The psychology behind good customer service (and why it’s more important than you think) — McKnight’s LTC News

Here’s my latest article on McKnight’s Long-Term Care News:



The psychology behind good customer service (and why it’s more important than you think)

At the front desk, the workers were having an argument. Some residents watched the proceedings with interest and others with expressions of alarm. A waiting family member shifted from one leg to another and began sighing with exasperation as the loud conversation wore on without her presence being acknowledged.

We may talk about the term “customer service” and ask our staff members to avoid public arguments like the one above, but nevertheless, similar situations happen every day. Why does it matter so much? Using the model of the family as a guide, I discuss the psychological importance of good customer service in all our interactions.

With other staff members – Just as the relationship between parents forms the foundation of a family, our relationships with our coworkers are the foundation of good customer service.

o As shown in the above example, the residents observe how we treat one another. If our conversations are respectful and collegial, residents feel comfortable discussing concerns because they perceive their caregivers to be levelheaded and understanding. Angry, shaming interactions between staff members create an unsafe environment, making residents less likely to share information — including details that may affect medical care.

o Difficult interactions with coworkers are frequently transmitted to resident care. This is known in psychological terms as displacement. In the classic case, the boss yells at the father, who comes home and yells at his wife, who yells at the kid, who kicks the dog. If the nursing supervisor publicly criticizes the nurse who then chastises the aide, the residents are likely to be on the receiving end of the aide’s aggravation. Alternatively, if the nursing supervisor compliments the nurse who in turn praises the aide, the residents are more like to be met with a cheerful, upbeat caregiver.

o How senior staff members talk to subordinates is passed along to the next level of subordinates, not just through displacement, but also through modeling. Senior staffers are showing through example “how we handle things here.” When an administrator uses “teachable moments” to calmly point out what aspects of a crisis were managed well and what could be done differently for mismanaged parts, this becomes its own teachable moment in terms of how to provide constructive feedback.

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The psychology behind good customer service (and why it’s more important than you think)


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