Care is More than Customer Service
For many years companies have pursued great customer service as a competitive strategy. Think the Disney model. Organizations in the health care arena, especially long term care providers, have more recently taken up the same charge. Think “If Disney Ran My Hospital.” I hear about so many providers who are now focusing on great customer service as a key part of their competitive strategy. As I listen, I hear about providing the latest amenities and offering lots of activities to fill every day life. While amenities, activities, and yes, “service with a smile” are important, I believe they fall short in our business of caring for people.
At the Eden Alternative we define care as helping a person to grow. To help a person to grow, we need to get close to them, closer than traditional customer service methods teach. In the aging and disability service arena, we actually have an incredible opportunity to get close to the people we serve by getting to know them and building relationships. After all, they typically live with us for extended periods of time and we serve them in the most intimate ways. Yet, many of us do not take advantage of this opportunity by getting to really know each person we serve and translating that into an incredible customer experience by offering genuine human care that nourishes growth of that person. This is really what culture change is all about.
An article in the current edition of LeadingAge Magazine features Clermont Park, an Eden Alternative Registry Member located in Colorado. Jill Vitale-Aussem stated “It amazes me that we didn’t start out trying to improve customer service. We started out trying to eliminate institutional thinking and promote choice and growth. The astonishing customer service improvements have just happened along the way.”
Creating a person-directed culture where personal relationships are encouraged allows us to care for people in a different way resulting in growth for the person as well as staff. It is this environment of relationships and growth that produces the magic of a life worth living. This is what exactly The Eden Alternative has been teaching for more than 20 years. So, let’s follow the example of Jill and her team at Clermont Park by focusing first on personal relationships and growth. What do you think?