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Is there community or organisational expectation that nurses should be adopting a McDonald’s like customer service “would you like fries with that” approach to providing patient care.

Customer service is about the journey experienced from beginning to end. McDonald’s has this down to a fine art with scripted interactions and standardised systems and processes. The difference between hospitality and retail type industries with the health care industry is the customers state of mind prior to accessing the service.

Healthcare customers are sick, stressed, uncomfortable and find themselves in an unfamiliar environment impacting on self-confidence and personal inner strength. When reviewing customer service models for consideration in implementing in health services the state of mind of customers must be taken into consideration.

With any customer service model attitude is one of the foundational stones. Attitude is the enthusiasm and positiveness that individuals have towards their job and their interactions with customers. Excessive workloads and centralised chaotic workplaces drain nurses positive energies negatively influencing nurse:patient interactions.

Historically health care organisations and healthcare professionals  prioritise safety, efficiency and positive outcomes over the patients experience. Consumers are now wanting and expecting a respectful and as pleasant a journey as possible through the health system. Funding agencies in the USA are now also allocating part of hospital funds based on customer service scores.

In Australia care models introduced into healthcare in recent times have included Lean Thinking, Transforming Care at the Bedside, Person Centered Care, Intentional Rounding and Clinical Handover at the Bedside. Underpinning these models is the value and importance of releasing nurses back to the bedside, reducing waste (consumables and time) and providing increased opportunities for patients to be more involved in their own care planning and decision-making.

Customer service training within healthcare is minimal and patchy at best. Care models introduced as above have been in many instances implemented reactively and quickly rather than in a considered and comprehensive manner. Reactive implementation of any change generally results in minimal collaboration with workers and even less training or dissemination of information almost guaranteeing lack of engagement of the worker.

Nurses and the care they deliver are an integral aspect of excellent customer service. Car parking, cleanliness of the facility, ease of access into services, waiting times and quality of food delivered are other important aspects which impact on and influences the customer experience.

The Disney customer service healthcare model which uses “Disney’s chain of excellence” is an interesting model worth considering implementing in the healthcare industry. Disney invests a lot of energy on reducing time-wasting systems, hassles and distractions for workers. Reducing these distractions free the workers time up so their time can be better served focusing on attending to the customer and their experience.

The chain of excellence starts at the top moving through the organisation to the worker and on to the customer. The organisation focuses on taking care of the worker allowing the worker to focus on and take care of the customer. Nurse are at the forefront of care delivery and interactions with customers more so than any other health care worker.

Having a customer service frame of reference all other disciplines and departments within a healthcare organisation must treat nurses as internal customers with a focus on providing a responsive and efficient support service to the nurse. Any opportunity to keep the nurse face to face with the patient providing care must be acted upon and addressed swiftly.

At Disney we have a common purpose and we each have tasks……..job descriptions. Each of those descriptions have tasks associated with them, but we have a singular common purpose, and the common purpose for us will always trump and be more important than our task. So at any point in my day and I’m delivering on my task, I have an opportunity to deliver on the common purpose I do that. And I’m rewarded for that intrinsically because it makes me feel good. The more I do that the more I want to do that. Healthcare institutions can be a better place to work. It can be a better place to be cared for simply by coming back to the purpose.”

                                   Patrick Jordon Healthcare Consultant Disney Institute

If health care organisations are serious in providing excellent customer service than a change in attitude towards nurses is required. Care of nurses need to be the focus of organisations who in turn take care of patients ensuring a positive experience is realised. Increased opportunities for nurses to access “consumer free” time for training, peer and professional supervision as experienced by all other health professionals within the health care industry. Nurses need to be articulate and persistent in raising awareness of organisations on the vital role nurses play in the consumer journey and customer service.

Caring for the Nurse underpins and is vital for customer service of excellence for any healthcare organisation.