Courtesy and Customer Service For the Health Care Professional Self-Learning Packet Introduction As we are all aware, HCMC has experienced significant change on a first hand level over the last year. The pressures of health care reform and finance have changed the course of health care forever. The health care industry has become increasingly competitive. We need to do all we can to meet or exceed the expectations of our customers to compete in this market. Several initiatives are underway that assist us in treating our patients, clients, families, visitors and coworkers with dignity and respect.
For most of us this is a review and a good reminder to keep us on track. The first initiative is an effort to clearly state HCMC’s organizational values. During the beginning of the year, focus groups were held to determine the future vision of HCMC. Based on the outcome of these groups the following set of organizational values were developed: Service is the most important product we offer. Everyone is treated with respect. We recognized the value of listening to our customers. People trust, share, communicate and provide feedback. People are committed and loyal to HCMC. Employees have what they need to grow and succeed.
These values are in the process of being adopted by administration and give us all a framework for what is important and valued at HCMC. The second initiative is the Zenger Miller Program. There are several Zenger Miller programs now being offered and all of them revolve around five Basic Principles. The Basic Principles serve as guidelines for behavior that puts our organizations shared values into practice while developing a strong network of relationships at every level of the organization. These principles augment HCMC’s vision and values and the direction that HCMC needs to embrace.
The principles are as follows: Focus on the situation, issue or behavior, not on the person. Blaming people doesn’t solve problems. Focusing on the situation, issue or behavior will help you remain objective when faced with challenges. You will solve problems more effectively, make better decisions, and maintain constructive relationships with your co-workers when you look at the big picture and consider others point of view with an open mind. Maintain the self-confidence and self-esteem of others. Contributing fully is easier in an atmosphere of acceptance and approval.
When people feel free to express their ideas without fear of ridicule or personal criticism, they are more willing to take risks and stretch their capabilities. By showing respect for others and recognizing the contributions of co-workers, you give people the self-confidence to share their ideas openly and to ask for feedback and help in expanding their knowledge and skills on the job. Maintain constructive relationships. The best work comes about when co-workers support one another’s efforts. This doesn’t mean that you need to be “close friends” with everyone you deal with at work.
Your work interactions will go smoother, however, if you approach everyone with a positive attitude and communicate support and confidence in the other person’s ability. By sharing information, acknowledging problems, and sorting out conflicts early on, you create strong relationships based on mutual trust and respect. Take initiative to make things better. By surveying your own area and finding improvement opportunities, you not only increase the organization’s chances for success, you also increase your personal satisfaction by taking control of your work and creating visible improvement.
Initiative follows naturally when you stay informed and alert to changes, focus on ways to avoid similar problems in the future, and expect to find solutions to the problems you face now. Lead by example. As organizations face new challenges, everyone is expected to be a leader. Being a good leader means setting a good example modeling the kind of behavior you want to see in others is the surest way to influence them. By actively honoring your commitments, admitting your mistakes, and staying receptive to new ideas, you will motivate others to do the same.
The third initiative is the Courtesy Campaign sponsored by the Senior Staff Nurses with assistance from Quality Management, Public Relations and Employee Training and Development Why focus on Courtesy? Because people entering health care facilities are often at their most vulnerable. Courtesy is the most visible way to convey respect and caring. Excellent customer service cannot happen without a courteous environment and the staff report that their job satisfaction increases when they work in a courteous environment. In order to address a positive work environment, it is imperative to remember that:
Courtesy Begins With ME! A part of the project included a one-hour session called “A Shared Vision. ” A video titled FISH! was shown. Hopefully, since then, you have done some thinking either on your own or with your co-workers about how the messages in FISH! can be brought into our work environment at HCMC. Whether we work in departments that give direct care to patients or in areas that provide support services to the Medical Center, we all have customers. Our customers are every person we come in contact with during our day at work, either face-to-face or over the phone.
Each and everyone one of us has an important role to play in making our work environment a positive and pleasant place to be, and giving our best to our customers. It isn’t really all that hard to make a difference in the mood around our department, but it does take some thought on what can be done and some willingness to change. As a review, let me give you a quick over of FISH! The video shows interviews with several employees of a Seattle fish market, and the process they went through as co-workers to improve both their work environment and the service they give to their customers.
