July 19, 2009

Pivotal Blood Service

Posted in Business, Life tagged , , , , , , , , , at 3:57 pm by lindaslongview

BloodMy husband is a wonderful guy, constantly giving back to the community in so many ways.  One example, he donates blood – he knows that the community counts on him especially in the summer because there is always a shortage.  Drip, drip, drip…yesterday morning, he got up early to donate blood.

When he returned from donating, he expressed frustration about the service.  As he recounted a tale about the person who handled his “in-take” – they wasted his time, denigrated his offer of assistance to find his recent travel destination on the map, and was rude.  I realized once again how lucky the world is that he is so calm, unflappable, and honorable.  Had I been in the same situation, frustrated would not be the word choice to describe how I would have felt…

Considering the importance of keeping eligible donors returning at regular intervals to donate blood to create blood supply (the only source of raw material), it is simply shocking that the blood center does not ensure that donors have an amazing experience.

As my husband recounted his blood center tale, I recalled the advice I gave previously in Proverbial Zebra about the importance of knowing the organizational constraint and understanding the pivotalness of staff roles.  That key advice came from Beyond HR:  The New Science of Human Capital (Bourdeau/Ramstad) and applies directly to a customer service organization like the blood center.  In fact, the authors use two different customer service roles at Disneyland to describe pivotalness – Mickey Mouse and the street sweepers.

At Disneyland, there is not too much differentiation from a “guest” point-of-view between the worst Mickey and the best Mickey – not pivotal.  However, there is significant differentiation between the worst street sweeper and the best – very pivotal. Sweepers who go out of their way to help a lost guest or find assistance make a big difference in the overall Disney experience of guests and, thereby, the success of Disneyland.  Thus, Disney makes a great effort to hire the very best street sweepers – those with initiative and courtesy.  Pivotalness is determined by the attributes that relieve an organizational constraint.

In the bloody supply business that is in chronic shortage and in need of donors, the organizational constraint is recruiting eligible donors.  So, if the Blood Center were to review staff roles relative to the constraint, there is not too much differentiation from a “donor” point-of-view” between the worst lab technician and the best lab technician (assuming baseline competence) – not pivotal.  However, there is a significant difference between the worst “in-take” technician and the best “in-take” technician – very pivotal.  “In-take” technicians that are knowledgeable of world geography (where has the donor visited in the last six months that might exclude them), charming (able to make comforting small talk through the finger-prick and blood pressure testing), and efficient (every donor minute wasted reduces the chance of return) make a big difference in the overall blood center experience and will affect the willingness of donors to continue to donate.

My long view advice to any blood center is that they need to be proactive about deploying excellence in “in-take” technicians. It is not an entry-level position that can be delegated to the lowest common denominator in the organization or the blood supply will suffer over the long-term.  As noted before, pivotalness is determined by the attributes that relieve an organizational constraint — access to blood NOW and in the FUTURE.  Do not count on a donor’s sense of duty or Oreo cookies to sustain donor returns.  Select staff for “in-take” positions that are knowledgeable, charming, and efficient and then compensate them for doing these things well because it matters!

Do you know what staff positions are pivotal in your organization?