Before I joined the VA, and even before hearing about VA’s Patient Experience framework – I realized employee experience is what drives customer experience. It’s no surprise the top rated companies to work for are also leading in customer satisfaction. Through my time as an infantryman in the 82nd Airborne Division, and several years of retail management – teamwork was the key. If my teams were given the right information and empowered, we could accomplish anything.
When I started as the Veterans Experience Officer at the Madison, Wisconsin VA Medical Center, I applied the same principals. We have so many dedicated and passionate employees, but the problem often seemed to be not knowing the right information. What are our Veterans, our customers, telling us? How do we use that feedback to shape our process improvements?
The answer for us came from the VA Veterans Experience Office’s Veterans Signals customer experience survey. Veterans Signals, which was rolled out nationally in late 2017, asks Veterans after their appointment to provide feedback and rate the VA on trust, ease, empathy, and effectiveness.
Veterans Signals allows each service such as pharmacy, imaging, or even location such as a Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) to see in real time the feedback that their Veterans have given them. This meant that each team could review their performance routinely, and make quick corrective actions based on that feedback. They had access to the right information.
Most feedback VA receives from Veterans Signals are complimentary, which is also a key element to the employee experience. When compliments come in, and they name a VA employee – we are able to give the deserving team member a “shout out,” to recognize them for their exceptional customer service.
The data and insights available in Veterans Signals allowed us to implemented a five-point customer service program focusing on open communication, employee recognition, WECARE leadership rounding, team-building, and trust. All of these are aimed at enhancing the employee experience, empowering them to improve the overall Veterans experience.
Those five-points, created an uplifting, empowered employee experience at our CBOCs, allowing them to proactively enhance the patient experience for our Veterans. Encouraged by the success of this program, we are working to implement this strategy at all of our community locations. Since the inception of this program we have seen a marked rise in our Veterans Experience, leading to a 6% decrease in the use of our Patient Advocates between July 1, 2018 and January 31, 2019. The Madison VAMC’s trust score continues to rise from last year, and is currently 92.6%. This places us at 7th in the nation, but first in our regional Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN 12).
The use of the “right information” isn’t exclusive to the Madison VAMC though. Through Veterans Signals, VA reported last year that 92% of all VA medical centers improved in their trust score.
Veterans, their families, caregivers, and survivors can be proud of the changes happening all across the VA. Enabled by the right customer experience data, tools, technology, and engagement efforts – VA is making strides when it comes to Secretary Wilkie’s prime directive of customer service.
Justin Rathkamp is the Veterans Experience Officer for the Madison, Wisconsin VAMC. He is a U.S. Army Veteran, serving with the 82nd Airborne Division on active duty, and in the U.S. Army Reserve with the Army Reserves Drill Sergeant School. He holds a B.S. in Health Information Management and Technology from the University of Wisconsin and a B.A. in Economics from Marquette University.