Environmental Services (ES) is a patient-centered, customer-focused department. Everything we do impacts customers in one form or another, whether they are patients, visitors or staff. The ES department has a direct impact on patient satisfaction and customer service.

The ES department can gather informal customer feedback through:

  • Phones, cell phones and email;
  • Routine monitoring of the facility as outlined in the ES department's quality assurance program;
  • Meetings with each department manager to discuss service delivery as well as satisfaction, suggestions for improvement, areas of strength and other topics;
  • Casual, random conversations with various customers to confirm satisfaction with service delivery, and identify opportunities for improvement.

Providing a positive customer satisfaction atmosphere should be a high priority for ES leaders. This can be accomplished at the highest level as well as with front-line staff. Daily scripting is a starting point. When ES professionals enter a patient's room, it's important that they identify themselves and explain the job function they provide. ES professionals should always thank patients for allowing them to clean the room and ask if there is anything else they can do to help. Another essential step: The ES professional must smile.

Many organizations leave tent cards in each room. On one side are listed the activities the ES department performs during a daily cleaning service. The tent cards also will include a section with the department's contact information as well as an area where the staff member can sign off. Our facility provides these tent cards after each daily cleaning and at discharge.

Many of us have staff members who excel in handling situations involving a patient's family. I remember receiving a telephone call a few years ago from a patient who wanted to compliment one of my staff members, calling her a "little angel." Sharing this kind of feedback with the department is important and demonstrates excellent customer service.

Another often-overlooked aspect of excellent customer service is the visibility of ES leadership. The simple task of an ES leader visiting the floors, talking with both ES staff and the nursing staff, works wonders to improve visibility. The next level of customer service includes stopping in to talk with patients and families. This proactive move may seem to be a big one for ES, but it is vitally important.

Another move to improve the patient experience is having the front-line staff notify ES leadership after cleaning a room if a patient is sleeping or out for testing. The leader then notifies the second shift leader who visits the patient or family to ensure the room was cleaned as expected, stating that the patient was sleeping or out of the room during the scheduled cleaning time.

There are many other examples of excellent customer service. Please take time to post some of your best practices on AHE's bulletin board at www.ahe.org/ahe/connect/iCohere.shtml.

This month's column was written by Kent L. Miller, CHESP, director of environmental services at Jackson Hospital and Clinic, Montgomery, Ala., and AHE president.




Educational resources

AHE offers a comprehensive educational program targeting all levels of experience, including the following events:

• Webinar — Patient-Centered Care: Achieving World-Class Patient Satisfaction. This will be held at 11 a.m. Central Standard Time on April 18.

• Online course — Foundations for Success in Environmental Services Management. This course lasts 10 weeks and dates are April 9 through June 22. It explores the range of foundational management practices in environmental services.

• Online course — Quality Improvement Models: Applications for Healthcare Support Services. This course lasts six weeks and dates are April 9 through May 25. It is for directors committed to following the American Hospital Association's Hospitals in Pursuit of Excellence initiatives.

• Online Course — Integrated Pest Management. This course lasts four weeks and dates are April 16 through May 18. It helps professionals implement the seven steps of integrated pest management within a health facility. It is free to AHE members.

• Conference — 2012 Annual Conference & Healthcare Marketplace. This will be Sept. 16–19 in Phoenix.

For more information, visit www.AHE.org, email AHE@aha.org or call 312-422-3860.