From the Executive Director

From the Executive Director

Listening and Learning Improve ABR Customer Service

By Kinsey SmithWright, ABR CSD Manager, and Brent Wagner, MD, MBA, ABR Executive Director


Kinsey SmithWright, CSD Manager, and Brent Wagner, MD, Executive Director

To enhance customer service, ABR staff start by listening. In action, this has meant both creating opportunities for our stakeholders to share their thoughts on how we’re doing and accepting their feedback. However, it’s not adequate to merely listen; to provide optimal customer service, we must not only take a hard look at ourselves and our organization, but also do something productive with the information.

In a noisy world where the next big idea or emergency is a news article or technical challenge away, it has been difficult to avoid the temptation to give a rushed response. Over the past five years, ABR staff have learned to lengthen the pause between listening and action to deeply consider the changing needs of our candidates, diplomates, board, staff, volunteers, and other external stakeholders.

This consideration helped propel us into the future by revealing the need for platforms like Online Longitudinal Assessment and remote exams to keep participants safe during the height of the pandemic and create a continuous feedback loop for quality improvement. Our successful shift to almost exclusively online engagement increased our accessibility but heightened customer service expectations by creating more opportunities for us to build or break the trust of our community.

In the context of examining the ABR’s priorities over the next two years, we outlined the evolving culture for the Board of Governors at their meeting last month. From January 1, 2020, to the present, we have engaged 106,292 times with individual candidates/diplomates, sent 593 mass emails, and supported 40 different exams. In a follow-up survey regarding perceptions of the provided service, 96% of respondents indicated that “interacting with the ABR” was “easy.” (More than 90% of this group described the process as “extremely easy.”) In addition, 94% of respondents agreed with the statement, “My certification manager was knowledgeable.”

Despite these numbers, we constantly seek to improve. For a particular candidate or diplomate concern, when we get it right, we work to understand why, and how we can broadly apply lessons learned to other projects. When we get it wrong, we endeavor to learn from our mistakes and move forward with thoughtfulness and humility. Even though adhering to ABR policy means we can’t always provide the answer a diplomate or candidate wants to hear, we sincerely try to evaluate variations in circumstances and offer explanations of policies as they relate to specific concerns.

The needs of our diplomates and candidates are changing; this makes it imperative for us to remain willing to continually rethink how we serve our community. By developing a culture among our customer service staff of functioning as partners, we can assist those seeking initial certification and continue to provide support for the maintenance of that certificate throughout a long and successful career.

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