The FISH! way of thinking combines four ingredients to create a new way of thinking and doing business. Since changing their attitude and the delivery of their service, the fish market highlighted in the video has become world-famous. They have done this by recognizing the importance of the following things: • • • • Choose your attitude Be there Make their day Play (have fun! ) Choose your attitude Each one of you makes a choice every day as to how you feel and what attitude you bring with you to work. Your attitude is a choice you make!
If the attitude you choose is unfriendly, not helpful or even angry, you will have a negative impact on every person you come in contact with during your workday. If your attitude is pleasant, helpful, friendly and energetic, you will have a positive impact on everyone around you. You can make a positive difference in the mood of your work environment! A positive attitude sets the stage for the next three ingredients in FISH! Be there How many times have you been in the middle of an interaction with another person and wondered “are you here with me? You were probably reacting to what you experienced as their lack of interest in your at that moment. Truly “being there” involves both a physical and an emotional presence with the other person, each of which conveys respect and caring. On a daily basis, our lives are filled with many responsibilities that go far beyond those at work. It can be hard to leave those worries at the door when you come to work; yet to really “be there” means doing just that. We need to be thinking about what we are doing when we are doing it, and to give our work our full attention. Some examples of “being there” at work are: . 2. 3. 4. 5. Listening and responding to the people you interact with (your customers). Being aware of your attitudes and working to keep them positive and productive. Being aware of issues you and your department deal with and offering suggestions as to how to improve the services you give. Talking to another department about how you might be able to do things better. Showing a willingness to be part of your work team. This will be easier on some days than others, and since we are all human, we can expect that we will have some days that will be better for others.
The challenge you face is, to the best of your ability, being able to give your full attention to the task at hand and/or the person or people you are with. When you do, they will appreciate you for it. Make their day Everyone has heard the phrase “it’s the little things that matter most. ” We all know this to be true, because when someone goes out of their way to share a compliment, recognize an achievement, help us get to where we’re going, or even slip a piece of chocolate in our pocket, we feel valued.
Making “someone’s day” translates into doing something above and beyond their expectations. Imagine what a different we could make in the lives of every person we interact with at work if we got the extra mile and “make their day. ” Think about the following examples: 1. 2. 3. 4. Recognize and reward your co-workers by saying, “thanks, I appreciated that! ” Say hello to the people you know as you pass them in the hall. Get good at spotting the folks traveling throughout the hospital who look lost, and help them get to their destination.
Take the time to talk to your customers about how they feel and ask them what you can do for them and be ready to do it. When your co-workers see the effort you make to go out of your way to help and be friendly, you will be a powerful role model for them to do the same. Your great attitude and effort will be infectious! Your customers will be the ultimate beneficiaries of your positive energy and enthusiasm for your job! Play (have fun! ) We work in a serious environment where serious things happen. We see heartbreaking events unfold every day and many of us become somewhat hardened by our experiences.
Within our professional world, it may seem that the opportunities to inject humor and fun into our daily work are not readily obvious; after all, we cannot throw fish to amuse our customers as they do at the Seattle fish market! Yet there are many opportunities to uplift ourselves and our customers within the serious business of health care. Our ability to “play” with each other depends on having good attitudes toward our relationships with our co-workers, and taking the time to know them as individuals. Take every opportunity you have to share a smile or a joke and to find the humor in our shared humanness.
As you can see, all of these initiatives are assisting all of us in developing a more courteous, respectful environment. The next step in this effort is to read the self-learning packet on courtesy and customer service. It will present some additional information on issues related to customer service. 6/0/00 mah Objectives At the end of this packet, the participants will be able to: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. Define customer service. State two ways HCMC is already improving service. Define the profile of a customer. Explain the Human-Business Model of customer service.
State the four kinds of treatments wanted by patients and clients. Explain the importance of verbal and non-verbal communication. State the reasons for good telephone skills. Explain the hostility curve. Describe two activities of self-care. Faculty Marty A. Hamlin, R. N. , M. S. Education Coordinator HCMC Education Department Courtesy and Customer Service at HCMC There is a lot of talk about customer service in health care. We hear managers, supervisors and co-workers talk about the topic but what does it mean for health care professionals.
Health care professions have long taught the idea of “advocacy” and meeting the needs of the patient. Advocacy is supporting or fighting for a cause. Advocacy and customer service are closely related. Both are supporting our patients, clients and families so that they can get the assistance they need. Professionals take great pride in advocating for their patients/clients needs and customer service classes or programs are another way to review and expand on the skills necessary to provide courteous, respectful assistance.
