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Making Customer Service a Reality in Your Health Center

Monday, July 16, 2018   (0 Comments)
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Lisa Mouscher, CEO and Lead Consultant at Sogence Training and Consulting, works with community health centers nationwide, helping to create a culture of customer service at CHCs, and strengthening the management skills of CHC leaders, managers and supervisors.


You're a leader, manager or supervisor in a community health center and you know that developing a culture of customer service is an important endeavor.  This project has been on your to-do list forever, but other priorities continue to arise, and your customer service initiative is repeatedly pushed to the following month, somehow never rising to the top.  Does this situation sound all too familiar?

This common scenario causes more issues than we may realize.  Health centers that provide less than stellar customer service are often fraught with high employee and patient turnover, reduced productivity, bottomed-out morale, an abundance of patient complaints and an unfavorable reputation.  And the fact is, the quality of customer service often impacts the trust patients have in their health center, and by extension, the quality of patient health outcomes.

These crucial realities move the development of a culture of customer service from a "nice to have" to a "must have" in your organization. By creating and sustaining a culture of customer service, you can take enormous strides toward transitioning your health center to both an employer of choice and a provider of choice in the communities you serve!  Now how do you make that happen?

With commitment and an understanding that sustainable change rarely happens overnight, both important and incremental changes can quickly begin to be felt across your department or organization.  As the successes add up, they keep your culture change initiative on track while you work to implement a wide range of changes both big and small to impact your organization for the long term. 

While not everyone reading this is in a position to implement culture change across the organization, a culture of customer service can also be implemented one department at a time.  Regardless of the scope of your initial project, here are some keys to successfully implementing a culture of customer service:


  • Start with the premise that customer service expectations must apply both internally (between employees) and externally (when serving patients and their families).  Internal and external customer service are tightly interwoven, and employees who treat each other well are far more likely to be happy and productive, stay for the long term, and treat patients with dignity, kindness and care.
  • You don't need to do this alone! Bring together a diverse team of employees to plan, create, kick-off and sustain your culture of customer service.  Include employees from different levels and areas of your organization, and include a wide range of viewpoints.  Find ways to understand what customer service looks like to both your internal and external customers.  Be willing to hear the tough stuff and identify the gaps between the current and desired state.  Identify the low hanging fruit and address the most important issues first, as well as areas where the impact can be seen and felt quickly.  Success breeds motivation and more success!
  • Work together with your customer service team to create clear, simple and non-negotiable expectations that apply to both internal and external customer service, distribute them to every member of your team, and expect everyone to exemplify them - no exceptions --regardless of tenure or level in the organization. Identify barriers to achieving the goals and work to remove them (or find effective work-arounds).  
  • Create a long-term strategy, because without it, culture change fades away.  Revisit your plan regularly and make changes when and where needed.  Listen to your employee and patient surveys and pay attention - surveys can be worth their weight in gold if their contents are regularly evaluated, acted upon and revisited. 
  • The need to utilize change management strategies cannot be overstated.  Change is difficult for many people and resistance can be widespread.   By implementing an effective change management process, you can dramatically increase your opportunities for success!
  • And of critical importance -- provide a range of training on the front end and never stop. Many of your employees may not yet have the necessary skills to provide great service, but may surprise you with the right training and support.

Expectations need to apply to every person, every process, every interaction, every department. Weave customer service into every aspect of your organization.  Reinforce your new culture through staff meetings, emails, one-on-ones, posters, events and more, and follow-up regularly to make sure service excellence is happening in every area of your health center. Implement accountability strategies, including regular check-ins and coaching meetings.  And possibly most important of all -- be a customer service role model yourself - your staff will model your actions, not your words.


YOU can be the catalyst to create a culture of customer service in your department or organization!  Make customer service non-negotiable, make it fun, make it part of every meeting and every aspect of your department or your health center.  Talk about it, live it, and expect it.  With patience, perseverance and commitment, you can truly create a culture of customer service, moving your health center a long way toward becoming both a provider of choice and an employer of choice for the long term! 


Lisa Mouscher is a popular trainer at Region X events and across the country, and is the facilitator of the upcoming course “Crucial Management Skills for CHC Leaders, Managers and Supervisors” to be hosted by NWRPCA in Anchorage, Alaska September 26-27, 2018Click here for more information and to register for the event.





NWRPCA welcomes and regularly publishes white papers and articles submitted by members, partners and associates with subject matter expertise. The appearance of any guest publication in our Health Center News database represents the views of the author and does not constitute endorsement by NWRPCA of the stated opinions or perspectives, nor does it suggest endorsement of the contributor's products or services.

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