Internal Marketing: Invest in Employees for Multiple Dividends
Customer Service Pointers for the Radiology Practice
New Software Makes PowerPoint Portable

Internal Marketing: Invest in Employees for Multiple Dividends

Radiological Associates of Sacramento (RAS) has a fresh approach to the impending difficult year for the imaging industry: Bring it on. Nowhere is this more evident than in the company’s treatment of its employees. At a time when some practices are cutting or eliminating employee benefits to save money, RAS is throwing staff parties and giving away cash prizes. Why the “pay it forward” strategy?

“Although our reimbursement per unit of service is going to decrease, the volume will still be there,” says Fred Gaschen, MBA, executive vice president of RAS and a member of the Axis Imaging News Editorial Advisory Board. “When you start cutting back on employee benefits, you’re doing takeaways. So the employee says, ‘You expect me to work as hard as I work, to do my 15 MRIs in my 10-hour shift, and you want me to do it for less?’ That’s not going to make a happy camper, nor instill loyalty to the company. You just can’t do that and expect to have good customer service. Period. End of discussion.”

Last year, RAS’s Sunsplash Picnic, an event at a local theme park for the company’s 900-plus employees and all of their families, garnered enough acclaim to win the company a Quest Award for internal marketing from the Radiology Business Management Association, Irvine, Calif. “We had our picnic at Sunsplash, and then we had all the food and drinks we could want,” explains Kelly Balaam, marketing manager at RAS and cochair of the Sunsplash planning committee. “We handed out tons of prizes, all centered around the fun sun-loving theme of the event. As a goodie bag, we handed out fanny packs with Chapstick and packets of sunscreen. Everybody came and had the time of their lives.”

Tami Lucas, administrator of contracts and payor relations at RAS, chairs the events committee, which also is responsible for planning an employee recognition evening and periodic employee meetings. “I really think it brings the employees together, and it shows the dedication of the company and that they actually care for their employees,” she says. “The employees make the company, and they deserve to have these rewards.”

Lucas’ committee rallies interest in its employee events by sending out e-mail blasts, posting flyers at the company’s workstations, and even including reminders with pay stubs. “[The latter is] probably one of the smartest marketing ideas that we’ve come up with,” Lucas says. Asked whether she minds the extra work involved with such extensive internal marketing, she responds, “It’s worth it, because I love the company I work for. I wouldn’t be volunteering to do this stuff if I didn’t love it.”

Balaam agrees: “Internal marketing keeps our message consistent—that we have quality service and caring staff, that we are a team. We’re all one and the same family, and it keeps that family spirit alive.”

For the employee meetings, Balaam explains that RAS rents a hotel ballroom. To encourage staff to participate, “We have foot and back massages, a big buffet with lots of food and desserts, contests, health fairs, and just pretty much anything you can imagine,” she notes.

Lucas adds, “It’s good, because every employee is welcome to ask any question they want, and it’s addressed. Any rumors, anything people are nervous about, if it’s not completely addressed at the meeting, then there’s a follow-up e-mail or letter to that employee or to the entire company.”

The DRA has been a major concern for practices and their employees. Gaschen recalls addressing the issue at an employee meeting. “I walked the employees through what it all meant,” he says. “Then I gave them a heart attack. I said, ‘What does this all mean to you? Well, it means cuts in your salaries, massive layoffs, reduced benefits, no vacations, etc.’ And then, after a pregnant pause, I added, ‘Not!’ It was funny. Well, at least I thought it was.

“What we were telling them,” he continues, “is that this is how it’s going to hurt the company. What we want out of our employees is that they continue to deliver the top-quality service that we are well known for, so that our referring physicians and our patients constantly want to come back.”

RAS also was named one of the top freestanding imaging centers/groups in the first-annual Medical Imaging Top 10, ranking radiology’s top players in the January 2006 issue of the magazine.

Cat Vasko is associate editor of  Axis Imaging News. For more information, contact .

Customer Service Pointers for the Radiology Practice

Kevin and Brooke Billingsley’s Turn Your Customer On: 23 Ways to Motivate Employees and Make Customers Love You is available from Literary Architects. Visit for more information.

In their new book Turn Your Customer On: 23 Ways to Motivate Employees and Make Customers Love You, authors Brooke and Kevin Billingsley—owners of a “secret shopper” consulting group—look at customer service across an array of businesses, including medical practices. Working from the notion that in an age of poor customer service, any improvement over the baseline will result in happier, more loyal customers (or patients), the Billingsleys demonstrate a simple, cost-effective way for businesses to rise above the competition: improve service at your front-line of communication with customers. Among their pointers, many of which were derived using the example of hospitals or private practices:

  • “The ‘just a second’ rule is a simple gesture that should be used when an employee already is working with someone or is on the telephone. By quickly holding up an index finger to acknowledge the customer, the employee has diffused the inevitable frustration that comes with being seen but not served.”
  • “The glass partition at the doctor’s office says to the customer or patient, ‘At any point in time, I can close this window to block all of you out.’ It is the arrogance that stings most. The doctor’s office barrier is saying, ‘I want you to know I am in charge.’ “
  • “Justifying an action or inaction based on rules simply tells customers that your organization lacks flexibility, creativity, and a focus on customers. To the customer’s ears, ‘I can’t’ becomes ‘I won’t.’ “
  • “Organizations must never shift away from customer satisfaction to focus on employee satisfaction as if the two are mutually exclusive.”
  • “One turn on would be to hire frontline people who already have a strong sense of customer service and then train them on the details that are important to patients. A warm greeting and a pleasant tone of voice on the telephone are an excellent start.”
  • “Do patients respond favorably when a physician’s office employee tells them a particular doctor is good? We think so! Customers want to know that they are in an environment where the team members know and support one another. There is a great deal of inherent trust in health care.”
  • “With the help of the hospital and a participating physician, we admitted a shopper into a Louisville hospital as a ‘self-pay’ patient to avoid the insurance hassles. The undesired outcome of this is that a patient who is self-pay is perceived as someone unable to pay. Employees must be reminded that it is not for them to pass judgment on customers.”

The Billingsleys acknowledge that in the case of medical care, federal regulations often prevent the kind of solution-based customer service that they advocate. But it is undeniable that in an increasingly consumer-driven market, the facility with the best customer service will be the facility that wins the most referrals. More than anything, the authors emphasize the employer’s responsibility to create a work environment wherein employees are both motivated to provide good service and rewarded for their efforts.

“Employees may be stalled in an unsupportive culture,” the Billingsleys write in the last chapter of the book, “receiving a lack of management direction, going unrecognized for their efforts, or [being] unequipped to understand consumer need and motivation.” The message is clear: Good customer service, like any other business-preservation strategy, starts at the top.

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