NEW ORLEANS — At some point in the life of a laundry/linen service, it will have the chance to service a new customer.
In that instance, two things must occur: a plan and contract must be put in place and the company has to take over service from the old vendor.
The keys to onboarding new customers are operation data and planning. A laundry service has to know everything that’s relevant to onboarding new customers, and it has to be prepared.
Three experts—Liz Remillong, vice president, strategic alliance, Crothall; Nicole Grubich, executive director, West Michigan Shared Hospital Laundry; and Suzy Ward, director of client services, Crothall—presented information to help guide laundry/linen services through this process in the healthcare market during the educational session Customer Migration: Be Prepared to be Successful at the Clean Show here in June.
In Part 1, Remillong covered developing the initial phase of a relationship with a customer—gathering information so a laundry/linen service can put together a pricing and service plan.
Then, Grubich and Ward discussed strategies for the actual shift when a laundry/linen service takes over textile services for a healthcare provider, focusing on key points at different phases of the transition process from one linen service to another.
Ninety days out from the transition, Ward says it’s important for a service to get to know the team inside the hospital, in the facility.
“Visit your client and gather as much data as possible,” she recommends. “That’s so critical. So, you’ve got to ask all the right questions. Get to know what their expectations are.”
This information is important to build a transition plan so that the facility has linens readily available as the old company moves out and the new laundry service supplier moves in.
“We actually find out from the client what each unit needs on each bed to create a pack based on that unit and what their needs are,” says Ward. “So, when we go in we just take that pack of your sheets, your pillowcase, and your wash cloths, and we put it on each bed. They’re ensured to
have the linen there when they need to get that bed made if they have a patient coming in.
“It just kind of speeds up the process of it while we’re getting those carts filled up.”
Thirty days prior, assign customer service, a strategic account manager who will handle the account.
“Assign someone who’s going to service the client, who’s going to be your front-line person to get in there and work with these folks and educate them and work with them on learning the linen distribution software,” says Ward.
Also at this time, prior to “install,” she says to confirm the linen to be delivered to the facility. Make sure that everybody at the plant is prepared and the linen is arriving.
“Make sure you communicate every step of the way,” Grubich points out. “It’s so important to hold an open house at the facility for questions and answers. We’re usually given a room somewhere near the lunch room and set up all of our items. Allow those employees to come and see the goods and ask questions.”
She goes on to say that at this time, visit key areas again in the hospital to meet people and figure out where all the linen really is, plus confirm the schedule.
“It’s so important from a customer service perspective that there is communication with operations inside the plant and knowing that this is what we need and this is when we need it,” says Grubich.
She also recommends to start staging the linens, since facilities have limited space.
“Where are we going to fill these carts and get prepared 14 days prior?” Ward adds. “You have to really be thinking ahead where you’re going to put it.”
It’s also important to order more linens than you think you need. In healthcare facilities, employees find a variety of “nooks and crannies” in which to store linens, so, as Remillong points out, if a service is prepared with three par, the actual amount needed to get the facility up and running will be many times more. A service could be behind before it gets started.
But Grubich points out that starting out, yes, it takes a lot of linens to stock a new customer, but services don’t want to bring it all at once. So, it’s important to bring the linen in stages for the transition.
“When we show up for transition day, there’s five days of a par level there,” she says. “It’s coming throughout the day with the key items that you need. The second day, we send three day’s par, and then the third day, we kind of see where we’re at.”
Ward says four to seven days prior to transition day, set and organize the hospital linen room, get all the details down with the team for questions such as, how will sign-out be handled? Will utilization software be used? Are they trained? How will calls coming in be handled? Is a log being kept on how the information is tracked?
“You want to make sure your linen room is ready with appropriate signage and training,” she says.
Ward goes on to recommend coordinating the transition with the current vendor.
“I’ve had times where you don’t get a lot of information from the previous vendor,” she says. “The more information you can get from them, the better.”
Also, confirm all key contacts are distributed both at the laundry and the client to make sure everybody knows everybody who’s involved.
“Yes, you’re going to have your front line, but everybody’s going to want to know they’ve got a key contact they can reach on the fly,” she says.
Grubich agrees that it’s import to confirm, communicate and check inventory, making sure that the laundry has all the linen needed for that first-day install.
“That was the No. 1 thing, making sure you had enough linen on time and making sure you were communicating with everyone in your transition,” Ward says. “Your checklist is important.”
Grubich points out that no matter how well prepared a laundry/linen service is, something will go wrong during the transition. So, have a backup plan for every facet of the transition imaginable.
The day after transition, it’s time to maintain client relations, says Ward. She recommends being on site for questions and potential issues, and to assist with linen orders to the laundry.
“It could be day two to day three, but no later than a week later, start setting up those appointments with your key user areas,” Grubich says. “How are things going?”
She also says this is the time to start monitoring utilization data entry, making sure employees are entering data correctly. Also review quality standards of linen in terms of the quality produced and what is considered reject linen.
Fourteen days after transition, do a client survey.
“I do a lot of these,” Ward says. “We go out to the floor and we talk to the team. Are you getting the linen you need? How’s the transition going? How’s the quality of work? Continually getting feedback from these folks daily, weekly, monthly. This is the time to have that linen committee meeting.”
The three ended the session noting that creating pricing and service contracts, and creating and implementing a transition plan, involves much more than could be covered in the time allotted. They recommend seeking out detailed tools and checklists.
Still, with planning and communication, laundry and linen services can conduct successful customer migrations.
Miss Part 1 on gathering information to put together a pricing and service plan? Click HERE to read it.