Customer Service—A Global Perspective

Last time we talked about how customer service changes the perspective of our patients/customers, and how they judge the quality of our laboratories by their snapshot visit to the drawing station. Over the years, I’ve seen some good, some bad, and some very ugly customer service practices…one I discovered even in my own laboratory one day, just by having my blood drawn in the outpatient phlebotomy draw station!

There are lots of “best practices” around the world, and it is interesting for me to hear from colleagues or observe practices that I think are worth knowing, and worth sharing. One comes to mind in a favorite place in Africa. The rural clinic was always very busy, people everywhere lined up on benches waiting to be seen or for pharmacy or for a lab/radiology procedure. It looked like every busy primary clinic everywhere, except for the lovely colorful headdresses on the women and the different kinds of “baby carriers.” When you looked closely, many people did not have shoes, and also had their lunch nearby in a tin carrier because they were prepared to spend the day. When you looked even more closely, sometimes you see smiles and congenial conversation…but more often you can see eyes showing pain or illness, tears, fear, compassion and concern on the faces of those there to receive care, and those there for support.

In this particular busy clinic, the laboratory drawing room was down a narrow hall off to one side, and had steel bars on the door with a buzzer for entry. A necessity, but not very inviting. My African colleagues were concerned that patients would be intimidated by the negative appearance, as many of them travelled miles to get there with children or family and often didn’t even speak the dialect of the district. So they decided to do what they called “walk around draws.” Two phlebotomists took turns, one in the “caged drawing room” and one with a lab tray “roaming the waiting room.” The “roamer” would ask if the patient wished to have their blood drawn in the room down the hall, or if they would prefer a “bed side draw” right there where they were waiting. It provided opportunity to smile at the children, reassure a grandmother, speak to a caregiver if the patient was very ill, and greet people around the patient while also (bonus!) talking out loud about lab procedures—VERY important in that culture. The patient felt surrounded by the clinic community, which was parallel to being in the healer’s hut in their village while everyone gathered around to hear and see the care being given. It worked for them, and even improved their drawing room wait times.

As we explore how we can make patients more at ease, more knowledgeable, and provide improved access to our lab services, we tend to think in terms of how it will improve the lab processes. I learned a valuable lesson from my Africa colleagues: we should also think of how to improve the “patient experience” in safe and culturally appropriate ways. There are many stories and observations on how we do things wrong, but this is an enlightened one about how our global colleagues are doing it right!

As I mentioned in my last blog, the next time YOU have to have your blood drawn, take a close look around and notice what your patients and customers see. I guarantee you will always be surprised by something, and will leave the drawing room with at least one idea of how your lab can do it better.   And, if you have a great example of improving the patient experience in the laboratory, let me know at bsumwalt@pacbell.net I’m always in the market for new ideas to share.

 

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Beverly Sumwalt, MA, DLM, CLS, MT(ASCP) is an ASCP Global Outreach Volunteer Consultant.

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