Hands of the Customer

We’re used to seeking the Voice of the Customer in the Define phase of our projects. Typically (at least at our organization) we haven’t asked, “How much of this process can we pass on to you?”

This topic usually comes upwhen weteach a lean exercise in which the Voice of the Customeris supposed to rule. We use a scenario where weprepare trays of beverages in cups for our customer. The cups must be placed into the trays, a lid attached, and an unwrapped straw inserted. The longest step (which we use to teach takt time and level loading) is always the straws – unwrapping them and placing them into the lids takes the greatest effort. Someone usually says, “Why can’t we make the customer do it – just like [insert favorite fast-food restaurant name here]?”

We have a great conversation about this – howpass-on-to-the customer has worked for beverages, because usually it’s a win for us as customers. We can mix-n-match our drinks, add just the right amount of ice, and even get a refill before going out the door. And, it gives us something to do while we’re waiting. When wouldn’t it work? With a mobility-limited customer, maybe. In any case, the question prompts a good discussion.

In healthcare, we’re trying out some of these scenarios in a variety of ways – self-registration over the internet, for example. We can also envision asking patients to select their dietary needs on a computer, self-schedule inpatient X-rays, or (given a medication schedule) check with their care-givers if they think they’re missing a dose of their meds.

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We haven’t asked the specific question, “How much of the process do you want to do yourself?” – yet – but maybe we should add this to our usual VOC questionnaire.

What do you think?

Comments 2

  1. Gary

    You may say it’s passing the work along to the customer, however some would call it ’Self-Service’.

    The concept of ’self-service’ has been in play for a few years, and is growing.

    I first noticed it with gas stations. Finding a ’full-service’ station these days is hard as many have gone exclusively to self-serve. Buying movie tickets on-line or at a ‘quick service kiosk’ is the norm today, self-scan your groceries and avoid those double-scanned items from the ‘regular check out’, and when it comes to self-service health care services, check your blood pressure at the drug store.

    More and more it’s becoming a ‘self-serve world’ and we are accepting it, even inviting it. It’s got to be a win/win however to work well in my opinion. Save me time, save me money or save me effort and I’m in.

    Given the time we’ve all waited in a Doctor’s office or in a Hospital waiting room I think Health Care Services should move quickly in the self-serve area too, although that said, self-diagnosis can be dangerous!

    Thanks for the thought provoking topic Sue


  2. Sue Kozlowski

    Thanks for your comments, Gary. There is a growing demand for “self-serve” healthcare in the US. There are many discussions around topics such as: If patients are paying cash, should they be able to order a lab test for themselves, and receive the results, without a physician being involved with the order? If patients want X-Rays, should they be able to get one and then bring the results for interpretation to the doctor of their choice? Should a patient be able to go to a Pharmacist and discuss what prescription medicine they need, and then get it from the Pharmacy?

    Now that some of us are being self-directed with our health-care – seeking diagnosis and treatment information on the web, for example – doctors are starting to see some patients come in with a self-diagnosis and a statement of their desired treatments!

    The caveat, as you stated, is that the patient may not have the ability to make a differential diagnosis among similar symptoms, or be able to interpret specific findings compared to a complex medical condition.

    It sure is an interesting time to be working in healthcare!
    –Sue K.

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