During tough economic times, education and professional development are often among the first casualties of hospital budget cuts. If your customer service initiative falls into this cost center; think twice before you make that cut. You cannot afford to let your customer service slip especially in tough times. When money is tight, your patients think a bit more before parting with co-pays and deductibles especially if they have HSAs. After all, this $35 co-pay or $2000 deductible is their hard-earned money. That means that when they turn to you for care, they are scrutinizing things even more closely. They expect competent medical care from their providers. What they experience (and ultimately judge you on) is the service around that care. They need to see the value-added experience when they turn to you for care. After all, you aren’t modifying your mission statement with a disclaimer that reads, "e;we promise to deliver high quality compassionate, patient-centered care except during an economic downturn at which time, all bets are off."e; Your mission and brand promise must remain consistent through good times and bad.
An article in Business Week http://tinyurl.com/ajtx4e stresses that the companies that will be the most successful during an economic downturn are those that keep a close watch on service at the front lines. So how can you keep up the training and professional development when funds are tight?
1. Focus on training-the-trainer. An internal team of well trained trainers can work wonders for keeping your customer service efforts alive and well at the front lines. But make sure that the training is carefully aligned with goals and service standards.
2. Seek web-based training opportunities for supervisors and managers that help you to keep focused on your mission. You can get great service leadership content without the travel expenses.
3. Incorporate self-study courses coupled with group discussions for leaders. This helps to hone individual leadership skills and tie these efforts back to organizational goals and personal accountability.
4. Start a book study group with managers and supervisors that focuses on customer service strategies and best practices.
5. Organize a quarterly leadership development curriculum with clear goals and objectives. Bring speakers and trainers into the organization rather than spending money to send individual managers to state and national conferences. The cost to send two or three managers outside of the organization for such meetings will be the same as bringing in a highly qualified speaker/trainer into your organization where they can reach 100 managers and supervisors.
The question isn’t IF you can afford to continue your customer service efforts, it’s HOW you will continue your customer service efforts. Once you shift your focus to that mindset, you’ll be much more likely to find good solutions that fit the budget and keep your team aligned with the mission.