Three was “Understanding and Meeting Your Expectations” as a one-on-one meeting between coordinators and each of their employees.
Part One – During an annual management retreat to educate and motivate all clinic coordinators, they were introduced to the idea that the key to patient satisfaction is understanding and meeting employee expectations. Also discussed was the need to offer supervision and feedback to employees.
Without help, employees lose motivation and productivity drops. Managers could either let issues fester until they were almost out of control, or they could get out on the front line, learn what’s important to their employees and work together to find ways to meet those needs. This is internal customer service.
Everyone completed the Work Expectations Profile. They realized the tools’ usefulness and understood how beneficial it would be to have their employees complete the profile and share their results with management. The group committed to holding one-on-one meetings with each employee to discuss expectations and suggestions to enhance the employees’ work environment.
Part Two – During annual retreats with all clinic employees, the focus was on meeting the expectations of their patients as well as their internal customers. There was a discussion about what was expected of them (e.g., teamwork, positive attitude, punctuality, honest communication).
Everyone then completed the Work Expectations Profile. The employees learned about their three highest expectations and one lowest expectation. 10 flipchart sheets were posted around the room with each of the expectation categories, and everyone was asked to go to one of their highest expectations.
In small groups they listed specific strategies for meeting their expectations, whether those strategies were currently in place or ideas to consider. These suggestions were complied and distributed to the clinic coordinators before their one-on-one meetings.
Part Three – Clinic coordinators held one-on-one meetings with each of their employees to learn their highest expectations and what that meant to them. Together they discussed specific strategies that were currently meeting the employee’s needs and suggestions for better understanding or improving an unmet expectation. In some cases, the clinic coordinator needed to provide open, honest communication or clarify a situation in order to resolve an employee’s concern.
The coordinators then followed up with their employees. After all one-on-one conversations were completed, they held a follow up discussion on the results with the coordinator group. During that half-day meeting, coordinators were asked to share what they learned about their employees’ expectations and how their needs are currently being met. In addition, they discussed suggestions for enhancing the clinic and overall working conditions and created action plans to address issues specific to the clinics and strategies that would affect the overall health system. A management response was summarized and communicated back to all employees.
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