Serema Cole, administrative assistant
in Ambulatory Services, started working in the Department of Orthopaedics
five years ago, there was no clear system for answering patient
and physician calls. She spent her days doing a little bit of everything:
checking patients in and out, grabbing ringing phones and juggling
paperwork at a dizzying pace.
customer service improvements across Children's Ambulatory
addition of both clinical and administrative staff
to better handle patient and call volume
courtesy training for employees
to the phone menus that callers must navigate to
reach the right person
The volume of incoming calls has only increased since then—now
averaging 200 calls on any given Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. But
thanks to the department’s commitment to improving customer service,
Cole and her coworkers have the tools to keep visitors and callers
happy. “We’re busier now,” says Cole, “but my job has actually gotten
The most recent improvements were made in response to a March patient
satisfaction survey conducted by the department indicating that
about 90 percent of patient families who responded felt staff courtesy
was “good” or “excellent,” but many were concerned with the phone
system and wait times. The department formed a Customer Service
Team to improve services, and the effects of those improvements
were measured against a second survey conducted in June. The June
results showed marked improvements in staff professionalism, the
phone system, wait times and staff communication.
How did the department improve so significantly in just three months?
By conducting professional courtesy training for employees, changing
the phone menus that callers must navigate to reach the right person,
and adding both clinical and administrative staff to better handle
patient and call volume.
Although her work is now less chaotic, Cole is still a busy multi-tasker,
and helps train new phone staff to deal with each call appropriately.
“For example,” she says, “you should always identify yourself when
you answer a call. And you have to know how to ask patient families
certain questions without offending them.” Also, new employees now
complete role-playing training in which other Children’s employees
pose realistic customer service challenges.
The job of meeting those challenges has been made more manageable
with recent phone system improvements. A new phone menu connects
callers directly to the services they need—such as parents who need
a doctors’ note for their child—and callers can always skip the
menu and speak to an operator.
The department also made adjustments to staffing. By analyzing
peak call times and adding phone staff accordingly, the department
was able to reduce on-hold time and the number of abandoned calls.
For patients in the waiting room, additional clinical staff (three
physicians, a nurse practitioner and another nurse) and an urgent
orthopaedic clinic session have freed up clinic schedules and reduced
in-person waiting times significantly.
Cole says these changes done more than make a heavy workload more
manageable. “Patients are also happier,” she says, “and everyone
is less stressed.”—CM