KevinMD tweeted a blog post on customer service today. I’ve happily noticed a number of ‘how does this other field inform medical practice’ type tweets from the docs I follow on Twitter, of late. This post piqued my interest because what does the ‘gung ho’ ‘customer is always right’ brand of American customer service (and indeed but maybe to a lesser extent Canadian customer service) have to say to the NHS?
He says that one of the common tenets that a group of successful companies (including Enterprise Rent a car) is:
Employees are “hired for fit.” If a prospective employee doesn’t radiate service, they are re-directed
This clearly isn’t the case with the NHS nor could it be- employees are hired for specialist knowledge and skills and if their customer service isn’t up to scratch, then this is the hundredth thing on the job spec so they stay put.
I overheard a conversation in which somebody was asking why the receptionist was always rude at the doctor’s office. The answer that was given was that they are the chief gatekeepers for the doctor. Having worked with doctors I agree with this. But also having worked with customers, I understand the need to sometimes put up a barrier against a tide of emotional, stressed and often abusive customers…and I worked in a bookstore! So while I am not exactly criticising the apparent lack of customer focus in doctor’s surgeries and hospitals, I think we need an intervention. I am in favour of a customer service focus. I think the current system is based solely on goodwill and signs asking us not to be abusive (similar to the signs at the Post Office pick up window). Staff are clearly overwhelmed as KevinMD writes in another post. We need more doctors, more surgeries and better customer service.
My new doctor’s surgery has a touch screen system to allow patients to ‘check in’ to their appointment and it succeeds in taking people out of the massive queue for the receptionist. People spend less time queuing, aren’t made late for their appointment and hopefully spend less time thinking angry thoughts. This is a great start and will increase goodwill in patients if not in staff as well.