Environmental services is a patient-centered department. Everything we do affects a patient in one way or another. Customers are defined as all patients, visitors and colleagues of the organization, and the environmental services department can have a direct impact on patient satisfaction.

Customer feedback can be obtained through:

• Phones, cellphones and email;

• Facility monitoring as part of a quality assurance program;

• At least quarterly and preferably weekly phone or in-person contact with each department manager;

• Conversations with customers to confirm satisfaction with service and to identify opportunities for improvement;

• SurveyMonkey, an online survey tool.

Providing a positive customer atmosphere should be a high priority in any health care organization both at the highest levels as well as on the front lines.

Daily scripting is a starting point. As an environmental services staffer, you should let patients or residents know who is entering their room and what job function you are providing. You should thank them for allowing you to clean the room and ask if there is anything else you can do.

Leave tent cards in each room. These typically include the types of services the department provides as well as the department’s contact information. Likewise, you can install signage in public restrooms that list whom to call if it is not clean.

Another, often-overlooked aspect of customer service, is the visibility of environmental services leadership. Each leader should walk the floors to visit their own staff as well as nursing personnel. The next level is to establish a rapport with patients and their families. Environmental services staffers not only can have a positive impact on the health care environment, but they also can add a personal touch to a patient’s or resident’s stay.

Another way to improve the patient experience is to ask front-line staff to notify the department leader when they have cleaned a room while a patient or resident was sleeping or out of the room. The leader can then notify the second-shift leader who visits the patient or family to see if the room was cleaned as expected, explaining that the patient had been indisposed during the normal daily cleaning procedure.

There are many other examples of environmental services leaders putting customer service into action, and I’m sure we each have stories related to excellent customer service. Feel free to post some of your best practices on the MyAHE section of the AHE website.

Kent Miller, MHA, CHESP, is director of environmental services/sustainability officer at Mercy Health St. Mary’s in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Valuable resources available

AHE represents, defines and advances the professionals responsible for care of the health care environment to ensure high-quality outcomes and healthy communities. The following resource can be found at www.ahe.org/ahe/learn/tools_and_resources/publications.shtml.

• Practice Guidance for Healthcare Environmental Cleaning, second edition. This manual provides evidence-based research, guidance and recommended practices that should be considered for inclusion in health care environmental services departments. Because each facility has its own needs, this resource has been designed to enhance an existing program.

Certified Healthcare Environmental Services Technician Certificate

This certification focuses on critical areas of competency for front-line technicians, including infection prevention, quality of care, patient outcomes and experience. For more information, visit www.ahe.org/ahe/lead/CHEST/chest_home.shtml.

Environmental Sustainability Certificate Program

AHE has launched a new certification to acknowledge the environmental and ecological sustainability efforts of environmental services departments. For more information, go to www.ahe.org/ahe/lead/environmental_sustainability_certificate_program.shtml.