ustomer service can be a life-changing force for good in assisted living, home care and healthcare. That’s according to customer service consultant Micah Solomon who helps companies build cultural success in challenging business environments. Here he describes the differences between what he calls “mandatory hospitality” customer service where the customer isn’t coming to you out of desire but out of need—and traditional customer service in a retail environment.
Certainly, in any customer service position in any industry, there can be opportunities to make a difference for someone who is having a bad day. These can be as dramatic as the Comcast repairperson coming across someone who has been in a serious roadway accident or as understated (but lovely) as the case of the hotel employee who brought me an over-the-counter remedy when she heard I had a cold. However, there are particular settings where customer-facing employees have the opportunity all day, every day to be a force for good for people who aren’t having a lot of good in their lives at the moment. While I do my work (as a customer service consultant) in a wide range of settings, from retail to hospitality to B2B, what I’m talking about here are settings such as:
– Assisted Living
– Healthcare–whether ambulatory or hospital-based
– HR, particularly when assisting with potentially life-changing issues such as continuation of insurance benefits
The impact that this work can have on customers (aka residents, patients) is all the more striking when you consider the increased challenges these settings have when compared to what you might instinctively think of as “classic customer service” in retail and the like. The customer service in the industries on my list are all what could be considered “required hospitality”: the customer isn’t coming to you out of desire—as they would be when staying at a seaside resort or exchanging a pair of strappy shoes–but out of need. These settings are subject to weighty health-, safety-, and privacy-related regulatory strictures.
Consider the first setting on this list: assisted-living communities. Employees in assisted living often become fundamental elements in the emotional support system of residents, and sometimes of visiting loved-ones as well. I’ve known assisted-living employees to champion better care for the residents in their units (which sometimes brings them into conflict with visiting physicians who are less attuned to the situation); I’ve known employees to insist—insist!—on being able to attend the graveside service for beloved residents they have cared for, even when this resulted in extra work and inconvenience for them later due to coverage issues.
“What our people do is related to but also transcends a ‘retail’ employee-customer service relationship,” says, Anthony A. Argondizza, the president and CEO of Springpoint Senior Living, which operates eight retirement communities (technically referred to as CCRCs/Life Plan Communities) in New Jersey and Delaware. “The interactions are longer-term; the relationships go deeper; the needs and wishes we strive to meet are more multi-faceted.”
I would argue that to succeed in such a setting it’s particularly essential to not skimp on the following (Note: for each of these, I have provided a link to an article with more on the subject):
- Proper employee selection (hiring), onboarding, and training
- Efforts that support employee motivation and advancement efforts (what I call “talent management”)
- The application of institutional resources where they are most beneficial to customers
- Ongoing and sustained management support for all of the above.
thumbnail courtesy of forbes.com
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