Having the right people at the table

How partnering with the right people can help your organization free up resources and maximize potential

Wes Meacham
Wes Meacham
Co-Founder / Design
Having the right people at the table

Photo by Stefan Vladimirov on Unsplash

I once was asked, as many of you probably have been, that if I could choose to have dinner with any four people, who would I choose. I thought about it for a bit, coming up with probably some pretty standard answers: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, etc.

However, I was never really pleased with my answer. Something seemed to be missing. That feeling nagged at me until one day it hit me: I wanted someone at the table that was an expert at listening and asking the right questions. I quickly reformed my four dinner guests. The first three remained fairly standard: George Washington, Julius Ceasar, Ghengis Kahn. The final spot at our fictional table went to Dan Carlin, a professional podcast historian and someone that I respect for his ability to ask tough and captivating questions.

With my new table configuration, I now had the means to enjoy a deep and insightful conversation regardless of my own skill and knowledge. I no longer had to be the person to ensure that the right questions were asked. I had brought someone to the table to be that expert, freeing me up to enjoy the talk and to expend my energy processing and responding.

When we started Pulse a few years ago we had a seemingly simple goal in mind: we wanted to help vulnerable populations have their voices heard. Our solution consisted of physical kiosks mounted in locations where vulnerable populations are served. We wanted to use our experience in software development, usability, and human-computer interaction to do something good. We recognized that individuals in vulnerable situations struggled to give honest feedback out of fear of repercussions for their responses.

However, we questioned whether or not providers would see value in our solution. We were not doing anything that was revolutionary. Gathering feedback through surveys is a tried and true method that has been around for decades. We questioned if someone would see the same value we saw or whether they would wonder why they just didn’t do it themselves.

After all, there are several online survey solutions available. So why Pulse?

It turns out that the answer to that question is the same conclusion I came to with my dinner guests. Service providers are already maxed out on resources, time, and people. Using more of those resources to have an internal staff member create a survey, administer that survey, aggregate and analyze that data is often more than providers can do and spare.

Having someone that does all of that for them — create the survey using tried and true principles, have a physical kiosk that is continually available and will collect feedback every day, gathers the data, and gives them the tools to analyze it — is worth the investment because it saves them time, money, and resources in the long run.

Valley Behavioral Health based in Utah came to this same conclusion. As a company, Valley is very interested in the client experience. For years they have been surveying their clients to get a feel for their experience and how to improve it.

Pulse Kiosk at Valley Behavioral HealthPulse Kiosk at Valley Behavioral Health

“Our previous experience with customer surveys were on paper,” Melissa Edgeworth, the Director of Administrative Services at Valley Behavioral Health, said. “They were done on paper, they were submitted to our oversight team, types them in, stowed in a shared folder drive, and we never saw them again. That was our customer satisfaction surveys.”

Edgeworth knew that in order to have more of an impact, the client's feedback needed to be heard. And the manual, paper method was not resulting in that.

“The data wasn’t very good,” Edgeworth said. “It was hand transcribed, hand written, and it was old. It was just hidden away.”

They also realized that their previous tactics may have led to skewed data.

“I think our clients were a little bit nervous to really talk about what’s going on for them because they’re handing the survey back to somebody,” Julie Rael, Chief Clinical Officer at Valley, said. “So it didn’t feel as confidential.”

Another service provider, Catholic Community Services, had a similar experience. Volunteer Director Brittany Moulton knew she needed to get feedback from their volunteers in order to make their experience better and keep volunteers coming, but she lacked the resources to make it happen.

“I spent so much time organizing volunteers that I didn’t have enough time to gather feedback,” Moulton said.

These two providers, like many others, came to the realization that having someone at the table that can ask the right questions not only made life easier, it improved it. Where before they had very little data, now they have large amounts of data, all with less effort. The time they saved enabled them to put the data to good use. Their output was increased without reducing their resources.

“It’s in the moment data,” Edgeworth said. “ … It’s just this sort of passive thing that’s there that they don’t have to do anything about it. And the clients are still using it. It’s low effort for the support staff, and they’re so busy, and their jobs are so hard. I love the low-effort option for them. They don’t have to hand them a paper, they don’t have to type it in. My courier doesn’t have to go pick it up and bring it back to admin. They just tap on it and it works, and I can read it.”

Moulton echoes those sentiments, that having the data be passively collected, 24 hours a day, every day, has been a huge boost for her team.

“Not having to take the time to get this data is really great because it’s just there, I can look at it,” Moulton said. “ It’s no sweat off my back. I just have to log in. It’s great because it would probably take me a week to compile all these reports.”

Your Pulse Kiosk will be there, constantly available for your clients, day in and day out.Your Pulse Kiosk will be there, constantly available for your clients, day in and day out.

Back in 2019, Edgeworth tried to review client experience but she found that the data they had, through their paper-survey methods, was missing. With the Pulse solution in place in 2020, she already has 1000 more responses in the first two months than she did in the first entire quarter of 2019.

Seeing these types of results were exactly what we had hoped would happen when we started Pulse. We were making it easier for organizations to listen and respond to those they serve, all while not requiring any additional time and effort to receive the data. We could have ended there and felt extremely good about what we had accomplished.

But we wanted to do more.

As we monitored service provider kiosks and saw the data coming in, we at times noticed anomalies in the data. Whether that be a lack in survey completion, a clumping of suggestions, or kiosks not receiving responses in line with other kiosks. Many times we realized exactly what had happened and had an idea to fix it.

At Valley Behavioral Health, we noticed a steep drop off at a certain question which was about halfway through the survey. We noticed that the structure of the survey could be construed to make users feel that this question was the last question. As a team, we discussed it, researched survey best practices and software usability, and came to the conclusion that if we reordered the questions we could mitigate this steep drop off.

We weren’t quite sure if this was something that Valley wanted, a Vendor that calls them and starts suggesting changes to their practices, but we felt it was the best way to serve our customers.

It turns out they not only were receptive to our feedback, but they were glad to have a partner that was at the same table with them and had the same goals.

“Another thing I love is the eyes on the data,’ Edgeworth said. “At one point in time we had our survey structured in a certain way and question three is where everyone was stopping. No one was getting to question four, five, and six, and the Pulse team saw that before I did. “…You can have a vendor that does whatever you say, that’s great, not of all of them do, but that’s useful, but to have a vendor that partners and is helpful … that’s high-level. That’s good stuff.”

The Pulse Data Dashboard at Catholic Community ServicesThe Pulse Data Dashboard at Catholic Community Services

Just as I came to realize in my imaginary dinner scenario that having someone at the table that has the skills, knowledge, time, and expertise to ask the right questions and has a goal aligned with mine, service providers across the country are realizing that having a vendor that will partner with them in gathering client-feedback is an asset worth having. Valley Behavioral Health and Catholic Community services realized this and also learned that freeing up those resources allows them to make better use of this critical data.

Listening and responding to those we serve is key to improving. So, when you are planning out your ideal dinner scenario, make sure to invite someone to the table that can ask the right questions for you, allowing you to make the most of the time you have.