Making Every Call Count at Rush

The Rush Physician Referral Services team. Back row, from left: Jermaine Evans, Rosie Hernandez, Judy Ramos, Rosa Vargas, James Black. Front row: Tammie Richardson, Stephanie Cole, Helen Speights.

By Karen Clayton

Have you ever experienced service so bad you vowed never to return to that store? Have you ever avoided a certain restaurant because your friend told you about the terrible service there? It’s been said that it takes around 12 positive service incidents to make up for one negative incident, and the average business spends six times more to attract new customers than it does to keep old ones.

People’s impression of Rush often begins before we can directly communicate with them, and customer service is a chain of events that can begin on the phone or Web and continues through the parking garage, the people they encounter in our halls on the way to their appointment and into the clinical setting. Given Rush’s vision to be the medical center of choice in Chicago, we in Physician Referral Services focus on customer service and practice Rush’s values every day in hopes of being a consistently strong link in Rush’s customer service chain.

First point of contact

The PRS team answers all the calls that come into Rush’s toll-free number — (888) 352-RUSH (7874) — and Rush Oak Park Hospital’s line — (708)  660-4636. Our customers rely on us to help them with a lot of things, including finding the right physician, making appointments, registering them for a class or event or providing general information about Rush. This means we are often the first point of contact for many new and returning Rush patients. We have the potential to be instrumental in guiding a person through a pleasant experience with Rush right from the beginning.

Last week was customer service week, and we focused on the theme “Every Call Counts.” We celebrated throughout the week with customer service-inspired games and puzzles, a relaxation exercise with Janine Gauthier, PhD, director of the Cancer Integrative Medicine Program at Rush, and we concluded by describing what customer service means to each of us, either personally or professionally. I wanted to share a few of the thoughts my staff shared with me, because everyone at Rush is involved in customer service in one way or another:

Rosa Vargas: “Customer service to me means professionalism, promptness, friendliness and willingness to listen to the callers.  Also, going above and beyond the norm gives me great satisfaction.

Rosie Hernandez: “To me customer service means providing our callers with the services needed; all while making it a positive, helpful experience and making long-lasting relationships with them. I know from my experience with some of my ED [follow-up] patients, I still get calls here and there just to say hello. A week after my return from maternity leave I had a message from an ED patient. At first I thought she might want me to help her make another appointment. I returned her call and was pleasantly surprised -– she wanted to congratulate me on the arrival of my baby and wanted to make sure I was doing OK. I believe this was not only because I assisted her with getting an appointment. I made her feel so comfortable and she knew that I was just not doing my job but genuinely cared.”

Stephanie Cole: “Customer service is something that I try to practice daily. Our patients depend on us to help them with their medical situations and other reasons. Some of the patients could have just received some alarming information or serious diagnosis and call looking for a referral. It should be our duty to assist the caller with the utmost respect and patience.”

Helen Speights: “Rush’s patients come from all parts of the globe expecting great services. The customers are the ones that make it possible for all of the employees to be at Rush.  The time I spend on the phone with the customer, I have developed a relationship with the customers.”

Tammie Richardson: “I feel that we should treat our callers with the same service we would like to give when we call different companies, agencies, etc.  Customer satisfaction must come first in order to be successful in any business.”

Jermaine Evans: “Customer service means treating people how you want to be treated. I don’t believe in treating people disrespectfully and think that respect is going to come my way.”

Karen Clayton is manager of Physician Referral Services at Rush University Medical Center.

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