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Customer Service:

Do You Inspire a Culture of Professionalism?

World-class Customer Service is important in any industry, but nowhere is it more important than in healthcare. Yet it's impossible to deliver without professionalism. If you're a professional, you deliver it; if you deliver it, you're a professional. If you're a manager, you inspire both.

So, we cannot talk about one without the other. Here's the big question you MUST ask yourself: what’s coming between me and and culture of customer service? In order to answer that question, phlebotomists and other frontline healthcare professionals must seek honest answers to these questions:

  • Do I look professional?
  • Is my attitude always positive?
  • Do I afford patients an abundance of courtesy?
  • Do I pursue professional development?
  • How's my telephone etiquette?
  • Do I shun gossip?
  • Do I remain poised even with the most difficult patients... and coworkers?
Managers should constantly be performing a thorough self-evaluation of their own management style to make sure they are projecting the same behavior and disposition they expect of their staff. Since managers have to set the example, ask yourself the following these questions:

  • Am I on time?
  • Do I act professionally?
  • Do I dress professionally?
  • Do I lead or do I threaten?
  • Do I build a team or do I demand a team?
  • Do I tell off-color jokes or use profanity in the workplace?
  • Do I adhere to my own policies?
  • Do I infuse professionalism into new employee orientation?
Topics on both of these lists are discussed at length in our popular video Delivering World-Class Customer Service, but let's focus on the last item. As a manager, you have to make sure you don’t demand more of your staff or hold your employees to a higher standard than you do yourself. As part of your self-assessment, also ask:

Do I infuse professionalism into new employee orientation? Setting forth performance expectations during new employee orientation is something every manager knows and accomplishes. But do you establish your standards of behavior and dress up front as well?

Do our new employees hear the words “our laboratory is a professional work place, and we expect new employees to act professionally”? Do they hear that? Do you model the behavior you expect of your staff? If not, you’re holding your staff to a higher standard than you do yourself, and that breeds discontent and disrespect.

Do I inspire when I hire? See weeding out applicants who you anticipate will not either motivate, nor be motivated by, the rest of the staff is imperative. One Human Resource professional writes: “Ideally, a candidate should only be hired after it is determined that employer’s business needs, and the applicant’s motivational needs are a good match.”

Do my evaluations have positive or negative undertones? Do you ambush employees with negatives? Well we shouldn’t. Every evaluation should discuss strengths of the employee as well as weaknesses. So end each evaluation session by commenting on a positive aspect of the employee’s performance, but don’t make it appear obligatory. It needs to carry the employee out of the office feeling good about the experience, or at least not defeated.

Do I require of myself the same that I require of my staff? 'Nuff said.

Do I discipline fairly and consistently? Reinforce your investment when you discipline. Offer assistance to help the employee overcome the problem. When disciplining employees, make sure every employee knows that you adhere to this management maxim: if they are worth keeping, they are worth correcting.

The Center for Phlebotomy Education conducted a survey among healthcare professionals with blood collection responsibilities in which participants were asked How rigidly are the policies in your facility enforced? About sixty-five percent of those who responded said facility policies are strictly and consistently enforced. But about twenty five percent said "facility policy seems to be applied randomly. Ten percent said "facility policy violations often go unaddressed."

We also asked on a different survey what single attribute do you wish your supervisor would improve upon. Most of those who responded want their supervisor to demonstrate more recognition and appreciation of their services. Communication was very important as well. So were organizational skills.

The challenge for managers is to identify what motivates their staff. And it can’t be just be the fear of reprisal. Inspiring professional behavior requires managers to identify what motivates their individuals to raise their own personal standards of performance. A human resource expert says, “Give people what they really want most from work. The more you are able to provide what they want, the more you should expect what you really want, namely: productivity, quality and service.” The key thing here to remember is that we can’t motivate an individual. Our challenge is to find out what is required for them to motivate themselves.

Most of your staff requires one or more of the following:

  • recognition
  • respect
  • ownership
  • responsibility
  • appreciation
  • education
  • a professional working environment
  • upward mobility
  • money
Money, however, comes way down on the list of effective means of improving morale. The effects of a raise wear off soon and preexisting de-motivators always reemerge. Those who are employed in healthcare for its financial rewards often remain dissatisfied for other reasons.

Once you have identified those things that motivate the individuals on your staff, provide them. Be creative and solicit the assistance of other managers, human resource staff, and phlebotomists. It takes more time than money to implement creative strategies that motivate a staff. So be prepared to invest in dialog and creative brainstorming, and don’t expect immediate results.

If the threat of termination is the primary management motivator, well the staff is less likely to feel they share a common goal with management and the you get this “us versus them” that prevails. Likewise, managers who sense that the staff is not engaged in the pursuit of a common goal are less apt to reward employees with the very motivators they need to make management’s goals their own. If managers think of the motivators listed above as incentives instead of rewards, then downward spiral of apathy and morale begins to reverse. If employees think more outwardly toward the patient than inwardly toward dissatisfaction with management, they are more likely to be recognized as a team player.

Demonstrating World Class Customer Service is imperative so that every patient feels confident they are getting the best care they can get. World-class Customer Service is important in any industry, but nowhere is it more important than in healthcare, and there is no nobler profession than one that assists in providing care to the sick and injured.

Note: for a full-length video that expands upon the key points of this article, consider Delivering World-Class Customer Service (review available).

Note: for an inspiring video that recognizes the important role phlebotomists play in healthcare, view I'm a Professional, a Perfectionist, a Phlebotomist!, accessible on our Free Stuff page.

More educational materials to help inspire a culture of professionalism within yourself and/or your staff:

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