Getting Employees on the Customer Service Bandwagon with I-Care

No matter how good of a job you do personally, you’re only as good as your worst empolyee.  So, if your CNA is in a hurry and doesn’t respond to a resident’s questions in a respectful manner, or if a call light stays on for 20 minutes and your charge nurse is at the nurses station while the CNAs are busy in other rooms, or even if a dietary staff member doesn’t take the time to see if they have some tomato soup for a resident’s special request when it’s not on that day’s menu, these are ALL reflections on you or poor customer service.
Even worse, I see many times that the staff will actually avoid certain family members because they are difficult.  I’ve also had calls from families before who had a less than pleasant conversation with a staff member.
We all have difficult families.  It’s best to tackle this situation right off the bat.  Always be polite and respectful to your families.  If you see a family member targeting (picking on) a certain staff member, you must intervene.  You may have to reassign that staff member to a different hall temporarily until you can get to the root of the problem with the family.
So, how does one promote an atmosphere of enhanced customer service in a work environment like we have?  That’s a great question.  We are busier than 99% of other work places out there.  I tell my new recruits that I have never had a day in the past decade where I cleared off my desk, checked everything on my to-do list, and kicked back thinking “I’ve finished with everything I wanted to do today.”  It doesn’t happen.  You will always have immediate tasks, pending reports, conference calls, and projects that need attention.  Your employees are just as busy.  There is not nor will there ever be in the immediate future enough staff for direct care.
In the hustle and bustle of trying to get residents cared for as best as they can, many employees can come off a little abrupt and even downright rude at times.  This can have a tremendous effect on your customer satisfaction, census and your reputation.  If your residents feel as if they are treated poorly, they will leave you for your competitor.  And, they’ll let everyone know that “…they treated me like a dog at ABC Nursing Home…”.  It’s a fact.
The best way that I have found to improve customer service as a group is to involve your staff.  They need to know what the expectations are.  They need to hear the complaints and grievances.  They need to know how to respond to difficult residents.  They need education on how to best interact with difficult families.  They need the tools to do their job.
And, they need an incentive.  As much as I support swift discipline of negative staff behavior, it’s only half of the equation.  There has to be positive reinforcement for positive behavior.  This is the missing ingredient in many workplaces.
One little tool I developed at a particularly challenging facility was the I-Care program.  Here are the details below:
Customer Service
Goal:  To bridge the gap between the families and the staff members to improve customer awareness and satisfaction.
  • Tokens will be printed up with the center name & I-CARE on them.  Have a family and employee meeting to launch the new program and distribute tokens to the families (at least 10 per family).  The families will award tokens to staff members who they observe providing exemplary service and take extra time with their residents.  The families will replenish their tokens at care plan meetings and family meetings.  Also, provide tokens to the families of new residents upon admission.
  • The staff, upon collecting a certain number of tokens, will redeem them for prizes.  Examples may include:
1 token = candy bar or soft drink
5 tokens = free dvd rental certificate
10 tokens = gift certificate at SteakOut
25 tokens = Movie tickets for 2
40 tokens = dinner for 2 at nice restaurant
60 tokens = ipod or a cell phone
100 tokens = $100 gift card from Wal-Mart
200 tokens = Wii game console or gps unit
  • Order enough tokens to be able to distribute at least 10 to each resident’s family and have a back-up supply for new admissions and for families to replenish.  The tokens could be metal coins, plastic chips, or even casino-type chips.  Because of the cost involved, you may lean toward a simple plastic chip.  Roughly .30 a piece with printing, etc.
  • As a result of implementation of this program, we should see improved customer satisfaction due to staff members’ increased awareness of customers’ needs as well as a measurable goal to work toward and positive reinforcement in the form of rewards for delivery of excellent care.
  • Reward winners should also be recognized publicly as rewards are presented giving reinforcement for continued success and motivating others.
That is the basic format of a customer service excellence rewards program that actively incorporates direct family feedback related to staff performance.  It’s not an end-all, be-all. It doesn’t relieve you of managing your staff members and following-up on concerns; but it may be a very beneficial tool to assist you in making customer service a priority at your facility.
Give it a try and let me know your results.  Good luck!
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2 Responses to “Getting Employees on the Customer Service Bandwagon with I-Care”

  • Donna Lee on

    This sounds like a great program. What about the 3rd shift worker who may seldom have opportunity to be in contact with the families?

  • Mark on

    Hi, Donna. You’re right, the third shift always poses a unique challenge. The way I look at it is this: There is no one perfect program that will work for every employee. The 3rd shift have just as much opportunity to make a great impression on the Resident as anyone else, even if they don’t see the family that often. The program may need some tweaking to make it work, or the situation may require a secondary program to encompass the 3rd shift staff members. Great question.


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