NAEO Newslinks-July09
July 2009

Betty Bouchie

From the Editor:
Feedback Versus Criticism
by Betty Bouchie

Did you ever wonder what the difference is between feedback and criticism? Is it in the content, the delivery or the reception? Sometimes the best intentions to help improve or encourage someone end up being scrambled up with verbal or body language that render the content useless or destructive. We have all had opportunities to give and receive feedback that may have made a difference in someone’s life. The challenge is to do it well. Here are some helpful hints to get you started.

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Be Inspired

"I've been uplinked and downloaded. I've been inputted and outsourced. I know the upside of downsizing: I know the downside of upgrading. I'm a high-tech lowlife. A cutting-edge, state-of-the-art, bicoastal multitasker, and I can give you a gigabyte in a nanosecond."

~ George Carlin

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Something to Smile About...
Ever Wonder...
By George Carlin

Why the sun lightens our hair, but darkens our skin?

Why women can't put on mascara with their mouth closed?

Why don't you ever see the headline 'Psychic Wins Lottery'?

Why is 'abbreviated' such a long word?

Why is it that doctors call what they do 'practice'?

Why is lemon juice made with artificial flavor, and dishwashing liquid made with real lemons?

Why is the man who invests all your money called a broker?

Why is the time of day with the slowest traffic called rush hour?

Why isn't there mouse-flavored cat food?

Why didn't Noah swat those two mosquitoes?

Why do they sterilize the needle for lethal injections?

You know that indestructible black box that is used on airplanes? Why don't they make the whole plane out of that stuff?!

Why don't sheep shrink when it rains?

Why are they called apartments when they are all stuck together?

If con is the opposite of pro, is Congress the opposite of progress?

If flying is so safe, why do they call the airport the terminal?

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Communication Disaster Routing
byGail Russell, Salina Regional Health Center

"The phone system is completely down!” is not something a telecommunications administrator wants to hear, especially in a hospital environment. Even though you may have a reliable PBX communication switch, there are times when you have to take the system down at some point for upgrades or maintenance. Being prepared for these situations with downtime procedures that are quick and relatively simple is vital for effective communication.

At Salina Regional Health Center, we have tried several methods of communication during PBX switch outages over the years. We have used two-way radios and even cellular phones. Both are pretty cumbersome to roll out to numerous departments and nursing units in a timely fashion.

We learned about something called Disaster Routing Service (DRS) from our local telephone vendor. DRS routes incoming calls to a pre-designated phone number in the event of a downtime. In the beginning with DRS we kept a cellular phone at the call center to route the calls to and make outgoing calls. You are provided with an emergency number to call to an interactive voice response system to activate DRS. By following the prompts in the system, you activate the routing. When your communication switch is back online, you call the same number and follow the prompts to deactivate DRS. There is a monthly charge for this service.

A couple of years ago we decided to take this all one step further. We installed a Plexar system to supplement the DRS. We put in 4 POTS lines from our local telephone company. Three lines were installed in the call center with analog desk phones attached to each. The three lines are linked together in a group so that if the first line is busy, the call will go to the second, then third line. If all three are busy, the call goes to voice mail. We put a simple greeting in the voice mail, explaining that we are experiencing telecommunications issues and request the caller to leave a brief message. The pre-designated number for DRS to route the calls is the first POTS line located in the call center. The fourth POTS line was installed in the Emergency Department. That line gives ED a link to the outside world as well as to the hospital call center. There is a monthly charge for the Plexar system.

We have recently installed an Ascom wireless telephone system that will keep communication between the wireless handsets up even if the PBX communication switch is down. The wireless phones add another layer of communication recovery for our facility.

DRS, Plexar and now the wireless phone system are good tools to bring a level of comfort to any Telecommunications Administrator.

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Benchmarks or BS
by Thom Parrotti, Bassett Healthcare

Let's see, there are Abandon Rates, Service Levels, Average Talk Time, Average Hold Time, Transfer Percentage, Disconnect Time and Re-assign Percentage. . . .

Then we move to reports developed from the benchmark data:

  • Dashboards – "the report" that summarizes "the report" about the benchmarks at a higher level
  • Executive Summary – This is a "summary of the report" about the report that summarizes the report about the benchmarks. It is developed using charts and graphs, so the CEO or COO or VP can grasp the concept. This is presented in Technicolor to provide the "needed clarity.”
  • An RCA (Root Cause Analysis) – usually requested by your VP or the COO. This allows you to pull together a team to determine the reason for not meeting benchmarks and a corrective action to cure the process of any and all ills.
  • Work Plan – Usually requested by your VP to develop a "plan" to address the anomalies in your "work" and develop a "plan" to "prepare and execute the work" needed to build a "work plan."
  • Re-design Plan (Last but not least) . . . This is when your VP requests a follow up to the COO request from the Board of Directors' request; based on the results of an RCA and an assumption that the next quarter’s data could possibly not meet benchmark. You NOW need to pull your team together and completely redesign and redefine the goals, vision and objectives for your department. Keep in mind, this is all based, in part, on the astrological charting presented by a consultant who has employed the services of the fifth descendant of world-renowned psychic and astrologer, Edgar R. Casey.

