Tribune Print Share Text

Is good service dead?

Not at Erickson Living where great customer service is 24/7

Created date

December 21st, 2010

Does this sound familiar? The contractors who don t come to your home during the four-hour window they insist upon, or who don t show up at all. The disembodied voice on the customer service hotline that tells you your call will be answered in eight minutes. The exam room where you sit in a flimsy gown for 30 minutes waiting to see the doctor after making your appointment a month in advance. The furniture or appliance delivery man who looks at you as though you have two heads when you point out a big scratch or the wrong color. The roof repairmen who destroy your landscaping with their ladders and equipment and say, Oh well; these things happen. We can all cite chapter and verse those moments when we ve been on the short end of good service. Any more these days it seems that mediocre customer service is the rule, not the exception. Sometimes, there isn t any customer service at all. But when someone at the other end of the phone line or sales transaction makes you feel like your questions and concerns truly matter, you never forget the experience and how it makes you feel. This is the story of one company that doesn t just pay lip service to delivering the highest quality respect for and service to its customers, it centers everything it stands for on customer satisfaction.

Focus on relationships

From the security guard s warm welcome at the community gate to a personalized good morning from the receptionist to the attentive housekeeping staff instinctively redirecting their vacuums away from friends conversing in the lobby,Erickson Living communities commitment to great customer service is woven into the fabric of everything they do. In an age when customer service often means navigating through complicated telephone prompts only to be put on perma-hold or cutting through endless layers of red tape,Erickson Livingis the rare organization that believes it s their job to jump through hoops, not their customers . Customer service really comes down to focusing on who the person is and that takes time. Part of the problem in the service industry is that they try to be efficient, which is okay, but when you try to apply efficiency to people and relationships you can run into trouble, says Gary Hibbs, regional executive director forErickson Living. We never expect our customers to fit into our procedures; instead, we tailor our service to them. This tailored approach is noticed and appreciated by the people who live at anErickson Living community. In a recent customer satisfaction survey,Erickson Livingresidents gave their communities consistently high marks in every single category. From the timeliness of repairs to the quality of the on-site medical care to the attentive dining room staff, theErickson Livingapproach to serving customers is making an impact. Everyone wants to feel a sense of significance, to know that you matter. At the core, that is what we provide to our customers, says Hibbs. It s simple in concept, but it s difficult to execute because in today s world we are all so busy with other tasks. But when you can stop what you are doing and meet the customer where they are, it shows that you care, and they appreciate that.

It s about the basics

I don t think there s any exact science to good customer service, says Maureen Heckler, executive director ofMaris Grove, anErickson Living communityin Glen Mills, Pa. It s about the basics. It s about caring. When the blizzard of 2010 dumped record amounts of snow along the East Coast, residents ofMaris Grovestopped by Heckler s office to see how the community would function under a few feet of snow. Heckler told them, You don t have to do anything. When you moved in here, we took all your cares and worries and put them on our shoulders. You re here to enjoy your lives. Taking over those cares and worries even extended to dealing with some ofMaris Grove sfour-legged residents. We are very pet-friendly here, says Heckler. The weather was horrible and residents couldn t take their dogs out for a walk while the snow was coming down. We had staff go get the dogs and take them outside for their walk. Throughout the blizzard,Maris Groveresidents saw the depth ofErickson Living scommitment to great service when staff members stayed overnight on campus to keep the community running smoothly. We take the anxiety out of the residents lives, Heckler says. Whether it s the plumbing or having food in a snowstorm or getting to see the doctor when they need to it s all here for them.

Day-to-day presence

Nowhere is great customer service more important than health care. With on-campus medical centers staffed with top-notch physicians,Erickson Livingresidents get the kind of personalized care that is rare in today s world. Knowing that you can call the campus medical center and get seen the same day is wonderful. And, it s not a seven-minute visit. It s a 20-minute or even half hour visit, and the doctors really get to know you, says Heckler. Mary Norman, M.D., medical director atHighland Springs, anErickson Living communityin Dallas, Tex., says that being right there on campus and really getting to know her patients is one of the best parts of her job. You get to be in the moment with people a lot more than any other practice I ve ever been in, says Norman. You re there for them when they need you in a crisis, but also when they re flourishing the joy they have when they re singing in the choir or when they meet someone special. That day-to-day presence is extremely powerful, both for the people who live here and for me and my staff. As good as things are, Heckler believes there s always room for improvement. There s absolutely a magic here, and yet, you don t ever want to be complacent, she says. You have to keep asking, How do we keep it fresh? What can we do better? We ask residents all the time because they re the experts. Editor s note: See the Neighbors section starting on page 5 to hear what Erickson Living residents and staff have to say about customer service on a local level.

Superior customer service

Erickson Livingconsistently ranks high on its resident satisfaction surveys. Here is a sampling from the 2009 survey.
  • Overall, I am satisfied with (the campus): 87.1%
  • Staff members are friendly and courteous to residents: 93.9%
  • The service in the dining room is friendly: 91.6%