What does one of the most successful hotel chains in the world have to teach medical practices about patient customer service?
The Ritz Carlton, indisputable leader in the hotel industry, has achieved unparalleled levels of success, profitability, and customer services standards and is often hired by hospital groups to evaluate, train, and revamp their customer service departments. I recently took a unique course given by the Ritz Carlton Leadership Center called Excellence in the Patient Experience.
The 8-hour seminar explored the award-winning business practices of The Ritz-Carlton, and how a culture of service excellence through engaged employees translates into a patient-focused environment. We also dove into the hotel chain’s fundamental processes including onboarding, employee empowerment, and patient empowerment that result in service excellence and continued success.
How does the Ritz Carlton do it? And how can your medical practice emulate it (for pennies on the dollar)?
The Ritz Carlton has achieved its industry-leading standing based on three pillars of success: employee engagement, customer engagement, and profitability. We’ll break down each one in detail and how you can apply those pillars to your practice to differentiate your healthcare organization from the competition by consistently offering service and clinical excellence.
The Ritz Carlton knows that behind every great product or service are great people, and in their business model, they put their employees before everything else. By investing in their employees from the get-go, instilling an understanding of organizational standards and the WHY, employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and profitability naturally follow.
When we’re caught up in the day-to-day grind crossing things off our lists, we sometimes forget to ask ourselves why we’re doing what we’re doing. It’s essential to slow down, consider the why and make sure we’re focused on the things that actually matter. If your goal is to treat your patients with the utmost professionalism, show them compassion, and get them in and out as quickly and as smoothly as possible, then you’ve defined your ‘why.’
When your ‘why’ is clear, then you can develop a patient-centric culture within your organization to drive patient experience and establish robust operational systems to cut down on mistakes, rework, and improve safety.
By providing your employees with a rigorous training and onboarding program, your expectations will be crystal clear from day one. You’ll weed out those potential employees looking for an easy paycheck with little responsibility and attract people who can deliver wow-moments to your patients.
The Ritz Carlton empowers every employee to deliver exceptional moments by giving them up to $2,000 per person to create an unforgettable experience. We’re not suggesting you give your staff the OK to dole out money! However, you can put them in a position to succeed by telling them, “Look if the waiting time is beyond 30 minutes, you’re empowered to go and hand out cookies, a bottle of water, or a $10 Starbucks gift card.”
You can also reinforce your standards and practice culture by instituting a ten-minute stand-up meeting (another Ritz Carlton innovation) every day before work to share best practices and get everyone on the same page before greeting patients. Key factors that cause employees to leave their jobs are communication breakdowns, and not feeling engaged nor included. If you take just a few minutes every day to brief your staff on what’s happening at the practice, you could transform your culture.
It’s not rocket science: when you invest in and fully engage your employees, they will automatically deliver excellent customer service. And the most critical aspect of patient customer service is consistency.
Delivering an excellent patient experience consistently means greeting every patient by their first or last name, smiling at patients when they walk in the door and looking them in the eye. From your website to your front desk and lobby, to the physician’s bedside manner, your standards should be consistent across the board, all the time.
It won’t work if your waiting room and lobby are spotless on one visit and a complete trainwreck on another. You’ll get nowhere fast if your receptionist greets one patient by their first name with a smile and then makes a snarky comment to the next one without looking up from her paperwork. The same thing goes for a physician’s bedside manner.
One way the Ritz Carlton achieves their unparalleled level of consistency is through their standards called the Ritz Carlton Gold Standards. When onboarding new employees, they ensure that the new hire understands what level of excellence is expected of them. They go through a very structured and rigorous training process before a new employee is allowed to interact with the public.
When your employees understand your organizational culture, values, and expectations, and when you invest in them to deliver the goods, you’ll have developed a patient-centric culture within your organization to drive patient experience. You’ll also ensure patient engagement to further your organization’s recognition and reputation.
Your employees will be trained to deliver smiles on every visit, lift their heads, walk patients to the exam room, and address them by their name. Your staff will naturally be able to put themselves in the shoes of the patient to intuitively understand a patient’s unexpressed wish or need and to deliver on it. Those kinds of interactions can make a patient’s day (and make them want to share it with the world—aka 5-star reviews).
The third pillar of success, profitability, follows from the first two. When you focus on your employees 100%, those employees deliver excellent customer experiences. That, in turn, makes you profitable and enables your organization to function smoothly and efficiently.
Healthcare nowadays is very transactional. Patients have a myriad of choices when it comes to physicians and are more in control of their healthcare destiny than ever before. By focusing on enhancing the patient experience at every turn, the better off your practice will be in the long run.
By making small, incremental changes in how you go about delivering patient customer service, your medical practice can achieve Ritz Carlton-like patient care standards, employee engagement, and profitability.
For a full breakdown of how Ritz Carlton achieves industry-best customer service standards, check out our podcast here: https://insightmg.com/ep-183-deliver-customer-service-like-the-ritz-carlton/
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