Advocacy is the work and customer service is how the work is present. If you read the literature on the subject, customer service is a philosophy on how to approach and deal positively with people. Customer service is an attitude concerning the treatment of the people we serve. When talking about customer service, people often think we are talking about specific tasks of handling calls, or greeting the public. It certainly includes these various tasks but it is much more than that. It is a whole approach to providing service to our patients and clients.
It is having knowledge and skills to handle troublesome situations. Courteous customer service is treating people in a way so they feel their needs are met and they are respected. Clients, as well as most of us, are more willing to work with people to achieve a desired outcome when they feel they are being treated in a respectful manner. Customer Service is often used as a way to attract people to a place of business. People’s attitudes and desires have changed so that most of us expect “good” customer service when we go into a store or place of business.
The people who come to HCMC are also expecting to receive “good customer service” from all of the employees not just individuals who greet the public or answer the phones. The words “customer service” can evoke a response in us based on our understanding from the past. The word service meant servitude. People from an upper class would hire people of less means to do work for them. There was definitely an idea of the servants being “one down” from their employers. 1 When we talk about customer service now, service means an act of assistance or benefit to another. Obviously, when people come to HCMC, they are in need of assistance.
The changes occurring in health care are one reason we are looking at these specific skills more closely now. In the past, and especially here at HCMC, our client population was readily available. We didn’t have to be concerned about whether we would have enough patients, but how we could provide for all the people who wanted care. Patients came to us! Now the picture is different. Changes in federal and state assistance plans, managed care and private insurance have given people more options to choose the type of health care they want and where they receive it. This is also true of people receiving Medicaid.
They don’t have to choose the county hospital. By signing up with various Health Maintenance Organizations (HMO), they are able to decide where it is they will receive their care. People make some of these choices based on how they are treated and how efficiently they get through the system. If they do not feel respected and treated in a courteous manner, the patient and their family can choose to go somewhere other than HCMC. HCMC has been working to improve how we provide service. There is almost always some way to improve even if we are already doing a good job.
There are many ways this is being done, but three initiatives stand out as particularly important: Quality Improvement and Planning, the Cultural Diversity program and the Courtesy Project. These programs have similar desired outcomes as customer service initiatives. They are looking at different options or approaches when planning and providing services to meet the needs of the clients. Cultural Diversity focuses on people’s differences. To provide service that feels respectful to our clients, we all need to know about the different dimensions of diversity.
There are primary dimensions, which include gender, age, race ethnicity, physical abilities and qualities, and sexual orientation. These are core dimensions, which means that they are set at birth and usually cannot change. The secondary dimensions of diversity are work background and occupation, income, marital status, military experience, religious beliefs, geographic location, parental status and education. These elements can change over time. Every individual is a mosaic based on the different dimensions that make up who they are.
Their specific dimensions of diversity will strongly influence their view of the world and how the world sees them. This view of the world is the basis for their perception of how they are being treated. This lead us back to the concept of customer service because the basic idea of good service is respectful treatment and assistance as perceived by the customer. Providing courteous customer service is also good for all of us who work at HCMC. If your patients and clients are getting their needs met and have been treated in a manner where they feel respected, they will appreciate the service.
Most professionals have experience positive feedback when patients/clients truly appreciate and are grateful for the care they received. Often you hear caregivers stated that this is the best part of working in health care. We all have days at work when it feels routine or stressful. We have too much to do to be “extra nice” and “things” are really getting to us. If we do everything in our power to make the people we deal with feel positive about their contact with us, then we’ll discover that we will feel much better about ourselves, about our work and about the services we are providing. “Providing good customer service is by no means an easy task, especially in public service, and does require a lot of personal motivation. But once you develop a few new habits, providing good customer service on a routine basis will be second nature for you and the rewards will be well worth your efforts. ”4 Now that we have talked a bit about a philosophy of customer service, let’s take a look at what it is all about. When you go to a place of business, how do you know that you have received good service? 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. When you go to your doctor’s office or into a hospital, how do you want to be treated? . 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Next, identify who your customers are at HCMC? 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Did your list include the people you work with, the workers in other departments of the hospital, vendors who deliver supplies and people who call on the phone? Metropolitan Health Plan (MHP) developed a customer service program and this is what they identified as a profile of a customer. A Customer is: • • • • • • • • • • Any person who calls us or whom we call. The most important person in our hospital (business). Not dependent on us. We are dependent on him/her.
