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Largely, players in the medical, utilities, insurance etc. industries aren’t always regarded as attractive or exciting.  They are in markets that are regulated, often saturated and their products are commoditized.  These are the companies that provide our “must haves” in life, without which we cannot do, such as medical services, electricity, water, insurances etc.  We do not look forward to our purchase experience when buying their products, we are not particularly thrilled when we have to contact their customer service reps to resolves our issues.  Our interaction with them is more a necessity than choice.

In such environment, how does one hospital chain differentiate itself from another?

In the age of internet, information transparency and access, it is easy for consumers to compare products and prices of any company from the comfort of their couch.  This leaves service as the primary differentiator.  Moreover, new technologies and new entrants have lowered the switching barriers, making it easier for consumers to change to a new service provider.

With this background and challenges, a company active in the medical industry approached us.  The client is the largest Pan – European operator in medical imagery and related healthcare service, operating both public and private companies in 14 countries around Europe.  It employs over 3,000 people.

As part of their rebranding and repositioning, the client approached us to help them incorporate customer service excellence in their daily operations and mind-set, having identified customer service excellence as a differentiating factor to the competition.

The objectives of the Project were:

  • Design the customer service experience – processes and standards included
  • Describe the desired personality traits and values expected from employees, noting the cultural  differences between the countries of operations
  • Design employee recruitment process to enable selection of the right employees including an induction program to support the new employees
  • Design employee training and development program (“train the trainer kit”)

The initial stage of the project was spread across multiple countries in Europe, which required several Consultant’s involvement.  The methodology of our work followed as below:

  • Started with visits of selected centers across Europe (Private, public) to perform Gap Analysis. Some findings were that there were no service related guidelines, no standards or procedures and staff was unaware/lacking a uniform approach to service delivery.
  • The principal aim for the client at the beginning was to only develop a training programme but due to the gaps identified during the visits, we managed to work with the customer to focus on the entire HR cycle and service standards.
  • Presented the findings to the top management and proposed to consolidate the entire philosophy of the client’s challenge in the “Book of Hospitality”.
  • The Book of Hospitality combined elements of company’s values, service values & standards, Standard Operation procedures (SOPs) concerning the service delivery and tools that can be used by the Human Resources as a support system to foster the service and team culture.
  • This book has been split into 3 separate books, each one addressing a specific audience and purpose:
    • Book of Hospitality: Client’s company heritage, values, culture and how that translates into customer service excellence
  • Hospitality Manual: Service philosophy and standard operating procedures.
  • HR manual: Entire HR cycle including job descriptions, recruitment cycle and interviewing steps, induction process, performance review tool and exit interview procedures.
  • Upon delivering the Book of Hospitality, it was time to train selected client employees on implementing the Book in their respective centers. To train employees and management, a bespoke training programme in customer service derived from the Book was designed.
  • To evaluate the success of the training programme and gather feedback before group wide implementation, a pilot programme of the training was conducted in the centers of a country.
  • Using an in-house developed measurement tool, quantitative as well as qualitative data was collected to measure the success of the programme. The results showed increased employee awareness and knowledge on service values, implementation plans of the Book and company history/knowledge.
  • Group wide training was rolled out in several countries as the final step in this project.

About EHL Group
EHL Group encompasses a portfolio of specialized business units that deliver hospitality management education and innovation worldwide. Headquartered in Lausanne, Switzerland, the Group includes:
EHL Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne Lausanne is an ambassador for traditional Swiss hospitality and has been a pioneer in hospitality education since 1893 with over 25,000 alumni worldwide and over 120 nationalities. EHL is the world’s first hospitality management school that provides university-level programs at its campuses in Lausanne and Chur-Passugg, as well as online learning solutions. The School is ranked n°1 by QS World University Rankings by subject and CEOWorld Magazine, and its gastronomic restaurant is the world’s only educational establishment to hold a Michelin Star.
EHL Swiss School of Tourism and Hospitality (Chur-Passugg) has been one of the leading hospitality management schools for hotel specialists for 50 years. The school delivers Swiss-accredited professional training and higher education in its newly renovated 19th century spa-hotel in Chur-Passugg, Graubünden, to Swiss and international students from 20 countries.
EHL Advisory Services is the largest Swiss hospitality advisory company with expertise in the development of educational models and quality assurance for learning centers, as well as strategic and operational advisory for businesses, namely providing benchmark service culture implementation to companies within the hospitality sector and beyond. EHL Advisory Services has offices in Lausanne, Beijing, Shanghai and New Delhi and has delivered mandates in more than 60 countries over the past 40 years.

About the Author

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Abhishek Jakate Consultant at EHL Advisory Services

As a Consultant in the Lausanne office, Abhishek brings his analytical approach in helping customers solve their toughest problems, be it concept feasibility or advising on hospitality business models for clients in real estate, banking or insurance industry. Prior to joining EHL advisory, Abhishek worked in a Business controller role for a private hotel company with three hotel & restaurant assets.  He was responsible for the company financials and assisted the general manager in the business turnaround and eventual disposal of some assets.  He also gained experience in operational restructuring at a luxury boutique property re-opened after extensive renovations.  His experiences have seen him work in Switzerland, South Africa, India, China, Saudi Arabia and Japan. A graduate of the Ecole Hoteliére Lausanne, Abhishek speaks English, German, Marathi and Hindi and can understand French.

Areas of Focus

  • Customer service design
  • Opportunity & Feasibility studies
  • Asset Management
  • Hotel asset valuation
  • Business model generation