From years of studying and working with world-class customer service organizations, I have found 10 common principles that differentiate these organizations from others and elevate them to a higher level of customer care. These commandments of world-class service are irrefutable—they do not change or become obsolete.
Just as important as the commandments themselves is their order, here referred to as the chain of commandments. The commandments are arranged in the precise sequence necessary for an organization to provide a world-class customer experience. It is impossible for an organization to reach its optimum level of service attitude and customer satisfaction without proficiently executing each commandment.
CHAIN OF COMMANDMENTS
1. Service vision: Have a clear purpose of why the business exists. First and foremost, every organization that provides superior service has a strong service vision that creates a clear direction for everyone in the business. This vision must include the true underlying purpose of what your practice brings to the community and what your patients can get from you that they cannot get elsewhere.
Without a clear service vision that is articulated to your staff, your practice is a commodity. Why is your practice in existence? What is its purpose? Does each of your employees understand the crucial part they play within the practice? Is it the surgery you provide or, maybe, the quality of life you enhance?
You must create the service vision before anything else can take shape in your practice. The service vision drives all aspects of the business, including hiring, standards, training, and leadership philosophies. Without the service vision, you are like a pilot without a flight plan. How will you know where you are headed?
2. Create a world-class internal culture: Attract, hire, and retain only the people who have the service DNA. The people you want to hire and retain are those who are capable of upholding the service vision of the practice. Using your service vision as a blueprint, recruit and retain the proper staff to build a culture of people who want to be part of something more. Develop an exciting team that truly impacts and changes lives and remove those people who do not follow your service vision.
Every practice should have nonnegotiable hiring standards, which, once articulated on the first interview (of several), scares more people away than it attracts. Make people earn the right to be part of your culture and legacy. Don't let it be for everyone.
3. Establish nonnegotiable experiential standards that everyone must follow. Experiential standards should be set for each stage of the organization's customer experience cycle. These nonnegotiable standards allow employees to provide a consistent engaging experience that is unlike that of the majority of competitors. Employees must regularly execute each of these standards.
The majority of medical practices have strong operational and technical procedures but extremely lack in experiential actions. Scheduling an appointment or pre- and postoperative consultations are operational actions that leave no memorable impression. It is the practices that add a layer of experiential nonnegotiable standards, such as using the patient's name two to four times during every encounter, asking if there is anything else you can do for them at the completion of every interaction, and personalizing their experience at every visit, even first-time patients, that win over patients.
4. Secret service systems: Utilize customer intelligence to personalize the experience and engage and anticipate the patient's needs. Create secret service systems that easily enable front-line employees to personalize the customer's experience by engaging, anticipating, and delivering his needs. Creating a system of silent cues, visual triggers, and ways to collect and utilize patient intelligence creates an emotional bond that turns your patients into raving alumni of your practice.
Silent cues and visual triggers are crucial components of any secret service system. It can be as simple as the color of their chart—notifying all employees if this is a new, returning, refractive, or cataract patient—or using the database to post patient's personal information, including kids' names, profession, and even their annual vacation, so it can be used during the next encounter.
5. Training to providing a world-class customer experience: Use systems and processes that remove variation and provide a consistent customer experience. Create an incredible training program for all new and existing employees. The program should consist of soft-skill training to increase their service aptitude, giving them the knowledge and tools required to provide a world-class customer experience.
Again, the majority of practices that train their new employees focus on the technical and operational skills of the job, with virtually no time spent on the soft skills of communication and relationship building. It is imperative that every new and existing employee complete patient experience training, or boot camp, that teaches the importance of systems that allow your team to provide a consistent world-class patient experience.
6. Implementation and execution: How to go from ideas on a paper to consistent execution. Front-line employees must consistently execute a solid process that allows realistic implementation of the customer service initiatives and systems. Without execution, systems in manuals are nothing more than ideas on paper. This is where most companies fail. Management must demonstrate the importance of consistently executing these systems, the practice's promise, and holding employees accountable for their own service. In essence, by failing to deliver the experience promised, an employee is taking money out of the safe.
7. Zero risk: Anticipate your service defects and set protocols to make it right. Train your employees to not only reduce the areas in which your practice drops the ball but teach them how to pick it up. As a result, patients will be more loyal and delighted when something went wrong than had everything gone right. Even front-line employees need to have the training and permission to take care of problems, for example, sending the patient a gift card to a local restaurant for their inconvenience.
8. Create an above-and-beyond culture: Ensure constant awareness and branding of how to be a hero. Create an awareness of the most common opportunities where employees can deliver heroic service for the customer that creates an above-and-beyond culture. Do your employees know the most common opportunities to exceed patient expectations? It might be having a congratulations card waiting for the patient upon their arrival because of something they said when making their appointment or offering to pick them up or take them home.
9. Measure your customer's experience: What gets measured gets managed. Use a scientific method to measure your customer's experience and satisfaction, providing benchmarks for performance in each location and/or department. Your goals must be measurable. How satisfied are your customers with you? Who is performing well? Who is inconsistent? Are you keeping your service brand promise to your customers? How effective is your service recovery? How do you stack up against your competition?
10. World-class leadership: Walk the talk. Every world-class customer service organization is world class to work for. It takes world-class leadership to provide passion, inspiration, and discipline to all employees.
Although this is the final commandment, it is the most important and has the most impact and responsibility for the success of all 10 commandments. In every world-class practice, the leaders must wear the practice's service vision on their sleeve. Leaders need to focus on only motivating one person every day—themselves!
John R. DiJulius III, is the Chief Visionary Officer and President of The DiJulius Group, Cleveland. Mr. DiJulius is the best selling author of What's The Secret? To providing a World-Class Customer Experience. He may be reached at e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.