Not an interruption of our work. It is the purpose of it. Part of our operation (business), not an outsider. Not a statistic, but a flesh-and-blood human being with feelings and emotions like our own. Not someone to argue or match wits with. A person who brings us their needs. It is our job to fill those needs. Deserving of the most courteous and attentive treatment we can give. Is the lifeblood of our organization. 2 It is easy to identify patients, clients and their families as customers, but this is only the beginning. The people we work with everyday are also our customers.
This includes coworkers, people with different job classes, staff from different areas and departments, people who deliver supplies and transport patients—in other words, any individual that we might interact with during our workday. This is an important point to remember that our customers include a wide variety of people. There are many ideas, exercises, techniques and models of how to provide good service. We could not possibly cover all of them in this self-learning packet, but hopefully this packet will give some general ideas on how to achieve positive, courteous service.
List some ways that you give “good” customer service. Make sure you include all types of customers. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. List some ways you could improve on your service. Make sure you include all types of customers. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. List some examples of courtesy behavior. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. As we progress through the packet, keep in mind your current service as additional techniques are introduced. Customer Service Model The Kaset Company uses a model called Human-Business Model. It states a business or agency has two types of service: core and caring. Core service is the reason we exist.
In our cases, it is to provide health care. It is our reason for being. All people expect this core service to meet their expectations in regard to quality. If it doesn’t, you can be assured they will not be satisfied and may choose not to use HCMC for their health care needs. If good quality core service is not delivered, a hospital (business) will probably not stay in operation for long. 5 Caring service is the manner in which we deliver our core service. The Kaset model emphasizes that when we interact with our patients and clients, we conduct both business and human interactions at the same time.
People gbet some of their human needs for interaction met when they are accomplishing their business. When people are receiving care, they also get some of their human needs fulfilled. This fact is particularly important for health care workers because the business we are engaging in is very personal and often very emotional. People want and need us to attend to the human needs while they are receiving our service. We need to be courteous, accept the customer’s viewpoint and not be rude. This sounds very basic, but good customer is basic positive interactions with people. 6
Think about yourself as a customer here at HCMC. The service we give should be such that you would want to be a customer here. If not, then we need to ask WHY? If we don’t want to come here, why would our patients? The Kaset model suggests the following steps for a positive outcome: 1. Enter every interaction with a conversation at the human level before conducting any business. Say, “Hi1” and ask the person how they are doing. Make eye contact, if culturally appropriate. Acknowledge what the person is saying to you. Do not ignore their comments because if the person said it, it was meant for you to hear.
If there are strong feelings involved on the part of the customer, you will need to deal with these feelings before you can do any business. If they are angry or fearful, they need to have their anger or fear acknowledged. If there is something you can do to improve the situation, then it is important to state what you can do before moving on to the real reason for them being at HCMC. State the business that needs to be addressed. Make the appointment, provide the care or assist with their care. Say something on the human level during your care activity.
Comment on the weather or something about the individual. Talk about their new house or new baby. Finish the business. Exit through the human level. Say, “Thank you for calling,” or “I appreciate your patience and willingness to work out the problem. ” Tell the person to have a nice day. 7 Always try to close an interaction on a positive note. Techniques for Customer Service According to Trimble and Van Fleet, clients want four kinds of treatment: 1. Friendly, caring service People want to feel as if their problems and needs are important to you and to HCMC. They would like to be treated in a courteous manner.
This includes giving information, directions and answering questions. Make sure you are listening to what they are saying and not formulating a response while they are still talking. Paraphrase what they just said, so you can assure understanding on your part. Your responses should show agreement to what they are saying. 2. 3. 4. 5. 2. 3. 4. Flexibility Customers want the person who is helping them to be able to “juggle” the system to make it work for them when the present situation does not meet their needs. People do not want us to change the rules, but find creative ways to solve their problems within the rules.
