By Carrie Stiles, BS, RT(R)(CT)
This year’s Annual Meeting in Las Vegas was, as usual, such an incredible experience for me. I gained so much knowledge from the breakout sessions I attended and was able to take back and implement a lot of what I learned to my department. The session “Wooing Patients – Wowing the Bottom Line” was particularly helpful to me. This session was led by Tina Rudisill and Gail Schwartz from Marketing Works and was aimed at giving us tools to develop and sustain our own unique service culture; what they referred to as a “woo plan.” When an organization successfully does this they attract and retain more customers and the right employees, experience better patient outcomes, achieve higher patient satisfaction scores, and boost their bottom line.
There is an art to wooing patients – studies have shown that 95% of mental processing takes place unconsciously and only 5% of our patient’s decisions are based on rational thought. How our patients “feel” when they are in our organizations is so important, and it takes a unique service culture to be successful.
A unique service culture means offering remarkable assistance to our customers so consistently, and at every level, that it significantly contributes to the distinctive style of our practice or brand and ultimately drives business. When we get it right, it will impact our entire organization. Creating a unique service culture requires having the right people. We need to assess the people we currently have and ensure that new applicants are screened appropriately. Just because someone is good at their job, it doesn’t mean that they are a great fit for your organization. They must be both a skill set and a culture match. It is also important to continually monitor and assess our employees’ customer service skills.
In order for our patients to remember us, we have to do something remarkable. Tina and Gail spoke to us about a book called Purple Cow by Seth Godin. It’s about transforming your business by being remarkable; also called purple. We have to understand what makes us remarkable and differentiates our organizations/departments or we risk becoming invisible.
Tina and Gail then taught us about their Experience Chain, which is a great tool that can be used to dissect current customer touch points. This is very similar to Michael Porter’s Value Chain, which is a set of activities that an organization carries out to create value for its customers. With the Experience Chain three words need to be kept in mind: differentiation, memorable, and remarkable. They encouraged us to go back and actually break down each customer touch point and determine how to make each step “purple” as well as list any barriers.
My hospital, like most hospitals, is very focused on patient satisfaction and service quality and how that relates to our HCAHPS scores, so I was very excited to use the Experience Chain to really assess each touch point in an effort to improve our patient’s experience. My department found that when you really break down the patient’s experience there are more steps than we originally thought and therefore, more opportunities to differentiate ourselves and be memorable and remarkable. As the healthcare industry transitions from a fee-for-service to a fee-for-value model, it becomes even more important to understand the value that we bring to our customers and make efforts to provide them with a truly remarkable experience. I encourage you to use the Experience Chain to assess your customer touch points as well. We were able to eliminate steps that were unnecessary and did not add value and add more “purple” to the steps that were. We really found that our process became more efficient and effective and have received positive feedback from our patients.
I have been attending the AHRA Annual Meeting for the past three years, and I already cannot wait for the meeting next year in Nashville. AHRA does an amazing job of providing us with the tools we need to be successful and I always have a lot of knowledge to bring back to my department and organization when I leave the Annual Meetings.
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Carrie Stiles, BS, RT(R)(CT) is the patient liaison at Houston Methodist Hospital in Houston, TX. She can be reached at cstiles@HoustonMethodist.org.