September 1999

Employee Satisfaction Drives Service Excellence at Mercy Medical Center, Roseburg, Ore.

Voice of the Customer

At Mercy Medical Center, Roseburg, Ore., consistently delighting customers begins and ends with a focus on building employee commitment and loyalty. This approach to achieving service excellence is a key element in Mercy’s distinction as the top overall customer satisfaction performer within Catholic Health Initiatives during the 1998-99 fiscal year. Mercy had an overall mean score of 4.64 on a 5-point scale and a 72 percent excellent rating. This compares with an average mean score of 4.48 and a 62 percent excellent rating for Catholic Health Initiatives’ market-based organizations overall. "If you put employees first, customers will follow," said Victor Fresolone, president and chief executive officer of Mercy, who noted that Catholic Health Initiatives’ customer satisfaction program has helped Mercy to effectively manage satisfaction. Fresolone identified several best practices that contribute to Mercy’s success: Employee satisfaction is #1 "Unless employees feel respected and listened to, they can’t be expected to turn their full attention to the customer," said Fresolone. "We have found that salary and benefits are not the key issues as long as they are fair. What is important is management showing respect and listening to employees. Our focus has shifted from a primary focus on customer satisfaction to first asking ourselves if employee needs are being met. It’s essential to make work a rewarding place." Hire people who share the same values and establish clear expectations up front "We hire for attitude and train on skill," said Fresolone. Mercy takes extra steps to make sure new employees share its philosophy of service excellence and commitment to the core values of Catholic Health Initiatives. A pre-employment video clearly outlines what is expected of each employee who works at Mercy. Make service a leadership expectation every day Fresolone emphasized that Mercy’s culture of service is something he and department leaders focus on each day, 24 hours a day. "It impacts everything we do and is always at the forefront of how we make decisions and interact with each other," he said. Celebrate success Ice cream socials in which management serves employees in recognition for a job well done is just one example of how Mercy takes time to celebrate its stellar customer satisfaction scores. Another is a drawing for a trip to Walt Disney World as a way of saying thanks, with the requirement that employees bring back and share their observations on the Disney way of treating every visitor as a welcome guest. Establish an aggressive, empowered approach to service recovery Mercy has a dedicated staff person who works with a team of well-trained volunteers to identify and address patient concerns as they arise. Patient advocate Wally Gwaltney makes contact with every inpatient. He works closely with managers and staff to resolve patient complaints, including adjusting bills if needed and taking steps to ensure that each patient’s needs are met. Give employees opportunities to rejuvenate service skills This month, Mercy begins what it calls a "Day of Reflection" for employees to focus on the mission and values of the organization and update customer service skills at a four-hour training held off site. Create open, honest, two-way communication with employees "At Mercy, if we think we’ve done a good job of communicating, it’s time to start over again," said Kathleen Nickel, director of communications and marketing. Mercy’s internal communications efforts include a question and answer feature in which no topic is off limits. A suggestion box is available for employees to raise questions or comments, and each month the answers are published and mailed directly to the employees’ homes. Fresolone said that Mercy’s focus on meeting customer needs has resulted in increased profitability and growth for the medical center; its market share has increased from 60 to 80 percent within the past three years. "When we look at the critical elements that drive customer and employee satisfaction and loyalty, Mercy has done so many things right," noted Diane Gage, vice president of customer and market strategy for Catholic Health Initiatives. "Strong leadership commitment to service excellence and a culture that provides employees with the tools and resources to meet the needs of customers and then recognizes and celebrates their accomplishments make it possible for Mercy to sustain its superior performance." The Customer and Market Strategy Team, part of the Strategy and Business Development Resource Group, has developed a model for customer and employee service excellence that includes an extensive tool kit and additional resources for market-based organizations to develop, implement and sustain their own customer and employee loyalty initiatives. Watch for more information in upcoming issues of Initiatives.

chain Photo