Engaging customers is not rocket science. With all of the articles, books, blogs, and conferences that are available, it can seem that creating an engaging service experience requires a lifetime worth of training. Not true. Improving customer service begins with the idea of “touchpoints.”
A touchpoint is any moment of interaction between two parties. If an employee passes a resident in the hallway of an assisted living facility, that’s a touchpoint; when the receptionist answers the phone, that’s a touchpoint; when a door is opened for someone, that’s a touchpoint.
There are literally hundreds of touchpoints in a typical workday. Now here’s the interesting part: Every touchpoint has either a deposit or a withdrawal. If a nurse at nursing facility XYZ walks past two customers in the hallway without acknowleding them, that’s a withdrawal. If a rehab therapist gives eye contact and smile, that’s a deposit. Better yet, if that therapist gives eye contact, smiles, offers a greeting, and provides assistance, it’s an even bigger deposit.

Deposits And Withdrawals

So how does one identify touchpoints? The fastest way may be for the administrator to sit in her office and brainstorm alone. Unfortunately, she would be missing a tremendous opportunity to involve her staff in matters that directly affect them. If the goal of identifying touchpoints is to engage customers, then one must first engage those that serve the customers.
Get the team’s input on deposits and withdrawals for each touchpoint as well. The administrator will earn the staff’s respect and simultaneously make a big deposit to the team. Deposits equal more engagement, and withdrawals equal less engagement.
Not too long ago, a perfect example of a touchpoint withdrawal took place on board a transatlantic flight from Europe to Washington, D.C. Since these flights are at least six hours long, airlines tend to offer beverage service at multiple times, especially for those of who fly coach. When the flight attendants were on their third cycle of beverage service, one passenger asked a flight attendant about what drinks were available. The attendant looked at the passenger and said, “The same drinks we had 2,000 miles ago!”
If there was ever a candidate for the “king of all withdrawals,” this was it.
The sad part is that anyone who was within four or five rows of that passenger could hear the flight attendant clearly. That means the attendant’s statement was a withdrawal for everyone else on the flight that could hear him. The key business point here is that most passengers will not remember the attendant who made the withdrawal, but they will remember the airline.
All it takes is one employee, one touchpoint, and one withdrawal to lose a customer. On the other hand, one employee, one touchpoint, and one deposit can create an engaged customer.

Purpose Driven

At a recent hotel stay, a guest barely missed the breakfast buffet by a few minutes. As the buffet attendant was cleaning up, she saw the disappointed look on his face when he approached. She told him that she would be happy to get him something from the back. So he asked for cereal with skim milk. The attendant returned with two boxes of cereal, skim milk, and a big smile.
She then asked if there was anything more she can do, and when the guest said no, she wished him a pleasant day. He did not feel like he was an interruption of her job, but rather the purpose of it.
As this touchpoint is examined, there were multiple deposits made: an offer to get breakfast, two types of cereal presented, an offer of additional assistance, and a wish to the guest for a pleasant day.
The beautiful part is that the entire transaction took less than five minutes.
Multiple deposits encourage free word-of-mouth advertising. In the same touchpoint, multiple withdrawals could have easily been made. The buffet attendant could have pretended not to see the guest. She could have fled to the back when she saw him coming, or she could have told him that the buffet was closed and there was nothing she could do about it
Those examples merely illustrate that enhancing each touchpoint does not have to be expensive, or cost any money, for that matter.
All it requires is a team of employees who consistently “work like they own it.”

Creating World-Class Service

Chances are that the vast majority of everyone reading this has heard the term, “world class” before. Businesses make promises to provide world-class service to their customers. Restaurants boast of having world-class chefs, and even long term and post-acute care providers claim to provide world-class care.
What does it really mean? A quick look in the dictionary and an online search says that world-class means “to be ranked or considered among the world’s best.” Makes sense, but how does one get there?
Before answering that question, here is a recent service experience that will illustrate the point about world-class service. A colleague called a nursing facility, and the phone rang five times before the operator answered, “How can I provide world-class service today?” The colleague’s curiosity was peaked; he was eagerly anticipating the world-class experience. Unfortunately, what followed was anything but world class. The operator cut him off mid-sentence at least three times and then transferred him without saying she would do so.
Even if that particular operator provided outstanding service, that would not be world class. World class is primarily about one word—consistency. Being excellent is not enough—one has to be consistently excellent. Being memorable is not enough—one has to be consistently memorable. Being engaging is not enough—one has to be consistently engaging.
World class means that service providers are “on” every day, regardless of their personal or professional circumstances. Being a service professional means that everyone does what they are supposed to do, when they are supposed to do it, whether they feel like it or not.
It is probably clear by now that this world-class thing requires lots of hard work—it does. It’s not easy, otherwise everybody would be world class. It requires consistent effort, and that effort is what separates good from great and great from world class.
By making a commitment to engage facility teams in a discussion about touchpoints, administrators and department heads can identify the key touchpoints in their departments
and brainstorm ways to enhance each one.
Serving others is a privilege, and residents deserve the very best that facility staff have to offer. A legion of engaged customers will follow.
Bryan K. Williams, DM, is chief service officer of B. Williams Enterprise (www.bwenterprise.net), a customer service consulting, training, and auditing company that focuses on service excellence. The goal is to assist organizations in various industries to enhance their service to world-class levels. He can be reached at bwilliams@bwenterprises.net.