How Can I Help?
Scripting has been imposed on us, like many organizations, to standardize the customer experience. From answering the telephone to directing traffic, guidelines are set to make sure no matter who a patient or family member interacts with they receive similar treatment. This practice is so common in retail these days it’s expected in many other settings.
Most often I’ve seen scripting developed by committees or teams to enhance satisfaction scores e.g. “To protect your privacy...” or comply with a policy e.g. “Would you please state your full name?” These become cultural dogma, assumed to be crucial for service excellence, and never seriously questioned. Of course, this kind of scripting must be effective, because the experts tell us it is. And it meets our goal: a common customer experience. Doesn’t it?
But when was the last time you applied for a Walmart credit card because you heard the cashier asked the four people before you in line, “Would you like to apply for a Walmart credit card today?” And did that question meet your expectations as a customer, or make you feel like the scripting was all about the company’s bottom line?
Hospitals aren’t Walmart; retail goals are conspicuously financial by necessity. But it seems clear that scripting in a hospital setting should consider the needs of the patient more than the organization. Scripting by committee, it strikes me, has a bias toward the latter; the goal will always be to improve a score, comply with a policy, impose a change, or meet some theoretical need of an imaginary customer. I don’t think I’ve ever worked in a place that has asked a patient or family member directly how they want to be treated. The idea seems strange.
“What are your expectations?” is abstract and buzzwordy. Patients and family members may reflect that they expected different treatment, but I wonder if it’s possible to list those expectations in advance. As a patient myself I had one: I needed help. Many of our patients are helpless.
Is scripting that simple? Why can’t we just ask, “How can I help?”
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