Sunday, November 30, 2008

Employee Satisfaction + Service Excellence = Customer Evangelists

The Crisis

Faced with a well documented financial meltdown, the global consequences and a deep national recession, how can a hospital or system CEO keep the doors open and the lights on?

The answer is simple, yet complex and difficult to carry out. Few try and most of those that do fail.

Think about this for a moment, there is little if any differentiation in the healthcare marketplace. Hospitals on average look the same. They provide the same services, have the same managed contracts contract and even have similar medical staffs. Patient satisfaction runs in the 80th – 90th percentile satisfied. Looks like an industry that is very close to becoming a commodity which will eventually compete on price alone.

The hospital CEO, medical business leader, managing partner, vice president, director or manger needs to be creating customer evangelists to not just survive, but grow and thrive in this and any future environment.

The answer: Customer Evangelists!

A customer evangelist is an individual, who has such an outstanding service experience that they freely become your positive spokesperson in the community. They are not paid. They have no financial sake in your survival, but have come to believe so completely in what you do, they drive business to you. This happens because you have highly satisfied employees that provide exemplary, detailed, person-focused service.

Notice I did not say patient or customer satisfaction. Anyone can have good and even high patient satisfaction scores, and that my friend is the fix you are in- high satisfaction scores do not for one minute translate into customer evangelists. Don’t stop measuring satisfaction; you have to for a variety of reasons. I say focus on creating customer evangelists and the scores will be fine.

The tile of the post says it all Employee Satisfaction + Service Excellence = Customer Evangelists. From now on, my posts are going to focus on this topic. I will be talking about creating an environment that results in highly satisfied employees and putting processes and systems in place to be able to provide outstanding customer service to create customer evangelists. It is an unassailable position in the market. Do you want to be a market leader in healthcare? Do you want to grow and not merely hang on? Do you want the best doctors on your medical staff? Then create customer evangelists.

Some notes and comments:

RSNA starts in Chicago this week. Stop by the Agfa Healthcare booth. They do have the finest PACS I have ever seen and had the privilege to market. Agfa has had a tough couple of years with the never ending restructuring and global leadership changes, but if you are going to RSNA at McCormick Place, take the time to learn about their IMPAX PACS, you won’t be sorry.

Retail Clinics:

I would like to clarify a couple of things about my blog on retail clinics. I do understand them very well. Yes, it is a model that has the potential to lessen some of the waiting and service problems experienced in healthcare delivery, but they are not the answer.

I go to a physician who does not have a NP or PA. My kid’s did see a PA but that was under direct supervision of a physician. The retail clinics popping up are not and let me be very clear about this, not under the direct supervision of a physician. And yes there is a quality of care difference between those PAs and NPs under direct supervision of a doctor and those not. Most of these companies creating these clinics do not even have a medical director, so please, let us not place them on par with physician treatment when they have trouble keeping up with changing standards of care and all that counts is the bottom-line.

As to the accreditation argument, accreditation means that the organization has meet the minimum acceptable standards of the organization that is conferring accreditation. You don’t get points or any other kind of awards for going above and beyond those standards. You paid your fee. Maybe there was an on-site survey. If you passed and few fail, you received a certificate and can say you’re accredited. It is a piece of paper that does not guarantee anything.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Financial meltdown, recession, mergers, affiliations, uninsured and retail clinics

With the financial market meltdown, worldwide recession I say look for new mergers and closings in the hospital industry. Even though many are profitable, well at least slightly, that will go by the way side with investment income losses, higher numbers of uninsured, rising bad debt and lengthening delays in Medicaid payments from the states, the picture is bleak. Declining utilization and tighter reimbursement from managed care doesn’t help either. Oh yea, those pesky retail clinics won’t help either. I am surprised more hospitals don’t go that route, partner with their doctors and drive those babies out of their markets.

Insuring the 45 million and growing uninsured is not in the cards fore the foreseeable future, not till 2010 at the earliest. President-elect Obama has his hands full. First priority is fixing the financial system, second is the economy, and third is healthcare. Without the first two, the third never happens.

Hospitals are cutting back, but it is in marketing as always. CEOs never did understand the value of marketing and what it can do, but then why do we need to be customer focused? Part of that blame goes to marketers who are unable to prove value; focus on the fluff stuff; and not holding themselves accountable for a bottom-line result. Could be too many newsletters, ads touting services people don’t need or want and not positioning on a quality and service perspective.

Answer this…. if you can’t say in 25 words or less about how you are different from everyone else, then you are adrift in your marketplace and your key customers can’t either. But then your competitors are in the same boat and they just may be as clueless as you are. Define and differentiate before someone else does it for you...

The hospital industry is undifferentiated and it’s becoming a commodity. Focus on satisfaction- employee and patient. You won’t have satisfied patients without satisfied employees. More to follow latter on that one

By the way I am hearing some not so flattering reports about the quality of primary care in those retail clinic settings. Wrong diagnoses, medication errors and faulty in site quick tests make we wonder how soon before the government step in and regulates. More direct physician oversight, certification and training are needed to prevent someone from dying. Hasn’t happened yet but it will. It’s just a matter of time. If you have a good or bad story about the retail clinics post it up.

The company I work for is going through a major reengineering. Look for big and I mean big reductions at the coporate staff level first quarter 09. Lots of uncessary layers and they could really benefit from a dose of lean management. Probably means I will be out of a job. Oh well, here we go again, that will be the seventh time in eight years. I have the nack for finding those companies.