March 2005

Employees Lead Turnaround at Baptist Hospital
With Expert Help from The Doug Williams Group, Hospital Staff Raises the Bar
by John Fries

As assistant vice president at Baptist Hospital, Arlenna Williams oversees several of the facility’s support departments. A hands-on administrator, she also leads an ongoing, hospital-wide service excellence initiative aimed at enhancing the service provided by Baptist to its patients, their families, and hospital staff. According to Williams, the initiative—now in its second year—is producing highly favorable results.

Last summer, however, the hospital realized a need to seek outside help in addressing issues related to increased customer satisfaction. Baptist Hospital’s environmental services department, which reports administratively to Williams, wasn’t earning high customer satisfaction scores--particularly from the nursing units.

Although the environmental services department’s 200 employees were hard-working, there seemed to be disconnects between the department and the units, and a perception that housekeeping service wasn’t what it could be. The question was how to identify where those disconnects existed, and what to do about it.

"It was obvious that we needed to have a focused effort," said Williams, "so I decided to look for outside expertise."

She didn’t have to look far. The Doug Williams Group (TDWG; no relation to Arlenna), based in South Florida, has an impressive track record of helping organizations achieve remarkable customer service results.

"I was familiar with their work and reputation, so I asked them to assess our situation and help us implement improvements," she said.

A Unique Approach to Identifying Concerns
A consulting team from The Doug Williams Group met with Arlenna, who described the situation. The first step, in an effort to gain further insight and understanding of where the perceived problems existed, was to develop a unique, structured survey that asked nurses to evaluate the Environmental Services department. The brief questionnaire focused on such criteria as accessibility, responsiveness, cooperation, initiative, courtesy, and overall quality. The survey was used as a guideline for over 50 personal interviews with nurse "internal customers", representing all shifts and operational areas served by Environmental Services.

When the results were compiled, it became apparent that the nurses’ perceptions of environmental services staff needed to be improved. The major issues that needed to be addressed included problems during shift changes and responsiveness to calls and pages. Other common complaints were unemptied trash, unstocked bathrooms and supply closets, unclean floors, and unfriendly attitudes.

Employees Take The Lead
Once The Doug Williams Group had a clear picture of the nurses’ concerns, a senior management consultant, Ray McAllister, met with environmental services employees to share the nurses’ comments.

"Ray worked closely with the environmental services staff, and he engaged them very quickly," said Arlenna. "They opened up to him and developed a great relationship with him."

Moving forward, McAllister recommended that the employees form a team and meet regularly to discuss how they could improve the service they provide to their internal and external customers. He would facilitate and provide support as needed, but he made it clear that it would be the employees’ team. They would be directly responsible for leading the meetings, discussing the issues, proposing solutions, making the decisions, and implementing new practices and processes.

The employees took their responsibility very seriously," says Arlenna. "They were determined to change the perception of the department."

The customer satisfaction improvement team, which consisted of 15 employees, reviewed the nurses’ concerns with open minds and a determination to improve. A priority issue for the team became the quality of the work – or perceived lack of it – from one shift to the next.

Consistently, the night shift was viewed as when the least work was being performed. Another complaint was the perceived unfriendliness of the staff. One nurse commented that they could be nicer to patients and families; another asked if they would simply smile.

Developing Creative Solutions

Once the problems were discussed among the improvement team, suggestions began to flow, and numerous good ideas were raised. One of them was the creation, by the team, of a series of scripting cards filled with customer service guidelines for everything from delivering excellent service to working with a positive attitude. The scripting cards, which also outlined the principles of common courtesy and encouraged friendliness with fellow hospital employees, patients, and family members, were provided to each environmental services employee as a reminder of what was expected from each of them.

Then, the employee team took a giant, creative leap outside the box by writing, producing, and starring in a teaching video that dramatized various hospital scenarios in which staff and employees interacted with each other, as well as with patients and visitors. The video was shown to fellow staff members and reflected the information on the scripting cards.

Staff-Driven Success

Since the improvement team was formed and improvements began last fall, the success of the initiative has been reflected in the patient satisfaction data collected and analyzed on an ongoing basis by Press Ganey. "Before this initiative, we were in the 82nd percentile," said Arlenna. "Today, we’re in the 94th percentile. The employees have done a superb job. They’re proud of what they’re accomplishing, and so am I."

The environmental services improvement team continues to meet and explore opportunities for improvement. In light of their success, Arlenna says she plans to develop more employee improvement teams to tackle other issues, and, in fact, has created a staff advisory group, comprised of employees, who review new hospital initiatives and provide insight and feedback.

Doug Williams, TDWG’s president and CEO, whose firm has played a key role in many turnarounds and culture change initiatives, is also pleased with the outcomes.

"We are proud to support an excellent organization such as Baptist Hospital of Miami and to see firsthand what the environmental services staff are accomplishing though determination, focus, and teamwork.

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Copyright © 2005 by John Fries, Pittsburgh, PA.
Please direct all correspondence to john@johnfries.com