Go beyond the golden rule for great customer service

We’ve all had those bad customer experiences: rudeness, “not my problem” attitude, bounced from person to person, being left on hold too long, not hearing back from someone as promised. You know what I’m talking about.

And we’ve all had those excellent customer service experiences: think about the difference. Was it the smile, the caring attitude, the problem solving focus, the level of ownership, the offer to help before you could even ask for help? These are just some of the attributes of good customer service.

If you provide a product or service to anyone in the work you do, it’s a good idea to look at your own customer service and how you stack up. And,who doesn’t provide some kind of product or service to others? You may have both internal or external customers.

When I started this position in late 2012, I laid out my core principles and values to my staff. Customer Service was one of them – as I said then, “while we don’t touch patients directly, we are all part of the extended care team; clinicians and caregivers rely on the systems we provide and support to care for patients in a safe manner. Excellent customer service in all our interactions is critical.”

At the University of Michigan Health System, we are committed to creating and sustaining a team culture where superior service and effective solutions are delivered everyday, across all units. Through our Service Excellence program, employees receive training and support to create this kind of environment.  We define Service Excellence as the mix of skill, knowledge and desire to do for the patient, the right thing right, the first time, every time, resulting in intense satisfaction.

The Service Excellence commitment card fits into a wallet or badge holder.

We have been rolling out this program across UMHS one area at a time. But service excellence is not just about our patients, it’s about how we work with each other. It applies to staff in administrative departments like mine, Medical Center Information Technology (MCIT). After all, we serve internal customers all day long. We are rolling out Service Excellence in MCIT. We trained our entire management team a few months ago and our have developed a brochure and commitment card to distribute to all staff at their training sessions.

The commitment card is something people can carry in their wallet as a reminder. One side has the UMHS Service Excellence Philosophy, the other side of the card has our specific MCIT commitment to colleagues, patients, and families.

I will….

  1. Smile and give all people a warm/friendly greeting: make eye contact & include their names if possible.
  2. Express “it is my pleasure” “I am happy to, or “it is my privilege” when responding to a thank you.
  3. Go and see, ask questions, be an active listener, engage in teamwork and respectful collaboration.
  4. Anticipate/meet each persons needs & make efforts accordingly to exceed them.
  5. Return phone calls, pages, and email promptly, showing that I care.
  6. Provide outstanding service by owning what is brought to me, and striving for first time quality.
  7. Take pride/care in the appearance of my work, myself & the cleanliness of my work area.
  8. Be open-minded to new approaches and best practices, related to process improvement.
  9. Respect and uphold patient confidentially and privacy of others.
  10. Respond in a timely manner and assist other teams with service outages, incidents, and major incidents.
  11. Provide effective customer service request and project outcomes through timely and accurate delivery.

To change culture you have to tell people your vision and what you expect from them. You have to behave the way you want other people to.  You have to lead by example. And you have to be willing to respectfully call out people when their behaviors aren’t the ones they’ve committed to.

Service Excellence begins and ends with each one of us! Remember that next time you are the one providing the customer service to someone.

9 thoughts on “Go beyond the golden rule for great customer service

  1. Jeanne Kin on said:

    When I visited Cleveland Clinic last fall I noticed that all staff, not just clinical staff, had “Caregiver” imprinted on their name badges.This struck me as a creative way to reinforce the concept that all employees are part of an extended care team – even if we don’t all have face-to-face contact with patients and families.

  2. Laurita Thomas on said:

    I appreciate your blog. In my experience, you lead by example. You have consistently demonstrated your commitment in the interactions we have had and every request made of you to contribute to the broader University. Thank you!


  3. Jennifer Sporer on said:

    I alway strive to deliver the best in customer service even when I am not on shift. I have a lot of pride in working in UMHS, and always want patients to know we care. I do have that card on the Service Excellence philosophy in my badge-holder, but I have copied from your blog so I can post by my monitor. Visual cues help me deliver my best so thanks for posting!

    • Sue Schade on said:

      Jennifer, sounds like you practice excellenct customer service every day!! Thanks so much for what you do for our patients and their families.

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