Problem Solving People want us to find a way to help solve their problem, whether it is medical, social, financial or nutritional in nature. Assure the customer that their problem is important and that you will be responsible for taking care of it or having someone else take care of it. Most of us are asked to solve problems for our customer sometime during our workday, so this is a big part of all of our jobs. Recovery People want action when there has been a mistake. They want us to recognize that a mistake has been made and that every effort has been made to correct the error. 8
Another technique is one suggested by Quality Media Resources. In their video called, “The Five Values of Great Customer Service,” they suggest the following values: Show Respect Every customer is your MOST important customer. Personalize Avoid pre-conceived notions and stereotypes. Pay Attention Assess how the customer wants to be served and adjust. Show You Care Present a positive, supportive attitude. Advocate Stay on your customer’s side. To integrate these values into your work life, remember the word GREAT. • • • • • G R E A T Greet all customers. Respect customers cultural and other differences.
Evaluate what needs special attention. Adjust to meet your customer’s needs. “Thank you” should always be said. 23 Communication Skills There is much written about communication skills. These skills are the cornerstone of all of our human interaction. If we can communicate effectively, then we will have more positive interactions. If you have already study communication skills, then this section will be a review. Listening Awareness Inventory9 To see how effective you think you are in practicing good listening techniques, answer these questions about yourself.
QUESTIONS Do you let people finish what they’re trying to say before you speak? If the person hesitates, do you try to encourage him/her…rather than start your reply? Do you withhold judgment about the person’s idea until he/she has finished? Can you listen fully, even though you think you know what he/she is about to say? Can you listen non-judgmentally even if you do not like the person who’s talking? Do you stop what you’re doing and give full attention when listening? Do you give the person appropriate eye contact, head nods, and non-verbals to indicate that you’re listening?
Do you listen fully, regardless of the speaker’s manner of speaking (i. e. , grammar, accent, choice of words)? Do you question the person to clarify his/her ideas more fully? Do you restate-paraphrase what’s said and ask if you got it right? Add up your points using the following scale: Always = 4 points Usually = 3 points Seldom = 2 points Total Points Interpret your score according to the following table: Total Score 36-40 Outstanding listener 30-35 Good listener—put more effort into attention and suspend judgment 26-29 Need work—what pay-off would you get from improving? 0-25 Ask if you were really serious about taking this test. What could you gain by improving? Almost Always Usually Seldom Never Never = 1 point Typical Habits of Trained and Untrained Listeners11 Listening isn’t a matter of intellect or genius—it’s a habit we can all improve. Untrained Listeners Tune others out, prejudges. Quick to mentally criticize grammar/speaking style. Try to talk when they should be listening. Listen for facts and errors to prove others wrong. Try to reply to everything—exaggerations and errors. Fake attention.
Try to do something else while listening. Give up too soon. Demonstrate by emotional words, lose their temper Give little verbal response. Unaware of talking/listening “speed limits” mismatch. Are impatient to “get on with it. ” Trained Listeners Defer their judgment, listen for feelings and facts. Pay attention to content. Listen completely first, make people feel valued. Listen for main idea, disregard minor points. Avoid sidetracking and sarcastic remarks. Give themselves internal cues to listen. Realize listening is a fulltime job—keep eye contact.
Listen carefully, give feedback, ask confirmation. Feel their anger, but control it. Make affirmative statements. Maintain patience while listening. Listen for emotions. According to seminars given by Fred Pryor10, the goal and mission of communication is to build an emotional connection and form a partnership with your patient or client. • • • • • • • Build rapport, as opposed to resistance. Non-verbals are 80% of the perceived message. Remember that actions speak louder than words. Gather information and focus on facts. Suspend judgment of the person. Acknowledge their emotions.
Try to “hear” the unspoken meaning of what the person is saying. Michael Leboeuf says, “People are far more persuaded by your attitude than by logic. ” Cue yourself to listen if your mind starts to wander. Ask questions if you do not understand. • • Verbal and Nonverbal Communication When communicating with patients and clients, the words that we choose to use can make all the difference in how the individual views our concern and willingness to solve problems. The following chart lists some words used to conduct patient/client care or other business of the hospital.
The left column includes words or phrases that may elicit a negative response and the right column may elicit a more positive outcome. Words to Avoid You have to… I want you to… I’ll try, but… Would you mind… Why don’t you… But It’s not our policy. You can’t. It’s required. It’s necessary. What’s your problem? 11 I can’t. I can’t help you. You should have… All we can do is… It’s our policy to… I don’t know. I’m new here. The doctor will be right with you. We have a problem. 12 Words to Use Will you… Willing I am… It works well when… I’ll do it.
