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ICD blog 3.15.13

When to Do Service Recovery in Healthcare (and Who is Responsible)

This blog post continues our series of patient experience best practices from the HealthStream Engagement Institute. Every week we share information that demonstrates our expansive understanding of the challenges faced by healthcare organizations and the solutions we have identified for improving the patient experience and patient and business outcomes.

Any time your service fails to meet a customer’s expectations, service recovery is in order. Remember, if the customer perceives that there is a problem, there is a problem.

The quicker the response after a customer has voiced a concern, the more effective the recovery effort will be. Studies show that customer satisfaction plummets when organizations take too long to correct mistakes. Any employee who identifies a customer concern should begin the service recovery process within 15 minutes. We want customers to know that we are serious about their satisfaction, and we show it by taking immediate action.

Example Situations Requiring Service Recovery

  • Scheduled procedures or appointments that do not begin within a reasonable time (reasonable time determined by your organization)
  • Meals that are delivered cold, late, or with the wrong menu items
  • Test results that are late or have errors
  • Medications that are not delivered or administered on time
  • Customer belongings that are lost or misplaced
  • Rooms that fail to meet cleanliness standards
  • ANY situation that embarrasses, inconveniences, angers, or disappoints  a customer

Who Is Responsible for Service Recovery?

The days of simply referring complaints to the customer service department are over.

To be effective, service recovery must become the responsibility of every member of your organization—from senior executives to part-time staff. It’s about taking ownership.

When an employee discovers a problem, he or she becomes personally responsible for it. Phrases such as, “That’s not my department,” or “I can’t help you with that” have no place in high performing organizations. If an employee does not know how to handle a situation, it is that person’s job to find someone who does, and to then follow up to see that the problem is solved. An employee who discovers a problem owns it until it is resolved.

All employees should be trained in service recovery techniques and must have access to appropriate service recovery tools. This is especially important for those who regularly interact with customers. Frontline employees must be prepared and equipped to handle the tricky situations that they will inevitably face.


This is a sample of the innovation shared at The Healthcare Improvement Forum, a venue designed to assist leaders at every level to transform culture and optimize performance. This newly developed conference series is an innovative gathering of leaders eager to hear from industry experts. As an attendee, you will learn practical tools and tactics that will leverage strengths to meet your organization’s goals—from employee engagement to the patient experience. The coaches and experts at the HealthStream Engagement Institute incorporate a variety of adult learning and networking techniques to engage their audience and share real-world solutions for attendees to learn and implement.

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