Urgent care providers are more stressed than ever, and it’s not just overwhelming demand from a Covid-19 surge. The opposite is also a very real possibility: urgent care providers could lose their jobs if patient anxiety about healthcare settings causes volume to plummet.

Build business resilience by launching a culture change. In this competitive industry, service excellence is a major competitive advantage.

What is a Culture of Service Excellence?

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) defines culture as “shared beliefs and values established by leaders and then communicated and reinforced through various methods, ultimately shaping employee perceptions, behaviors and understanding.”

A culture of service excellence should flow from leadership through the entire organization. Physician engagement plays a major role in culture change.

Let Employees Lead the Way

Although SHRM’s definition puts employee behaviors at the center of culture, the organization also points to leadership behaviors as critical. In healthcare, operational and clinical leaders share a responsibility to model the values. And one way business leaders can model service excellence is by letting employees lead the way.

Employee leadership has the benefit of helping to build buy-in from the ground up. And buy-in from staff is critical to any culture change.

To model service excellence, continually seek feedback from providers and staff, listen without interrupting, and let them know that their feedback is valued. It’s important to define the goals and expectations, but let your employees lead the way in developing specific strategies and sharing best practices.

You may go so far as to identify a particularly interested and exceptional employee and designate them the “patient experience representative.” Have them lead group conversations or send out surveys to collate best practices and develop their own service-oriented practices. By engaging your employees and allowing them to lead the conversations, you will show them how much you value their opinions and model the culture you are attempting to create.

Questions to Ask Employees:

  • What have you done recently that created an exceptional patient experience?
  • How did the patient comments that we received make you feel?
  • How can our organization support your efforts to provide an exceptional patient experience?

Develop Scripts & Phrases 

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality recommends incorporating talking points and scripts into everyday interactions. These tools help turn lofty service standards into a predictable routine.

“Talking points or scripts ensure that everyone in the organization is delivering a positive message in a consistent way to your members and patients,” according to The CAHPS Ambulatory Care Improvement Guide: Practical Strategies for Improving Patient Experience. “These messages make sure that you are meeting your service standards and build these behaviors into predictable, daily routines.

Focus on the System

Avoid the urge to take a patient complaint or concern and direct it at an individual healthcare provider. Your organization can and should create a system that makes providing exceptional patient experiences the easy thing to do. When negative complaints come in, ask yourself, are there any changes my organization can make that will make this event less likely to happen in the future?

If there is a consistent problem with a certain employee, use it as an opportunity to model your culture of service excellence. Ask them about their home life, their workload, and other possibilities before moving to a disciplinary approach. Every patient deserves an opportunity to receive the best experience, and every employee deserves the opportunity to overcome their barriers to delivering it.

Create an Exciting Kick-off Plan

Once you have defined your culture, communicated it to your employees, and received their feedback, set a kick-off plan and date. We know that when implementing behavior change like smoking, high quality quit-date goal setting is extremely effective. Think seriously about what this means for your organization and creating a culture of service excellence.

Here is a simple process for creating a high-quality kick-off plan that will set you up for success.

  • Clearly define measurable goals.
  • Communicate how success will be measured.
  • Set a date to implement the new changes.
  • Reward those who achieve the stated goals.

 Summary

Creating a culture of service excellence is the final step in addressing patient complaints and increasing the number of positive reviews you receive. In urgent care, your product is your employees. It is the service they provide and the passion with which they provide it.

A truly exceptional product is the foundation of a successful company. Even as Covid-19 exerts pressure on the healthcare system, you can build a culture of service excellence and financial resilience.

Service Recovery Best Practices

We interviewed clinic managers, providers, and patient experience managers from our customer base to help identify the most crucial components of service recovery in the healthcare industry.