Consumer Insights Create Opportunity for Practice Team Development

By: Ruth Padilla Portacci, MA | rpadilla@barlowmccarthy.com

“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”  –Will Rogers

Forward-thinking hospitals and physician practices use mystery shopping as a tool to assess and improve the customer service experience for patients. Whether you’re assessing specific components of the experience or a taking a broad look, the use of “shoppers” on a periodic basis to provide an unbiased and fresh account of their interaction with your team and its services is important.

Gone are the days when physician practices can afford to dismiss customer service as a critical component of the care process. Customers no longer give a pass to a physician office’s poor service and bad impressions. In fact, they compare it to every other service industry they do business with and they talk about it.  Additionally, there is abundant information about the positive relationship between patient experience and clinical quality. And with the emphasis on, and transparency of, the Clinician and Group Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CGCAHPS) there’s several new reasons for practices to focus on patient perception and help develop a stronger skill set among practice team members.

We’ve had the good fortune to work with progressive hospital and practice leaders who have asked us to conduct extensive mystery shopping across hundreds of their practices and turn those insights into opportunities for team growth and development. The key here is not insights for just the sake of knowing, but the use of the insights to promote action and culture change.  From our work in the field, here are four key areas we’ve identified to successful practice team growth and development:

  1. Lead By Example – Leadership is engaged and fosters a practice culture where exceptional customer service is the expectation of every team member, including Leaders do not single themselves out as the exception, but instead “walk the walk” and “talk the talk” of great service by creating internal engagement, being responsive to team member needs, and generating excitement and recognition around a culture of service excellence.
  2. Develop a practice or network-specific service team: Engagement of members of senior leadership, practice leaders, marketing, frontline representatives and providers to serve on a network-wide service excellence team that sets the direction for the ongoing initiative. This group has the pulse of what is working well or not well in the practices. They help to support engagement of practice staff and physicians and create measurements of success, ongoing learning opportunities among other areas.
  3. Start practice action plans around service initiative: Consumer insights from the survey can result in the development of short and nimble action plan(s) that includes specific goals or identified areas of focus, action steps (as detailed as possible), measure(s) of success, accountable parties carrying out actions, start date, timetable for ongoing measurement. This concise roadmap is beneficial for tracking progress and individual practice and team member achievements.
  4. Celebrating Wins! – One of the most important components is reward and recognition of individual and team contributions to the service excellence journey. Recognition can be provided for a variety of achievements including milestones in staff training, peer to peer mentoring and support, patient compliments, and more. A leader’s acknowledgement of a job well done by individual team members cannot be underestimated.