For Jonathan Salazar, the challenge was there to face and solve.
|Jonathan Salazar, a 2012 Employee of the Year recipient, is the concierge at Poudre Valley Hospital. His simple advice about customer service: "Make sure you're there for people in their time of need."
For other employees, it is a lesson in customer service excellence.
It started out when a brother and sister, both adults, became Poudre Valley Hospital inpatients due to life-threatening issues. Both were new to the area and had few friends or family members.
The sister -- the caretaker of the brother, who suffers from cognitive disabilities - passed away, leaving behind her brother who suddenly had no one to take care of him.
Enter Salazar, PVH's Guest Services supervisor, a position more commonly referred to as concierge.
Salazar is quiet with the manners of an old-world gentleman. He is among the rarest of humans: a listener. He lets someone speak fully before responding.
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He started work as a tech in Employee Health in 2007; two years ago was named to his current position. With the concierge desk prominently located near PVH's main entrance, he is often one of the first employees a hospital visitor meets.
Salazar and other employees --Susan Nadeau, PVH director of Volunteer and Guest Services; Shannon McClanahan, medical social worker; Ava Arnold, evening concierge; and others -- embarked on a complex effort that led to the brother becoming a ward of the state so he could receive long-term assistance that he needed once he left the hospital.
Although it would have been easy to step away after that task was completed, Salazar and the other employees refused to abandon the brother. They threw him a birthday party in his new home. They bought him new clothes to accommodate changes in weather. They spent their own personal time with him.
When the brother had an accident while riding his bicycle, Salazar was among the first notified by authorities. The brother, who found a friend and confidante in Salazar, lives near the hospital and often sees Salazar and the other employees.
It was for this example of customer service excellence and many others that Salazar was named one of the 27 employees of the year.
"Jonathan is a fantastic example of how one person can exemplify all of the values that we take pride in following," pointed out Mickie Doherty and Stephanie Buchanan, patient financial services employees who nominated Salazar. "He cares about every patient and family member he comes in contact with."
Concierge position designed for excellence
How PVH came to have a concierge is a story that represents how cleverly mercurial the health-care industry can be at times. The story also demonstrates how a complex industry -- and, by extension, those employed in the industry -- can easily make significant changes to enhance customer service.
The use of concierges in hospitals started in the early 2000s when the industry realized that hospitals are, in fact, hotels of care, places where patients go to get well but also with the expectation of receiving a high level of non-clinical customer service. The industry undertook studies on the way Ritz Carlton -- by far one of the world's best customer service providers -- treated guests.
This resulted in a major shift in the way hospitals view customer service. No longer were patients just patients and families just families -- now they had become guests to be treated with care and love.
Many hospitals hired concierges to enhance customer relations. PVH was among the early adopters. The program shone brightly from the beginning. With the history of PVH's successful concierge program in mind, Medical Center of the Rockies had a concierge program underway from the moment its doors opened in 2007.
"Jonathan is the role model for hospital concierges," said Kevin Unger, the PVH president and CEO who oversaw the launch of the PVH concierge program when he was the hospital's chief operating officer. "He is just the type of person we envisioned when we started the program: friendly, innovative and dedicated to high quality."
Opportunities for excellence are everywhere
Concierge duties are directed at taking care of non-clinical needs of patients and families -- their large and small needs. Unger said it takes a special type of person to successfully juggle all of the daily challenges.
"There are opportunities to achieve customer service excellence almost every minute of the day," he said.
Client needs are extensive and widely varied. The daily work of a concierge may range from helping a family find local resources or making sure a patient's pet is cared for if it is left at home or going out and purchasing shoes and clothing for patients if street clothes are needed before a hospital discharge. Among many other tasks is the occasional haircut arranged for a patient.
In Salazar's case -- he's bilingual -- he sometimes attends births if parents speak only Spanish. He interprets the information they and attending clinicians need to know. He manages the eight PVH-owned Pitkin Street houses that patient families can rent to be near their hospitalized kin. He also supervises three concierges: Ava Arnold, Anetria Cain and Marilee Rowe.
As far as his personal view of how customer service should be provided, here's what Salazar says: "Make sure you're there for people in their time of need. That sums it up."
That's a simple statement, but others, in nominating him for the EOY award, noted that Salazar offers multiple customer service skills. They pointed out that he:
- brings other employees together to work as a team on issues;
- offers ideas for how to get things done so a situation is a win-win for patients and family;
- is passionate about his work, to the point where his enthusiasm is infectious to others;
- learns multiple facets of his job so he is well-rounded and can successfully handle a variety of situations; and
- always keeps the best interests of his clients in mind.
Nadeau, who is Salazar's supervisor, said he has a personal trait that patients, family members and employees appreciate: a great sense of humor.
"That's an important customer service skill," she added. "People are put at ease and they feel more comfortable."
This is the second in an ongoing Insider North series about how 2012 Employees of the Year demonstrate customer service excellence.
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