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sa ambulance service and performance levels

Waiting with the RAH emergency to myself at 4am – others had greater need.

I hope you didn’t see the inside of an ambulance over the Australia Day long weekend.

It is a place most of us never want to be but when we need to, we want to be there as quickly as possible.

This is why the SA Ambulance Service makes such a good model for applying service delivery benchmarks.

If you or I are a little late responding to a client or customer, it is embarrassing or simply disappointing.

If an ambulance is late, it could mean the difference between life or death.

The service’s performance figures for last financial year are interesting and raise a couple of points to ponder for our businesses.

Let’s take a closer look.

SA Ambulance performance results

According to figures published in the Advertiser last month (Demand pushes up ambulance waiting times), the service missed its target of getting to 65 per cent of top priority cases in urban areas within eight minutes. It managed 57.6 per cent. It missed its target for non-urgent cases by a similar fraction.

A key point is that overall, the service dealt with 144,000 emergency cases, or 394 every single day, a number that was up 7500 on the previous financial year.

SA Ambulance Service chief executive officer Ray Creen is quoted in the article as saying while the service missed its targets, it had, ‘set itself some of the highest targets in Australia [and] … was among the best performers.’

Having had an ambulance called for me last year, I can attest the service’s high performance levels in both speed and professionalism.

While the organisation might well be dealing with limited resources and increasing demands (not to mention heavier and congested traffic on Adelaide’s roads), none of those pressures were evident when the paramedics were dispatching their bedside manner to me in October.

This may well be why patients are overwhelmingly satisfied by the service. The article quotes figures from a survey of 96 per cent satisfaction with response times and 99 per cent satisfaction with the care provided by the paramedics.

Read that again: a 99 per cent satisfaction rating!

How does this apply to business?

I think there are a few important insights offered us by SA Ambulance Service.

Firstly, the service actually sets performance targets so it can measure its progress from year to year. Interestingly, rather than the typical goal in business of new customers or sales, the focus here is on SERVICING. Doesn’t this cut to the heart of what every successful business person knows; looking after and keeping the customers or clients you have can be more profitable than being solely focussed on new clients.

While the year is still young, it might be invaluable to think about what targets your organisation should aim for this year. Are they realistic and in line with your overall strategy?

Secondly, Mr Creen was aware of how the service was performing against others interstate. While internal figures are very helpful, placing them into the context of your own industry or region, can help you make sense of improvements, downturns or stagnation. Of course, the challenge is to compare like with like. I have worked with a few clients who were trying to measure their progress against competitors of greater experience and size. While such aspirations can be inspirational, they can also lead to dejection and frustration.

Finally, the ambulance service surveyed customer satisfaction. How satisfied were your customers/clients last year? What satisfaction rating do you think they would have awarded you?

There is something awe-inspiring about a 99 per cent satisfaction rating, perhaps because we are inclined to aim lower in many areas of life. For example, our political leaders hold on to their jobs with ‘approval’ ratings around 30 and 40 per cent, and most tertiary courses pass you with a mark of 50 per cent.

Should we aim for a 99 per cent satisfaction rating this year?

I think if we don’t believe it is possible, we could do well to review our systems, marketing and products/services from our clients/customers perspectives.

And maybe this article has brought something to the surface that requires emergency first aid NOW.

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