Customer Service Excellence in the Clinical Laboratory

Service excellence is a critical success factor in meeting customer expectations, particularly in the clinical laboratory.  As providers of a service, we employ many tactical methods with the intent to improve the overall client experience. Here are a few methods for consideration:

  • Training – Programs to teach or develop the skills and knowledge that relate to specific competencies with the goal of improving one’s capability, capacity, productivity, and performance.
  • Data Collection – Gathering information which will enable us to measure performance against pre-defined standards and record deviations.
  • Business Intelligence – A technology-driven process for analyzing data and presenting actionable information to make informed decisions.
  • Survey – A tool to measure customer satisfaction.

We train, measure, track and trend, recalibrate, and survey—all in an effort to improve our service levels.  But how do you create and foster a culture of customer service excellence throughout an organization?  This undertaking involves examining organizational processes with a critical eye to introduce and reinforce the concept of service excellence at every opportunity.

  • Develop your plan around the organization’s mission.
  • Encapsulate the ideal of customer service excellence as part of the organization’s motto.
  • Exhibit a commitment to great service throughout the organization, staff to executive level.
  • Demonstrate executive commitment by providing resources, time, and direction, which are essential elements to success.
  • Evaluate your “present state.”
  • Evaluate your service levels using both internal and external customers.
  • Evaluate your competitors’ ability to provide excellent service.
  • Determine how your organization can differentiate itself from the competition with regards to service.
  • Evaluate your employees’ “present state” ability to deliver and exceed customer expectations.
  • Reshape your training and development of current employees around the culture of great customer service characteristics, not what we do but how we do it.
  • Change your recruiting profile to identify where an individual stands on the continuum of understanding great customer service.
  • Use the criteria of the best skills, experiences, and ability to match a job description as an essential part of the selection process. This criterion should be complemented by selecting individuals who possess compatibility with the job and a willingness to work with you.
  • Find and hire the best people to help achieve the goal.
  • Require employees to participate in teaching the meaning of customer service as recognition on delivery of on the service mission.
  • Create awareness in meetings and in discussions, with reminders throughout the workplace.
  • Don’t rely on a reward system to improve customer service.
  • Recognize those that embody the customer service persona.
  • Place recognition above reward, but remember reward should follow the prosperity of the company.

Each interaction with a customer is an opportunity for an organization to build its track record of excellence.  Providing a solid foundation based on a dedication to exceptional client service is the first step.  Commit to your customers by committing your clinical laboratory to customer service excellence.

Susan Dougherty
Vice President, Operations and Outreach Services
Chi Solutions Inc.

 

Laboratory Outreach Financial Considerations

Consider this analogy.  The average laboratory outreach program is like the old neighborhood “mom-and-pop” hardware store, compared to one of the big box, national chains like Lowe’s or Home Depot:

MomPopGraphic

 

Looking at the big picture, a laboratory outreach program does not have the scale or sophistication of the national laboratories.  It cannot compete on price.  It provides quality testing for the community (some would say better than the nationals).  It keeps jobs local.  It provides faster turnaround time and personalized service.  It leverages the sunk investment in facilities, equipment, and staff in the hospital laboratory and lowers the cost of testing overall.  It’s the only laboratory that does testing across the patient continuum (hospital, extended care facilities, doctor’s office, and medical home), not because it’s profitable but because it’s the right thing to do.  This care continuum is absolutely essential for meeting future challenges such as utilization and population health management.  The hospital laboratory outreach program must be preserved.  It is good patient care and good business.

How do you overcome the preconceived ideas, the obstacles, and the risks?  Financial issues related to outreach are all manageable with the right information and some grit and determination, and include the following components:

  • Unit cost
  • Contracting
  • Pricing
  • Reimbursement
  • Billing
  • Financial transparency
  • Performance
  • Risk

Subsequent blogs in this series will address each of these components.  You can also learn more about mitigating laboratory outreach program financial concerns in my forthcoming book, The Profit Machine in the Hospital Basement: Turning Your Lab into an Economic Engine.

Kathleen A. Murphy, PhD

Chief Executive Officer

Chi Solutions Inc.