Sponsored by AUE
By Jim Carr
Business studies have shown that taking ownership of a problem is the most important factor in achieving high levels of customer satisfaction and retention. Great companies develop processes and deliver training to make sure that every employee in the customer service chain feels responsible to resolve the issue. World-class customer service is when companies like Zappos and Southwest Airlines develop a “one-touch” culture, where each employee not only takes ownership but is also enabled to fix the customer’s problem (at least, within defined limits). Nordstrom has some of the best examples of empowered ownership, such as the true story of the building services team, a.k.a. janitors, spending hours sifting through vacuum cleaner bags to find a customer’s lost diamond ring.
Taking ownership is a job requirement for almost all of us, but personal improvement gurus point out that how well one accepts responsibility is the key element to a successful career. Sometimes that even means accepting ownership for a problem that was actually created by the customer, like the lost diamond ring (again, up to some limit). If you always accept the responsibility to take action and follow-up, and you are able to get results; your customers will be confident and know that you really care.
What does it mean in imaging service these days to take ownership of your job and your customer? With all due respect to Nordstrom’s and Zappos, ownership of a problem in the world of imaging service can be a bit more complicated and challenging. To a great extent, it depends on your role in the imaging service chain. Some companies have technicians who specialize in doing the preventive maintenance calls, usually as a way to use less expensive people for that work and to train new imaging engineers. Arguably, if the PM procedures from the OEM are good and the PM tech does them well, the customer would see that person more than the service engineer.
Many companies use a tiered approach to solving service calls, with the call center dispatch operator being considered the first tier. At Acuson, we trained each dispatcher to use our knowledge-based tech support system in order to solve the customer’s problem without having to transfer them. If they were not able to solve it, they would “warm transfer” the customer, so that they would not have to repeat all their information again, to the person who was most likely to be able to solve the problem. That next call might be to a tier 2 (level 2) remote service engineer, who was also trained to take ownership of the problem and try to solve it. The call might ultimately go to the assigned field tech, sometimes to install a part that the remote service engineer had identified as faulty and sometimes to do more troubleshooting. This approach helped improve the efficiency of our field engineers, who had a higher cost basis than the other service employees, and improved the time to repair, as well. It is important for companies that use this type of tiered level approach for service to have integrated service reporting systems and well defined roles for the employees. And it needs to be clear who owns the problem or service call at any given point, and who is responsible for communication and follow-up with the customer.
Even if many problems can often be fixed remotely, or the PM tech sees the scanner and customer more often than anyone else, or if the HTM department is outsourcing the service to the OEM or an ISO, most companies and customers still consider the assigned field technician or the onsite clinical engineer to be the ultimate owner of the scanner and customer. That responsibility is often referred to as being the “primary” for the scanner. For in-house imaging engineers, you may be the person doing the PMs and there may be an outsourced company doing the repairs, but I bet the hospital staff still considers you to be the “primary.” To assure timely and efficient communication with the customer, the name of the primary should be made clear to all involved. The primary owner of the scanner is typically responsible for doing follow-up, to make sure that actions have been identified and are taken, and that the repair is completed.
If I was the user-owner of an imaging system, I want to know which one person has accepted the responsibility to keep my scanner in good and safe operating condition, and is going to make sure it is back up ASAP when it breaks. As a member of the service delivery process for a scanner, I take ownership for any actions assigned to me and make sure the primary service engineer is informed. And when I am the primary service engineer, I follow-up with the customer at each step and make sure my customer’s issues are resolved, to make sure I do not lose the opportunity to have that responsibility.
Jim Carr is Director of Service and International Operations for AUE. He may be contacted via email at JCarr@auetulsa.com.