Dan Hounsell: Pay Attention to Your Customers
The observation stopped the maintenance and engineering managers from health care facilities in their tracks.
"We've been talking for 45 minutes, and I haven't heard anyone mention the most important word — patient," one manager said.
The other participants in the breakout session at a recent national conference seemed stunned by the observation. Then they realized that while they'd been avidly discussing technology applications, regulatory compliance, staffing challenges, and a host of other high-priority issues, they had overlooked maybe the most important factor in the success of any maintenance and engineering department — customer satisfaction.
Customers in institutional and commercial facilities come in many forms, from patients, doctors, and teachers to tenants and shoppers. No matter who the customer is, the point is the same. To paraphrase the popular saying, "If the customer ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." Then the assembled managers discussed customer-satisfaction strategies.
One department puts the department's mission on every technician's name badge so patients can see it and realize its importance to the technician. Another department trains technicians to introduce themselves when entering a patient's room, describe the tasks they need to perform, explain their work when finished, ask if anything else needs fixing, and check to see whether their service addressed the patient's needs.
Still another uses zone technicians dedicated to various areas of its facilities. The techs become much more attuned to the maintenance needs of the equipment in their areas and provide more efficient — and faster — service. And they build better working relationships with staff in their zones.
In each case, the strategy led to higher customer-satisfaction marks for the department. The lesson? Talking about products and budgets is important, but discussions of success begin and end with satisfied customers.
Dan Hounsell offers observations about trends in maintenance and engineering management and the evolving role of managers in facilities.