Can you tell me about the difficulty you’re having…11 What would you like us to do? What will work best? Let me take care of that for you. Give me a few minutes and I’ll check up on this. I apologize for the misinformation. Our hands are tied by federal law, but here’s what I can do. Let’s take care of this right now. Let me find out for you. Although I’m new, I’ll get someone to help you. How may I help you? If I can’t help you, I know who can. Dr. Whipple will be in in about 15 minutes. 12 Have you found that you use any of the words in the left-hand column?
List two of the phrases you find you say from both columns. Left-hand Column 1. 2. Right-hand Column 1. 2. Besides the words we use, body language is also extremely important. The old proverb, “actions speak louder than words” is a very true statement when providing service. If your words say one thing but your body language or what you do says something else, people will believe your actions and body language over your words. Body language can also elicit positive and negative reactions. Here are some common gestures.
Negative Tense shoulders Standing stiff Pointed finger Hands on hips Eye rolling Pursed lips Glaring Avoiding eye contact (May not be negative if culture does not value direct eye contact or it means something different) Arms across chest Teeth clenched Positive Leaning forward Arms out Relaxed stance Smooth face Eye contact (May not be positive if culture does not value direct eye contact or it means something different) Smiling Bending of head13 List two of the gestures you find you use from both columns. Left-hand Column 1. 2. Right-hand Column 1. . Sometimes you will have to tell people that there are policies, laws or regulations that exist. Laws, regulations and orders may be something you truly cannot change or alter (i. e. , smoking policies in the hospital). However, you may find that there are some policies or rules that do not fit the situation (numbers of people present at the bed of a dying patient), and it is important to understand what can and cannot be altered. If you feel that a request of a patient or client is not unreasonable, discuss it with your supervisor or team leader.
Maybe there is some latitude in the rules or policies, or maybe other people have been questioning the policy, and by letting your supervisor know, it may make a difference. Sometimes, you know that you will have to say, “No. ” Even though this may be an uncomfortable situation for you, there are some things you can do to make it go a little easier. 1. 2. Listen to their entire statement before you start to answer them. Try to avoid the phrase, “It’s our policy. ” This will often elicit a quick and negative response. 3. 4. 5. 6. Empathize by telling them that you understand.
Acknowledge their emotions by saying, “I can see how concerned/upset you are. ” Suggest alternatives. Give a reason for declining their request, such as safety or privacy concerns for other patients. People often will understand why they can’t have to do something if it is a problem for other patients. They want to have the courtesy extended to them if they are patients. Use some self-disclosure by saying, “I have felt like that, too…” If they insist on speaking to “your boss,” then: • Know how your boss would like you to deal with this in advance. Maybe you might practice some scenarios. Explain the customer’s complaint or problem and your actions in front of the customer. • Listen to solution. Ask the customer what they would like to do or what they think they need or want. Don’t forget to use the following: G R E A T Greet all customers. Respect customers’ cultural and other differences. Evaluate what needs special attention. Adjust to meet your customer’s needs. “Thank you” should always be said. 23 7. 8. 9. 10. • • • • • Later on, check with your supervisor to see if this is how you should handle the situation, or what she/he would like you to do in the future. 4 Some Technical Skills Telephone Skills Before we look at some specific skills, answer the following questions about your phone habits: Question Before leaving your phone, do you leave word where you are going and when you plan to return? Is it easy for you to begin a telephone conversation? Do you easily find words to express what you mean when talking on the telephone? Do you avoid using slang and trite phrases? Do you listen without interrupting the speaker? Do you answer your telephone promptly before the second ring whenever possible? Do you smile while talking on the telephone?
Do you avoid drawing out conversations on the telephone? Do you use the caller’s name frequently? Can you end the conversation without being abrupt? Do people easily understand you on the telephone? Are you interested in what you are saying when you speak on the telephone? Do you identify yourself at the beginning of the conversation whether you are taking or placing the call? Are you quick to discover the purpose of the call? Do you offer to help and assist the caller? Do you find it easy to handle difficult people over the telephone? Do you refrain from reprimanding other departments over the telephone?
Do you refrain from grumbling over the telephone about circumstances that cannot change? When taking messages, do you note all essential information and, if necessary, double check? If it is necessary for the caller to wait longer than a minute while you leave the line, do you offer to return the call? Do you look forward to telephone conversations? Do you feel comfortable conversing with anyone regardless of age or position? Do you find it easy to remember names of frequent callers? Do you speak in a pleasant tone, despite pressures and upsets? Do you conduct yourself in a professional manner over the telephone?
