There are certain things that just go together. Peanut butter and jelly. Roentgen and the X-ray. Rad techs and “Your X-ray is a skelfie” jokes.
Excellent customer service from a service provider... these, too, should go together, but unfortunately that is not always the case.
When talking with a new radiology manager at a Kansas hospital, I was reminded that this indeed is not a “norm” enjoyed by all. She definitely didn’t receive strong customer service or support from her previous medical equipment service provider. The way she described it, she had to take extra steps to get even basic responses from her vendor. It was totally backwards.
So we set out to understand this a little better. We reached out to some of our Midwest customers to learn what’s most important to them within a service relationship and how to not just earn business, but also their trust. We came away with three key takeaways that we believe highlight what every imaging leader should consider when selecting or evaluating their service partners.1. Close to You…Literally (aka, Location & Response Times)
"We've had other service vendors…they didn’t end up getting service people in close proximity to us. No issues were answered on that first call. There wasn’t that follow up…I’ve had very few people measure up to that bar that Cassling has set for service.”
One absolutely critical question you should ask when negotiating a service contract is regarding response times and where the company’s closest field service engineer is in proximity to your facility.
This may not be as big of a deal for hospitals in denser, more populated cities, but it is a big deal for critical access hospitals and rural clinics in smaller towns across the United States. They’re the lifeblood of their communities, the largest employers and trusted voices among the local population.
You need to have the same level of trust in your imaging provider that your community has in you, and that requires a closeness that just doesn’t hold up when your closest engineer is several states away.
As our friend Joe Clang, Imaging Service Specialist at Great Plains Health, explained in the above video, you’ll want to ensure your service team is quick to respond and within close driving distance of your facility. At Cassling, we've always made the investment and commitment of placing field service engineers strategically throughout our region to ensure we can respond to customer service needs quickly. You also should ensure your vendor offers a 24/7 customer support team to ensure you get the response you need.
Uptime is critical, and every additional hour you have to wait for service is costing your hospital money, reducing your ability to treat your patients and potentially hurting your reputation within the community.
2. Close to You…Figuratively (aka, All About Relationships)
“We consider them part of the team, mainly because they care about us being up and running and ready for patients as much as we do.”
“I love that I’m never alone.”
Although working with a competent, world-class team of service engineers is important, actual service of imaging systems is just one part of the equation.
You’re best served working with a vendor that’s feels less like a transaction and more like a relationship with a trusted friend or consultant. I loved what Lisa Bolin, Director of Imaging Services at CHI Health Good Samaritan, had to say about having to sell her current system and swap it out with something new, a transaction her hospital hadn’t really pursued before.
In that type of situation, you’ll want a provider who takes time to learn about your needs and help you navigate the sale of your old equipment, purchase new and get both systems moved in and out of the hospital. Lisa described how her field service engineer and account rep dug into the challenges her hospital faced and knew that Cassling was uniquely positioned to help.
In that way, you probably need more than just a simple service provider. You need a partner who is going to check in with you to see how things are going. You don’t want to play phone tag or wonder if someone will reply. Ask your service provider for examples of how they get creative and listen for how they do or don’t tackle issues from multiple angles.
According to Julie Hartke, Director of Radiology at Mahaska Health Partnership, working with Cassling means she isn't waiting around or calling us back to get answers. And that’s not limited to just your imaging equipment. We truly want to know what’s going on with you and your facility, because we live and work in your communities. It’s not uncommon for our engineers to have family members who work at your hospitals, or who have kids who go to the same schools as yours.
What happens to you matters to us not just as colleagues, but as patients, neighbors and friends.
3. Knowledge and a Willingness to Call in Backup
“Their entire team is dedicated to helping me find the right answers.”
Finally, there’s one other thing you absolutely must look for in a service provider: knowledge, coupled with humility.
This is admittedly hard to gauge when signing a service contract. After all, not many service providers will admit to not knowing all the answers when they’re trying to get you to sign on the dotted line.
You want your vendor to know the ins and outs of your imaging equipment. Just like when Joe Clang called one of our engineers, Jerod, “the guru” of ultrasound.
Ask your service provider how and where they receive training for the systems they service and attain the necessary certifications. There’s a high level of expertise that comes from being certified by the Original Equipment Manufacturer.
You also need a service team that knows when to call in additional resources (and actually has the capacity to do it). It’s critical for an engineer to be humble enough to recognize when a different member of the team might have experience or knowledge he or she doesn’t have. As Julie pointed out, if a Cassling field service engineer can’t find the solution to a problem, before you know it there will be several engineers there (at a safe social distance, of course), working hard, on Friday nights or weekends if we have to, to get you back up and running.
Knowledge from an individual is important, but a willingness to share that knowledge and a wide-ranging team to pull answers from is arguably even more essential. And that’s something that many service providers just can’t deliver.
Doing the Right Thing
Choosing an imaging equipment service vendor should be relatively easy. You have imaging equipment that needs to be maintained or fixed, so you look for someone with experience and knowledge about the systems who can ensure maximum uptime.
The truth, however, is a little more complicated. If your car has broken down, you can take it to one of a number of different auto repair stores. When your dishwasher goes out, you can choose from a variety of "handymen" to help you out.
But when it comes to an MRI system, or a dual-source CT scanner? This requires a level of expertise maintained by only a select few sources. And when those complex systems need maintenance, it causes a much bigger headache than having to hand wash dishes for a few days. You may have to reshuffle appointment schedules, reconfigure staff scheduling or even delay care, ultimately putting patient satisfaction and even outcomes at risk.
That’s why having someone you can trust, who has the expertise and knowledge to maintain and repair your imaging equipment, is so critical, and why finding that service provider can be so difficult. Third parties do exist, but aside from some potential cost savings, they carry big risks.
Let us know if you’re unhappy with your current service provider, and together we can explore a contract that makes sense to you, from a team that’s not only capable of providing maximum uptime, but who truly cares about the difference you can make for your patients.