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Customer Service

Great Customer Service in the Human Service Environment

“Customers may forget what you said but they’ll never forget how you made them feel.” – Unknown

Planning for the Customer Service Experience

Your customer service program should reflect the core values of your organization. Your organization’s core values might include honesty, accountability, respect and teamwork, to name a few. Although your core values will remain stable, your overall program should be designed to allow flexibility. Changes in your customer service program may occur due to changing services, demographics, shifting economic climates and identified areas of improvement, etc.

Your policies and procedures will provide the structure for your customer service program. I recommend an online document management system that allows access to multiple decision makers for collaborating and approving changes. Once changes are approved they must be implemented and acknowledged by all personnel. The Custom Reviews feature of the Accreditation Now website provides ease of access to all personnel and a tracking and reports features to securely document acknowledgement.

Personnel Expectations

“I don’t hire people that have to be told to be nice. I hire nice people”. – Leona Helmsley

All personnel are responsible for customer service and require training, in this important facet, of your organization. Customer service training should be considered an ongoing practice rather than a one-time event. Documented training should be implemented at time of hire and periodically throughout employment. Accreditation Now provides two prepared trainings specifically covering customer service. In addition to this general training, you will want to train personnel on the policies and procedures specific to your organization. Training should include written information with testing material as well as direct observation and correction of individual team members. Accreditation Now subscribers are strongly encouraged to utilize the custom training function, on the website.


CARF® standards require the ongoing collection of input from persons served, personnel and other stakeholders. Focus groups, satisfaction surveys and grievance systems for persons served, personnel and stakeholders are excellent ways to gather information to assist in improving your customer service program.

Focus Groups

When preparing for a focus group, identify the primary objective of the group. What issue is being addressed? Plan, no more than, five to seven questions to ask participants. When selecting the individuals that will participate, choose people that are affected by the outcome of the discussion. For example, if your topic is, Peer Based Services and Support for Youth, your participants might include individuals in the 11 to 17 age bracket. Plan a place and time that is convenient for the participants. Refreshments and comfortable seating should be considered to provide a comfortable environment. Each participant should be given an opportunity to respond to questions along with an open group discussion based on their answers. Participants should be made aware that the session is being recorded. In addition to the recording, facilitators will want to take notes to record any personal observations and perceptions. Preform your debriefing and analysis soon after the meeting, while the information is still fresh. For more information on focus groups, see the Facilitator’s Guide, located in the Documents section, of the Accreditation Now website.

Satisfaction Surveys

Surveys provide a consistent means of gathering information and contribute to the overall improvement of your customer service program. Unlike focus groups, satisfaction surveys should be conducted anonymously. This allows participants to express themselves without fear of judgment or reprisal. Your surveys should be designed to meet the expectations of the specific group being addressed. Employee surveys will differ from that of other stakeholders and persons served. The surveys for persons served will include an entrance survey, a program participant satisfaction survey and an exit survey. In addition to specific questions, there should be opportunity for participants to include comments and feedback.

Paper based surveys are at a disadvantage. You would need to establish a means of submission that maintains anonymity, such as self-addressed stamped envelopes or a sealed drop box. In addition, personnel may be able to recognize the handwriting of the participant. Manuel results tabulation is time consumptive and will need to be checked for accuracy.

Electronic survey submission protects anonymity and provides greater participation. When an anonymous user name and password are used, the survey may be given on-site with a dedicated computer or tablet or may be taken at home. Results may be customized to specific dates and records retained for future comparison. Electronic survey results are an excellent tool for identifying, improving and tracking your customer service program.

Grievance Systems

Providing a comprehensive grievance and appeals system is, not only a CARF® requirement, it’s an excellent tool to provide direction on customer service improvements. The CARF® Standards Manual defines a grievance as a perceived cause for complaint. Persons served should receive written instructions for grievance procedures, during orientation. Clients should feel comfortable expressing complaints. Personnel should view complaints as a means of improving customer service.

The Accreditation Now grievance tool allows client complaints to be directed to the appropriate personnel. Email notification helps insure a timely response, compliant with CARF® standards. The compilation of data is invaluable when meeting the summary standard and identifying areas of improvement.


Providing great customer service requires a solid, client based, structure. Your program must be flexible enough to meet changing needs. Policies and procedures are put in place to direct personnel in providing the best possible experience for clients. Proper education, continuous training and supervision of personnel can help ensure great customer service. Applying a variety of feedback tools will help in identifying areas of improvement. The Accreditation Now website specializes in helping organizations exceed CARF® standards and client expectations through streamlined web-based processes.


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