Yes No Sometimes Add up your points using the following scale. Yes = 4 points No = 0 points Sometimes = 1 point Interpret your score according to the following table: 100 points 99-88 points 79-70 points 69 and below – Total Points _________ Perfect Excellent Satisfactory, but added effort will bring big rewards You’re slipping! Concentrate on forming better telephone habits. Retake this test in two weeks to monitor your progress. 15 There are many, many tips for using the telephone. Below is a partial list of things you can do to improve the quality of your phone interactions. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 2. 13. 14. 15. Be prepared for phones. Have the necessary supplies available. Answer the phone before the third ring. Identify yourself and your organization. Get the caller’s name correct. Use the caller’s name. Give the caller your full attention while you are on the phone. Speak calmly and distinctly and avoid jargon. 17 Avoid internalizing angry tones and expressions. Clarify points not precisely understood. Explain delays. Handle transfers correctly and make sure you stay on the line until the transfer is completed. 16 Take the time to look up a telephone number for those calling from outside the hospital.
Ask permission when you put them on hold. Check back with them while they’re on hold and apologize for keeping them waiting. Say goodbye instead of just hanging up. Customers don’t like it when you do the following: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. Fail to identify yourself. Mumble your name. Call them honey, dear or sweetie. Refuse or are reluctant to take a message. Come across as short or abrupt. Fail to redirect their call when they have reached the wrong number or department. Place them on hold before they have a chance to say anything. Chew gum or food while you are on the phone.
Pick up the phone while you’re still talking to someone else around you. Leave them on hold indefinitely. Slam the telephone on the desk when you should have put them on hold. When using voice mail, make sure you: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. Use their name Give your name State your purpose Deliver a clear message with all the elements you want covered Ask for action Give your number Give the best time to reach you State if the call is urgent19 When sending a fax, make sure you: 1. Back up a fax with a phone message or call 2. Clarify fax numbers 3.
Clarify on the fax for whom it is intended20 Dealing with the Hostile Customer Most of us, at some time or another, have dealt with a patient, family or internal customer who was upset or hostile. Describe a situation where you have experienced a hostile situation. How did you handle this situation? Did you feel OK about how you handled this situation? According to the American Hospital Association, hostile, angry reactions usually follow a pattern. This pattern is called the hostility curve. Let’s take a look at the various steps of the curve. 1. Rational level Most people are reasonable much of the time.
At this level, you can talk with each other and conduct business without problems. 2. Take Off This is when reactions to a specific incident provokes a person to become angry or “blow off steam. ” It can escalate to the point where the individual becomes abusive. Once the person enters this stage of the curve, there is no way you can conduct reasonable, rational business. 3. Slow Down Eventually, the anger will begin to subside. If they are not provoked further, they will run out of steam and begin to slow down. 4. Supportive Behavior Prior to this, there is no point in talking or reasoning with the customer.
Once you reach the slow-down stage, you can say something that can be the turning point in the conversation. It is important that you say something supportive, such as “I know this must be an upsetting experience. ” Being supportive does not mean you agree, but it does mean that you understand their feelings. This will lead to the next stage. 5. Cool Down When they have started to cool down, you are headed for the final stage. 6. Problem Solving Once the individual has returned to this stage, you can begin to problem solve, which is what the customer wanted in the first place.
If at the point of the first slow down, you start to argue with the individual, the pattern will just keep escalating from slow down to take off over and over again until the situation is out of hand and there is no way to solve the problem. 21 There are specific activities you should and should not do to help alleviate the tension and return to the rational level of interaction. DO’s • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • Understand that the customer’s hostility is directed at the hospital or the situation, not at you as a person. Recognize the customer’s anger and let them know you understand it.
Listen carefully to what the customer is saying. Keep an open mind about the situation. Help customers to save face when they realize they have behaved inappropriately. Gently steer the customer to a private place, if possible. Sit down with the customer. Calm yourself, use a calm tone of voice and lower the pitch of your voice. Keep your judgment of the situation to yourself. Find someone else to handle the situation, if you are not able. Vent your own feelings about the situation to someone you trust after the incident is over. 22 Agree with their right to complain. Remember, you did not cause the problem.
