When we think of good customer service, the first thing that comes to mind is when a company goes above and beyond what’s expected. While that’s true, good customer service can also be simplified to include the small things, like a warm “hello” or opening a heavy door when a person is carrying packages. In a healthcare setting, it is especially important to create an environment in which the patient and their family are comfortable, feel heard and know what to expect during a stressful time. Exhibiting compassion and providing exceptional customer service can go a long way in promoting the healing process. In addition, it is just as important that the principles of customer service be applied to the interaction between co-workers. When staff members are working in harmony, those positive interactions “pay it forward” and inspire great service toward customers.
With this in mind, Michele Mangrum, CJE’s Manager of Marketing, Sales and Customer Service, and Sheila Butler, Manager of Admissions and Customer Service at Lieberman Center for Health and Rehabilitation, have developed a Customer Service Ambassador Program. The team of Lieberman Center Ambassadors is made up of 12 employees, one from each Lieberman Center department. They have different levels of experience and represent all the professions—from nursing and catering to housekeeping and administration.
Mangrum and Butler formed the group by requesting nominations from department managers and received a list of 65 highly-qualified candidates. Managers were not eligible to be chosen as Ambassadors, rather this was a special nomination process and a growth opportunity for frontline staff who work directly with residents and families on a daily basis. One goal was to encourage Ambassadors to learn how to find their own solutions to problems, including customer service issues.
The Ambassadors meet regularly to celebrate successes and to discuss where they see room for improvement. The outcome of their discussions will set the agenda for staff trainings and team development programs. One identified need is for each staff member to have a better understanding of their colleagues’ jobs, their everyday responsibilities and their challenges.
Instead of training sessions consisting of dry lectures, the Ambassadors have turned it into a week of fun activities culminating in a celebration with food and prizes. For instance, Lieberman Center employees were sent on a scavenger hunt and had to find the hydrocollator. Of course, unless you use one, how would you know what one is? Consequently, those on the hunt had to 1) find out what it is; 2) who uses it; and 3) report back on what it does. This required talking with staff throughout the building until they were finally able to determine which department and colleague the machine belonged to. Not only did staff finally speak with the hydrocollator user, they also connected with many other folks along the way. In case you’re wondering, a hydrocollator is a towel warmer used by physical therapists to provide soothing heat therapy to residents during treatment.
Paul Mark Regacho, who prepares food in the Lieberman Center kitchen, has been a Customer Service Ambassador from the beginning of the program. He feels that while the scavenger hunt was fun, it served a larger purpose: it built a stronger team and in turn, a stronger team is more efficient and creates a better experience for residents and their families.
When a resident has a particular concern or request, it’s easier and more effective to communicate with a co-worker with whom you’ve built a strong and trusting relationship. Regacho prepares meals for residents and is occasionally called upon to serve meals as well. Having met and developed a relationship with some of the nursing staff, he’s more comfortable discussing special meal requests from residents.
As an Ambassador, he was recently asked to join the Senior Council, an advisory group of Lieberman Center residents, for a Menu Chat. He shared new menu items that were going to be introduced. In turn, the Council also shared some of their favorite dishes and what changes they would like to see. These resident spokespeople really appreciated having direct access to someone in the Food Services Department who could hear their concerns and act on them.
Regacho is also grateful for the support he gets from his fellow Ambassadors. What is discussed at the meetings is kept confidential, so concerns and ideas can be shared freely, reiterated and reworked before bringing them back to respective departments. There’s a lot of work that goes into the ultimate goal of providing a positive, healthy and restorative experience for residents and their families and, according to Regacho, “Communication gets the work done.”
According to Mangrum: “Providing flawless service is not always easy, especially in healthcare. This is where our Ambassadors provide guidance and modelling. They show adaptability, empathy, positivity, clear communication skills, responsibility and patience. These characteristics are all core components of CJE SeniorLife’s Customer Service Standards of Behavior: Acknowledgement, Communication, Professionalism and Personal Responsibility. It is a pleasure to work with this group of Ambassadors and see the passion they have not only for Lieberman Center and their coworkers but for the residents and families they care for. I am excited to see this customer service initiative expand and grow.”