Customer Service: The Softer Side of Security

Published: November 28, 2012

As if being responsible for the security and safety of patients, visitors and staff 24 hours a day isn’t enough, many hospital and healthcare security directors are stepping up to the plate and devoting new resources to helping their organization with another aspect: customer service.

Whether it’s providing specialized training to staff on interactions with patients and visitors, or taking a more proactive role in gathering information on hospital service issues, many security directors are devoting technology and staff resources to enhancing customer service.  

Just ask Ryan LaFleur, security director of Waterbury Hospital, a small community hospital in western Connecticut who has seen his annual budget decrease by three percent each year. LaFleur, whose budgetary woes are more the rule than the exception, has employed creative ways of extending the reach of his department’s resources to perform these additional functions.

For example, select members of the hospital’s security staff pull double duty as “hospital concierges,” who visit between 10-15 patients a day and ask them about their experiences with the cleanliness, food service and other aspects of their inpatient experience. The contributions of LaFleur’s staff in this area are so important because quality of service funding as part of the state Medicaid program is weighted on patient ranking of a hospital’s quality of service…the better the experience, the higher the funding.

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Patients and visitors are only half of the customer service equation, however. At Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Security Manager Ralph Nerette and his security team use their new facilities security operations center as central dispatch headquarters for facilities maintenance, housekeeping and environmental health and safety. This call center logs some 1,000 calls a day from throughout the Dana-Farber organization.

LaFleur, Nerette and Russ Jones, Network Director of Protective Services, Albert Einstein Healthcare Network, all spoke on their experiences and best practices with providing customer service as part of “Taking the Pulse of Healthcare Security,” a panel discussion of healthcare experts held at the recent ASIS International 58th Annual Seminar and Exhibits in Philadelphia. The panel was moderated by Executive Editor Robin Gray of Campus Safety Magazine.

The panel, which also included Jason Ouellette, director of product management for Tyco Security Products’ Software House portfolio, and Paul Baratta, global commercial leader, healthcare, for Stanley Security Solutions, tackled healthcare security issues as far ranging as unique applications of technology, like RFID for patient wandering, to securing funding from non-traditional sources, such as ladies auxiliary groups and federal Homeland Security grants.

At Einstein, Russ Jones considers his role in providing customer service to hospital staff and patients to be one of the core functions of his security department. Each year, his staff undergoes hundreds of cumulative hours of video-based training on specific tips and techniques for dealing with the public. Human resource staffers who interview prospective new security hires also have a series of specific questions surrounding customer service as part of the employee screening process.

Of course, technology clearly plays a crucial role in the level or type of customer service that hospital security staff can provide. At Dana-Farber, using the hospital’s victor video management system, security officers responsible for various departments such as parking, pharmacy and radiation, can easily grant access to view video.

Providing this added value — and, by extension, raising the profile of security within the overall organization — the security department can realize  wide reaching benefits in critical areas such as funding and decision making powers, two critical pieces of success.

Have you had to resort to creative measures to make the most of your security dollars? Or how do you pitch in an assist other departments within your organization to benefit your overall organization? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

Jim Stankovich is a business development manager for healthcare at Software House. He is also the immediate past president of the IAHSS.

Note: The views expressed by guest bloggers and contributors are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Campus Safety magazine.


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Strategy & Planning Series
Strategy & Planning Series
Strategy & Planning Series
Strategy & Planning Series