On-Call Implementation as a Customer Service Partnership

By Amy Engebretson, Senior Customer Project Manager

What does it take for a client to say, “We feel like we are your only project!” What are some of the first things you think of when you picture “Software Implementation”? Perhaps, kickoff meetings, long-term buy-in, deadlines, stakeholders, process, and change management come to mind.

How about Customer Service and Implementation?

Implementation is a team effort between the customer service-oriented Implementation Specialist, and the client-side Project Lead. Beyond requirement gathering, and after the sale, Implementation is the time when the Project Lead and the Implementation Specialist partnership evolves. The person designated as Project Lead greatly impacts how smoothly the software implementation will work out. He/She can provide guidance throughout the process, remove in-house barriers, and help ensure long-term engagement of the stakeholders, even if the stakeholders change during the process.

When a great client-side Project Lead is paired with a Customer Service oriented Implementation Specialist … watch things Rock!

During their frequent pre-Implementation meetings, detailed questions will come up that may determine how the already-purchased software is configured so it will best meet the needs of a particular client. Each on-call scheduling implementation is slightly different since each client has slightly different goals, culture, and organizational needs regarding their on-call schedules. The client-side Project Lead will be peppered with questions regarding the “ins-and-outs” of how their organization uses/creates the schedule at various levels of service. Ideally, the client Project Lead will know the detail, but if not, will know how to find the answers. The Implementation Specialist may have recommendations not initially appear at the beginning and will offer these suggestions as to the install proceeds. These on-going conversations build the mutual trust that is essential for a successful installation and long-term relationship.

Begin with the end in mind. The purpose of these on-going Implementation meetings is not to re-sell the product, or exactly duplicate a certain view, but to understand the “gestalt” of the organization, who the “hidden leaders” are, who the “laggards” are and who may simply need extra time and encouragement. Current scheduling bottle-necks can be identified, and how the current system works in more detail can be discussed. This will affect adjustments to the Implementation flow and prioritization within the various phases of Implementation.

Keep in mind what success looks like through the “Dip.” Buy-in is not a one-time event. When Implementation starts, schedulers will be trained and begin to put into practice what they are learning. This stage may be awkward as new skills and new processes may lead to some uncoordinated results. It is during this time that possible objections may surface that were not discussed earlier during the sales process or pre-Implementation, and will need to be solved on the fly or marked as “nice to have”.

This is the time to be respectfully honest and candid! Together, the team will discover and suggest best-fit solutions while keeping the successful end in mind vs keeping a cemented Go-Live deadline. Sometimes providing more time to solve issues at this point may be necessary in order to avoid a long delay for “Go Live” or even a potential derailment of the project altogether if the problem is put off until later. A delay is usually cheaper than spending time and money having to “redo” an implementation that will not meet stated needs when it is completed.

Laggards: every change-event has a few. Resistance to change, getting stalled on bumps, letting uncertainty or discomfort prevent learning, unrealistic expectations, or fear of failure… all may be characteristics of “laggards”. The client Project Lead can help identify these persons so they can be given more learning time with Customer Service, or be paired with some of the Client’s early adopters for peer-to-peer help.

What to consider before final signoff and “Go Live” Both the client Project Lead and the software Implementation Specialist should be in sync regarding the final Implementation readiness. Of course, the client has the final “say”, but Customer Service sometimes hears reservations not shared with management, and can add their instinctual experience as to the readiness of the system to Go Live.

1. Crucial documented, as well as verbal commitment, is needed from each scheduler to:

        • Be willing to reach out for help if needed.
        • Use the software frequently enough to be comfortable
        • Demonstrate Proficiency
        • Use features to best effect
        • Keep up to date with software changes/features
        • Maintain the schedules in a timely and accurate manner

2. Try not to run the systems in parallel, or at least for a minimal time. It would be better to give the users enough practice and training so that they are comfortable using the new software and completely switch to the new system. For sure, your staff should stop printing/emailing schedules to those who have access to the schedules on-line. This encourages your “target” users to print as often as they would like, or quit printing all together knowing they will always have the most current information on-line… ultimate customer service.

3. At “Go Live”, announce often and accurately. Do not keep the new system a secret. As a self-serve system, it is imperative that your providers and staff know where the on-call system is located. It should be linked into your INTRAnet, and your Providers should be encouraged to use their iCal subscriptions so they can always have the latest schedule “in their pocket”.

Key Takeaways:

When implementing Physician on-call software, the team effort between the client-side Project Lead and the vendor Implementation Specialist is not a”nice to have” item. It is crucial to Project success and longevity.

 

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