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Toni Talks about PT Today

Customer Service

Published March 5, 2014 5:47 PM by Toni Patt

I don't think you can work in healthcare for any length of time without attending the mandatory customer service inservice. It usually includes a segment on making upset customers happy. In our case, that would be patients and families. One strategy is to listen, verbalize back and then address each complaint.

I'm skeptical when I hear that. It might prevent that customer from having a bad experience, but what about the ones waiting in line while the service is being provided? When I was in South Dakota waiting to check in, a man was complaining loudly. The registration person spent 5 minutes resolving the issues. I know this because I, and eventually four others, stood in line that long. That man was happy but five other people had a bad experience.

Last weekend I had to go in on a Saturday to do an evaluation. I was told there were a lot of problems when the patient was admitted, so everyone was trying to make the family happy. Normally the facility doesn't staff for rehab on the weekend but because the family wanted therapy to start immediately and the physician ordered it, someone had to provide the service. I work in an LTAC. Evaluating the man on Saturday instead of Monday wasn't going to make any difference in the outcome.

Everywhere I've worked, facilities have practically bent over backward to make a complaint go away. They'll do anything to prevent a bad experience. Those same facilities never think about the patients who aren't being cared for, call bells that aren't being answered and therapy not provided because everyone is trying to make one person happy.

After I return from teaching, I complete an evaluation of each facility. The one in South Dakota got a bad one because of my experience. Because I worked on a Saturday for something ridiculous, I'm much less likely to do it again. It accomplished nothing. The family was just as unhappy when I left as when I arrived. The ordering physician probably forgot about it as soon as he wrote the order, so isn't any happier either.

Maybe we need to change how we think of customer service. Facilities create much more ill will when they inconvenience one person to make another happy. The inconvenienced one might not complain but won't return either.

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1 comments

I agree 100%! What seems to be happening is that management (be it hotel or health care) is busy putting out fires but not recognizing the root cause of complaints in the first place.

My blog this week is related to that. People have complained about insufficient nurses on wards here in the UK. What may happen is more nurses will be hired, at the expense of physio and other support staff so the end result will be no change in people, but a huge change in skill mix. I've a hunch similar problems are going on back home.

When will management stop being so short sighted?

Dean Metz, NHS March 6, 2014 8:51 AM
South Tyneside, England

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