To avoid the damaging results of creep, early detection and aggressive intervention are essential. We all have (or should have) quality improvement initiatives and performance review mechanisms to measure everything from attendance to prehospital care report content. When was the last time you reviewed these programs and modified them to meet current demands? More important, do you methodically and consistently execute these programs? Do you hold employees as accountable as you would hold yourself if you were the employee? Do your employees generate value equal to the value they receive?
Great employees produce great customers. During economic downturns, many organizations focus on improving financial measures (e.g., cost, revenue and returns) rather than measures like the quality of the customer experience. Enhancing customer satisfaction when finances are declining is as easy as it is in periods of great prosperity. That’s because excellent customer service does not require financial investment. The delivery of quality service is primarily relationship-based. Greeting customers with smiles, treating them with respect, protecting their privacy rights and attending to their needs builds solid relationships. Acknowledging that everybody, not just the patient, is our customer, is essential to our success, regardless of the state of the economy.
Most EMS organizations are performance-based and have clinical and operational standards that are measured daily, monthly and annually. We review IV success rates, intubations, protocol adherence, response times, scene times, etc. How many of us put the same level of effort into assessing customer satisfaction? Evaluating the delivery of basic services, such as reassuring the patient and effectively communicating with family members, is often more important than any clinical or operational indicator.
If your organization provides nonemergency interfacility services, you depend on repeat business from skilled nursing facilities, hospitals and care homes. You want to turn prospects who have never tried your service into advocates. Advocates are customers who are aggressively loyal. They will not only withstand temptation to call another provider, they will actively sing your praises. These advocates are your largest unpaid sales force. These advocates—more than marketing, promotions, even price—are fuel for sustained growth in a depressed economy.
The most significant thing we own is the relationship we create with our customers. To be customer-centric, we must consider the customer in all decisions and actions. Activity in our organizations must be anchored around customers, and quality must be defined from their perspective. Tactics for weathering the recession must place greater emphasis on improving the customer experience.
Our clients need to feel positive energy from our staff, and our staff needs to always listen and respond to its customers. Are customers recognized and treated as assets throughout your organization? Do you work at community relations to establish a positive brand with the public? Do you continuously monitor and assess customer satisfaction?
Execution is critical to success. It is the link between having goals and producing results. However, it is the most underdeveloped attribute of most organizations today. If there was ever a time to focus on meticulously executing everything we do, this is it. This recession has sent many leaders and organizations into chaos. The winners will be those who channel their energies toward the discipline of execution.
Execution is about translating strategies into action and measuring their results. It’s detailed. It’s complicated. It requires deep understanding of where the institution is today and how far it is from where it needs to be. It involves building measurable targets and holding people accountable for them. The ramifications of this recession require organizations to do something different, to value some things more than in the past, to acquire skills they don’t have and move more quickly and effectively in day-to-day activities.
Leadership without execution is incomplete and ineffective. No agency can deliver on its commitments and adapt well to change, especially the change associated with a recession, unless all leaders can execute at all levels. Being able to execute is a distinct skill. It means a person knows how to put a decision into action and push forward to completion through resistance, chaos and unexpected obstacles.