Service Excellence Institute Reboot: A Personal Experience

April 17, 2018


In 2018, faculty and staff participate in discussion during a Service Excellence Institute session led by Clinical Manager, Laura Benson.

Mary Micikas
In spring of 2012, former Associate Clinical Administrator, Vivian Smith listens as faculty and staff discuss communication in the work place during SEI.

By Sam Marie Engle

Emory Radiology is really, really image-conscious.

That’s what I thought when I joined Emory Radiology two years ago.

My snap judgment wasn’t based on the i-word in the department’s name or the 1 million imaging studies performed annually. While they do suggest a certain preoccupation with appearances, I knew radiology as a field and Emory Radiology in particular were anything but skin deep: what’s inside matters most here.

Instead, I was responding to the seeming obsession with what patients think of us. From Press Ganey scores to customer comment cards, our reputation seemed ceaselessly top-of-mind.

I soon realized my mistake: the department is obsessed with service excellence, not reputation, and excellent service isn’t fluff designed to make the place look good. Service excellence is a core value vital to our core business, which is wellness.

Service excellence matters so much, the department created its own training program to ensure everyone delivers excellent customer service, everywhere, every day. Every employee of the Department of Radiology and Imaging Sciences is required to complete the Service Excellence Institute (SEI), so I signed up.

Since 2011, more than 1,300 Emory Radiology faculty and staff have completed SEI. The program used to stretch over two 8-hour days. The new SEI now packs all the essentials into four enjoyable hours.

Introducing Service Excellence

I arrive early after getting lost. Harold Glenn, Jr., clinical business manager and one of the SEI instructors, arrives with donuts. Whew. The other two instructors Laura Benson, manager of clinic operations, and Lucienne McKinney, CT screening services coordinator, follow.

Harold, Laura, and Lucienne clearly love working with each other. They banter back and forth as they check their technology and ensure the new order of slides works. This is Harold’s and Laura’s third year as SEI instructors.  Lucienne joined the team in 2017, first, to fill in for Laura during her maternity leave, and then permanently when they realized the enriching value of her perspective as a clinical care provider. Each says teaching SEI is a joy.

They explain how the curriculum feels new, thanks to a massive overhaul last summer and continuous tweaks to meet learners’ needs.

“We listened to feedback and tightened the curriculum to make the best use of everyone’s time,” says Harold. “What we cover is what 1,200 people have said is essential to creating the ideal experience for our patients and ourselves.”

Officially, “The Service Excellence Institute (SEI) strengthens the culture of service that makes the Department of Radiology and Imaging Sciences a premier provider of patient and family centered care. SEI provides Emory Radiology’s team members with a strong foundation of both skills and knowledge essential to delivering service excellence in support of the department’s and Emory’s missions.”

Experientially, SEI fosters personal and professional growth.

As Harold notes, “Every week the patient comment report is littered with the names of folks who live and breathe the stuff we teach in Service Excellence Institute. Furthermore, these are the same folks you most enjoy working with.”

I’m ready to learn.

Lessons in Excellence

Emory Radiology Chair Carolyn Meltzer, MD, FACR, kicks things off by welcoming us. I’m impressed that she takes time out of running the department and running a bunch of other things in the national sphere of radiology and imaging sciences to kick off an SEI session.

“Wow, she really takes this seriously,” I think, just as she says, “I really take this seriously.” She emphasizes the importance of putting people first and shares examples of how SEI is essential to creating optimal experiences for our patients and for our colleagues.

We cover a lot of information but I’m never bored. We talk about who our customers are, what it means and feels like to be engaged on the job, and what accountability both means and looks like in practice. We learn about The Pledge as well as Emory Healthcare’s S.E.R.V.I.C.E. standards and Care Transformation strategies to enhance the patient and family experience.

Laura, Harold, and Lucienne take turns sharing insights and best practices for each topic. There are plenty of opportunities for discussion and even fun activities to practice our new skills.

As the session winds down, I’m filled with new purpose and new confidence. All this worry about image-consciousness has been misplaced: service excellence requires me to stop worrying about how others see me and to get busy doing more for others. Service excellence means seeing myself as someone who can help. Even if I don’t know the way, I can smile and then join with the person in finding someone who does know the way.

Lasting Lessons

Just last week, I met a lovely pair of ladies debating which way to the parking lot. I stopped and offered to help, something I used to be afraid to do. One lady said everything looked so different from when she last was at Emory. I asked when that was, and she said, “Oh, honey, about twenty years ago! I’ve been blessed with good genes.”

I said I’d walk with them to the parking deck. They marveled at the new skyway and the newer Tower, noting how Emory’s always changing. After we crossed over Clifton Road, I explained the signage guiding visitors to the different clinics and to the parking garage, “So next time, you can find your way.”

When we got to the deck and they turned to the elevator, I wished them well. The elder lady said with a smile, “Well, at least some things haven’t changed. Emory people still go the extra mile.”

Thanks, SEI.

Upcoming SEI Sessions:

  • Friday, April 27th, EUH Annex N120 8:30a-12pm
  • Tuesday, July 3rd, EUH Annex N240 (Resident and fellows) 8:00am – 12:00pm
  • Friday, August 31st, EUH Annex N240 8:00am – 12:00pm
  • Friday, November 30th, EUH Annex N240 8:00am – 12:00pm

 For additional information about SEI, please contact Harold Glenn, Jr. at or visit SEI webpage at: