The key to executing on a pledge of service excellence is that moment of truth when an employee comes into contact with a customer.

moment of truthIn the service industry, including hospitals, hotels, airlines and, believe it or not, car dealerships,  each day contains hundreds to hundreds of thousands moments of truth. It is  daunting  to realize that this moment of truth is so critical to producing a satisfactory impression by the customer.  Getting off on the wrong foot as the saying goes, could mean that the customer is taking their own first step to a competitor.

There are moments of truth and then there are moments of truth.  When it comes to this crucial interaction an important question for a CEO to ask is whether they and their employees are ready to make that moment of truth a meaningfully warm and personal experience, or whether they are just going through the motions, smiling and saying the scripted right words all the while on autopilot.

As healthcare providers work to put the foundation blocks of population health in place, which suggests that the start of the all-out war for market share is just around the corner, there is an important message that executives cannot afford to ignore: having the best in class customer service processes will not  be enough if employees are just going through the scripted motions when communicating with customers.

I recently had several routine tests done at a large regional integrated health system.  Their processes were efficient and their people seemed to be competent.  But after that, I experienced communications that ranged from the warm and friendly to the perfunctory.  My impression of the those who were warm, who made their communications personal in terms of connecting with me as a patient, were much more favorable than my interactions with some of the technicians who were probably excellent at their profession but whose interactions were detached and cold.

This whole idea of making it personal  in healthcare is not only central to improving patient satisfaction, but in the quality and safety of care we deliver.  You cannot have an exceptional customer service experience if the patient experiences an error in care or a drug resistant infection regardless of how good your service processes are or how much you invested in service experts to design your “customer experience” protocols.