Karin And David’s Leadership Articles

You want to empower your employees as customer advocates, but it’s tricky.

No one understands your customer’s needs and frustrations better than your employees. When your customers are frustrated, your employees are too.

But let’s be real.  What’s best for the customer is often not the easiest, cost-effective or practical solution.

So how do you draw the employees closest to the customer into balanced business conversations? How do you get everyone to ask, “How can we?” on behalf of the customer?

One hospital we talked with in our Courageous Cultures research has cracked the code.

A Simple Technique for Empowering Employees as Customer Advocates

Jill, a Director of Rehab at a large regional hospital, shares this best practice.

“We assign one team member to speak for the patient in any important meeting.”

When it’s a team member’s turn to attend the meeting as a patient, they don’t weigh in from their usual perspective during that meeting. They focus on thinking and speaking like a patient.

If it’s your turn to be the patient, that’s all you get to do. Your entire job in that meeting is to consider, “If I were a patient sitting in this meeting, what would I say next?”

What Would the Patient Say?

Jill shared:

We used this most when we were building our new electronic document and scheduling system. So, for example, in our inpatient environment, we were working on a scheduling system so departments wouldn’t be showing up at the same time to see a patient. Rehab will know when the patient was in a test, in imaging or being seen by respiratory. This is important, because in the past, we could show up to give therapy and find an empty room.

During this discussion, the “patient” raised his hand and said, “I want to know my schedule as well. I want to know when my doctor is coming to see me. My family wants to know what time my therapy is so they can be here to be involved.”

What resulted is “transparent scheduling” still a work in process but making a huge impact.

What’s complicated with the transparent scheduling is that there are a lot of unpredictables in the hospital.  For example, a patient might be moved back due to higher priority diagnosis and orders. Or a patient’s treatment takes longer than expected in a test that makes staying on schedule challenging. There are LOTS of provider reasons to keep the schedules to ourselves. But, we are placing the patient’s experience as a higher priority to try and problem solve through those concerns.

Other areas where we see impact: types of gowns selected for mammography,  complete elimination of visiting hours.  Families can now come visit at any time not just between eight and six.

Patients also have access to their documentation from home.  It used to be if they wanted to see a physician note or therapy note they had to request it from medical records.

Jill also pointed out, “All these patient-driven decisions come with side effects (like everything) and new challenges and opportunities to work through, but they’re worth it.”

What Could Happen In Your Meetings?

What would happen in your meetings if your team assigned someone to speak solely on behalf of your customer? Rotating designated customer advocates?

What would they say? How would that inform your decision making?

Of course, there are always side effects. When your employees practice thinking this way in meetings, it’s far more likely they’ll be thinking this way in daily decisions with your customers.

How would that impact your customer experience?

See Also: Why Everybody in Your Organization Should Be a Customer Advocate

Karin Hurt And David Dye author photo

Karin Hurt and David Dye

Karin Hurt and David Dye help human-centered leaders resolve workplace ambiguity and chaos, so that they can drive innovation, productivity and revenue without burning out employees. As CEO and President of Let’s Grow Leaders, they are known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. Karin and David are the award-winning authors of five books including, Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. David Dye is a former executive and elected official. Karin and David are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.

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