Enough of my sarcasm. Benchmarking is not BS, it’s real serious stuff.

Solid Benchmarks provide you with the tools to assist in developing and measuring your processes. This tool also helps develop staffing models, performance improvement standards, productivity goals, incentives and most importantly the ability to build the most cost-effective and service-focused call-handling center.

When I arrived at Bassett in early 2002, one of my first tasks was to develop benchmarks for a newly developed Call Center. We were looking for data on call handling processes for main board, scheduling and associated services. Our services were a bit more specialized so the use of Solucient or other established benchmark resources were not useful. I needed to develop a self-standing "compare group." Initially, I compared data with a few Amtelco Sites on a semi or annual basis. Initial data collection was based on calls presented, calls answered, and time to process a call. This data helped us build our first staffing model.

As our services expanded and we started the development of virtual call teams (this is where similar appointments are scheduled by skilled individuals at other locations across our network, all using Amtelco) we needed to look at a broader base of facilities to get more depth in our metrics. Currently there are 10 sites in our Compare group.

The data points are:

Calls Presented Calls Answered
Answer Percentage Calls Abandoned
Abandon Percentage Average Answer Time
Average Hold Time Service Level

Semi-annually the data will be re-validated and the compare group document will be sent to all that participate and supply information.

Part of our expanded use of benchmarking is a monthly divisional dashboard report and quarterly tracking documents comparing Actual Vs. Benchmark performance. This is presented in a Word document and an Excel spreadsheet for every department in our division.

Benchmarks also play an important role in assisting our divisional colleagues in compiling their quarterly PI (Performance Improvement) reporting and Service Excellence reporting. This assists us with the Joint Commission (JCAHO) requirements. Additionally, we regularly provide updated staffing models based on benchmarks and call volume to those clinical areas using Amtelco.

I have to admit, at first I questioned the necessity of collecting this information and laboring over benchmark data. I kept asking myself, too what was the real benefit. Today, this data serves me in multiple ways. As leaders, we find ourselves having to do more with less and constantly watching our bottom line. Without solid benchmarks, our job would be even more difficult and time consuming. Solid benchmarks play an enormous role in day-to-day Call Center operation. Without any question, I can confirm that benchmarks are NO BS.

If you are interested in being part of this compare group please email me at

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Delivering Negative Feedback
by Nancy Friedman, the Telephone Doctor

"You're doing super!"

"Great job."

"Thanks for the good work."

Seems it's pretty easy to let an employee (or anyone, really) know they're doing a good job. But what about the other side of the fence?

What happens when you need to deliver negative feedback? How good are you at that? Frankly, most of us aren't that great at it. And there's a surefire reason. We've probably not been shown a tried and true tested method of how to deliver negative feedback.

And rest assured, giving negative feedback is never likely to be enjoyable for either party. However, it can be done in such a way as to raise the performance of the person receiving the feedback while maintaining his or her self-esteem and goodwill towards the organization.

One of our Newmarket learning programs, Delivering Feedback, will give you a step-by-step process of exactly how to deliver this type of feedback.

This article is a mere portion of the 25 minute DVD program, which we offer as a preview so you can judge for yourself how effective these methods are for your management team.

Here's a sneak preview of the 7-step process:

  1. Know the purpose of delivering negative feedback. It is to bring about an improvement in performance. Do not forget that. Before you deliver the negative feedback, ask yourself why you are doing it. If it's just to get something off your chest because someone or something is annoying you, it's best NOT to give that feedback. So "know the purpose."
  2. Be clear and precise about the feedback you want to give. If you cannot state precisely the exact nature of the performance problem in objective terms, then you are unlikely to be successful in bringing about a change in performance.
  3. Keep an open mind. Remember that old saying, "there are 2 sides to every story." The person you are delivering feedback to will probably see things differently. Hear them out.
  4. Seek agreement. The person receiving feedback needs to agree with you about the problem before you can make any progress. People will not change their behavior if they don't see anything wrong with their existing behavior.
  5. Focus on the facts, not the person. This is KEY. Don't make comments on someone's attitude or thought process because you can't know what's going on inside a person.
  6. Be respectful and courteous. If the primary consideration is to improve people's performance you need to help them to feel good about themselves.
  7. Be prepared to take criticism. Someone receiving negative feedback may direct criticism back at you. Keep in mind the objective is to raise performance. Hear them out.

Delivering negative feedback isn't easy; however, when done effectively, can be a tremendous opportunity to help develop team members.

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