The ART of Accommodation

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Toby EdwardsBy Toby Edwards BS, CRA, RT(R)

It used to be that a company’s customer satisfaction scores were something that they put on a highway billboard, a promotional mailer, or shared in a magazine or television advertisement. But in healthcare today, with the gradual transition from a fee-for-service payment model to a value- or quality-based payment model, the need for excellent customer satisfaction scores is more important than ever. Since HCAHPS scores now play a part in reimbursement, and are no longer just something a company brags about, it has become imperative to better understand the patient experience.

Making people like you is a complex cocktail, but for those willing to listen, serve, and adapt to their customer’s needs and expectations, there is a handsome reward consisting of customer loyalty, brand recognition, and, of course, sales on the incline. Regardless of how you plan to reach your customers, there is one secret ingredient that will enhance any interaction that you have with them: accommodation.

The word “accommodate” originates from the Latin word accomodatus which means to “make fit, to adapt, fit one thing to another.” Too often in healthcare today the unspoken expectation is for the patient to adapt to our operations, our culture, our timelines, our processes, etc; but the customer is not supposed to accommodate us, we are supposed to accommodate the customer. We need them, not the other way around. This idea has given rise to the patient-centered healthcare philosophy of which possessing an accommodating attitude towards the patient’s preferences is paramount. Facilities that have adopted the patient-centered care philosophy demonstrate, as a culture, an accommodating attitude towards the patient and their concerns which often include: hygiene preferences, more influence in care and treatment decisions, patient-directed levels of family and clergy support, and drug preferences.

Being truly accommodating to the customer’s needs or desires requires considerable dedication by an organization, especially healthcare organizations. After all, as a customer it’s really easy to tell when someone does not want to accommodate you. That person can smile, make eye contact, and even laugh with you, but somehow we know better. We know when someone is genuinely glad to help or accommodate us. In fact, we even know when someone started out genuinely glad to help us, but reached their service threshold somewhere along the way and now their devotion is waning.

Unfortunately for those working in a service industry like healthcare, the sixth sense that detects genuine service is keenly sensitive. The frustrated, disgruntled, lazy, occupied-elsewhere service person is a no-brainer – we know that person could care less. Sadly, however, sometimes the most subtle of looks, micro-gestures, or change in our tone of voice alerts our patients to the fact that we are no longer ready to be inconvenienced, and that’s where we lose them. We have been detected, and the quality of our service has been diminished.

Champions of accommodation have fully accepted the idea that their inconvenience is a crucial part of customer service delivery. They are not “maintaining” an accommodating attitude. They have fully realized that they are there to serve; to accommodate their customer. After an employee has made peace with this fact, fully and with an attitude of accommodation, outstanding service becomes a simple by-product.

Please join me for my breakout session, “The ART of Accommodation: Creating an Outstanding Customer Service Experience” on Thursday, March 17 at the AHRA Spring Conference. In my session I will discuss the five essential elements of accommodation, and what effects these elements produce in our customers.


Toby Edwards BS, CRA, RT(R) is the director of imaging services at Lake Wales Medical Center in Lake Wales, FL. He can be reached at toby.edwards@sbcglobal.net.

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