Apologize for any inconvenience the problem may have caused. Thing positively and strive for a winning outcome for all involved. DON’Ts • • • • • • • • Take the hostility personally. Deny the customer’s anger or tell them they are wrong and need to calm down. Refuse to listen to the anger or the reason behind the anger. Defend yourself or anyone until you have had time to look into the matter. Embarrass the individual by pointing out their inappropriate behavior. Carry on a screaming match in a public area. Have one of you sitting and one of you standing. Get caught up in the hysteria of the other person. • • Jump to conclusions about what “should” or “should not” be done. Continue trying to handle something when you are no longer able to remain objective. Keep your feelings to yourself. Talk with someone about the incident. 23 Avoid the following: • • • • • • • Arguing Rationalizing Defending Complaining Reacting Emotionalizing Promising if you can’t deliver If the situation becomes verbally abusive, use a statement, such as “I can’t hear or follow you very well because of so many four-letter words. If we could reduce them, I could hear you better and then work on the problem.
Is that OK? ” You want to ask them to be more respectful without escalating the situation. If the individual does not stop, you might need to ask for some assistance. You want to concentrate on stopping the hostility before it gets out of hand. Understanding their need to be angry and believing they have the right to complain when they are not happy with the service, will help to decrease escalation. Assistance for Yourself Dealing with the public can be very stressful. There are many things you can do to help take care of yourself. Here are some suggestions: 1.
Understand about “triggers” or “hooks. ” Triggers are something that another person says or does that cause a reaction within you. The reaction can be mild to severe depending on the trigger. We experience these responses based on past experience in our life. When we feel those feelings, again, it will trigger a response that may have very little to do with the situation. It may take some effort on your part to look at what behaviors or words trigger a response. If you find that you have overacted to a situation, ask yourself if this could be a response to something else.
If you really have trouble with a certain trigger, you may need to seek assistance from another to help work through your feelings. Practice stress reduction techniques. Try to remain positive and diminish negative thoughts. 2. 3. 4. Affirm yourself. You do not have to receive praise from others to feel good about yourself and your work. You know when you have done a good job. Make sure you get some breaks during the day. It is important to get away. Have someone who can be your support system. If you need to vent, you will have a safe non-judgmental place.
If you have had a bad experience, try to remember some positive parts to your day, so it does not feel like the whole day was negative. 5. 6. 7. List some additional activities you can do to help take care of yourself. Summary Courteous customer service is something that all of us want when we are seeking service, no matter what setting. For HCMC, it is a part of providing good patient/client care. It is important that we remain positive about what we are doing because negativeness will impact our delivery of service in an undesirable way.
All of us will struggle with being positive, but it is worth the effort. Patients, clients and their families will benefit from our efforts and so will we. When all is said and done, the most important point of customer service is to remember that the patients are the primary focus of our reason for being here at HCMC. Assisting them to return to or achieve their highest level of functioning is our goal. If we achieve this goal with a courteous, caring, respectful approach, our patients will return, and we will feel like we have accomplished our goal of a job well done. Courtesy & Customer Service for the Health Care Professional” Self-Learning Packet Bibliography 1. 2. 3. Achieving Extraordinary Customer Relations. Kaset International, 1988, p. 4. Customer Service Training Awareness & Resources. Metropolitan Health Plan, 1993, p. 7. Welter, V. (Hennepin County Employee Development Division). Providing Good Customer Service. p. 2. Welter, V. , Providing Good Customer Service. p. 2. Kaset, p. 9-10. Kaset, p. 9-10. Kaset, p. 9-10. Trimble, D. & Van Pleet, F. Defusing Hostility-Turning Conflict into Cooperation. Vidatron Communication, Inc.
Fred Pryor Seminars. Exceptional Customer Service. p. 21. Pryor, p. 14-20. Kaset, p. 48. Pryor, p. 17 & 29. Kaset, p. 51. Pryor, p. 30. Welter, V. (Hennepin County Employee Development Division). Telephone Courtesy. p. 3 & 4. Welter, Telephone Courtesy, p. 6-9. MHP, p. 16. MHP, p. 17. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. Pryor, p. 11. Pryor, p. 11. American Hospital Association. Teaching Patient Relations in Hospitals: the Hows and Whys, 1983. MHP, p. 20-21. Quality Media Resources. The Five Values of Great Customer Service. Video. 22. 23.