Why Your Staff Needs Empowerment, Now!

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Call this empowerment, part two, or, “The Power of Empowerment.” A month ago, my daughter, Kaitlyn, 22, began a career at Disneyland. To start, she is working in the park operating various “attractions,” which you know as rides. A couple of weeks ago, a boy of about seven spilled an entire box of popcorn. Without batting an eye, Kaitlyn walked over to a nearby popcorn stand and requested a replacement box, which she then gave to the boy. With the park averaging about 35,000 Guests per day, there is probably a lot of spilled popcorn and replacing it could cost a lot of money. When I asked Kaitlyn where she got the authority to spend a few of Disney’s dollars without permission, she told me that it was part of her orientation. “They told me I could do it when it made sense in certain situations,” she said. Handing out a $4 box of popcorn once a month may seem like a no-brainer empowerment option until you look at the numbers. On an average day, there are about 8,000 “cast members” working at the Disneyland resort theme parks. If each cast member handed out free popcorn just once a month, it would amount to a retail value of about $384,000. Disney has determined, however, that the $4 box of popcorn, even at thousands per month, is a worthy investment because even though that little boy and his family had a splendid time at the park, it is almost guaranteed that along with telling friends and family about meeting Mickey Mouse, they will also be telling them about how they got a free replacement box of popcorn after Johnny spilled his. Your medical imaging facility is no different. When Mrs. Jones leaves your office after her scan, she is not likely to tell anyone about your advanced equipment or the board-certifications of the radiologists. What she will tell them is that after being kept waiting for 30 minutes past her appointment time, a staff member handed her a $10 gift card or that another one bought her lunch because she had been fasting due to her scan and looked weak. But none of these memorable moments will occur unless your staff is empowered; unless they are told that sometimes it is OK to use their judgment and invest a few dollars to help keep a patient – and referrer – happy. There is another benefit to your empowerment philosophy, one that results in a motivated staff with high morale and a sense of duty. When your staff member takes an empowerment action, recognizing it will provide him or her with the one of the top three things every employee seeks, namely, that their work is appreciated. That translates directly into better treatment of patients and referrers. In my daughter’s case, her action was noticed by a supervisor and she was given a 3x5 card that thanked her and told her a note would be placed in her file. The supervisor also said, “We like your smile and we like your attitude.” Before she left Disneyland to come home, she called me and told me the good news. That is powerful. For the cynical who are worried about an empowerment policy gone wild or who can’t see a direct line between empowerment investments and increased scan volume, think of it as insurance against bad word-of-mouth. Still think you can’t afford it? These days, you can’t afford not to.
Steve SmithWith over 25 years of marketing experience — nine years as a former Vice President of Marketing for a leading healthcare marketing company — Steve Smith has consistently developed effective strategies to help fuel the growth of countless healthcare enterprises. Since 2007, he has specialized as a marketing and business development consultant to medical imaging facilities nationwide. Mr. Smith has been a featured speaker at imaging conferences and is a former member of the marketing subcommittee of the Radiology Business Management Association (RBMA). He has contributed marketing articles to numerous healthcare publications, including Physician’s Money Digest, Radiology Business Journal and more. Mr. Smith is the creator of “Ten Seconds to Great Customer Service™,” a medical imaging training program that provides easy-to-use tactical customer service support to staff.