Driving patient satisfaction: A UMHS valet makes great first impression every time
When a patient or family pulls up to the valet parking booth at University Hospital, Ryan Atkins greets them with a smile. To the valet services supervisor, it’s a small gesture that goes a long way.
“I want to make a difference in somebody’s life,” Ryan said. “And if a patient or their family is having a difficult day, it’s the least I can do to be a friend to them, even for a short time.”
Ryan has been a part of valet services at UMHS for nearly 10 years. He and his team of contractors from Towne Park work at seven entrances across the hospital campus.
Ryan personally moves between 100-120 cars per day, while the entire Towne Park team handles between 1,200-1,500 cars daily across the health system. For many families and patients, the valet services team is their first impression of UMHS. And for patients who visit and use the valet services regularly, there is an opportunity to build rapport and sometimes even a relationship.
“I had one patient who came here from Grand Rapids to get specialized care,” Ryan said. “After seeing him and his wife a few times, I’d offer to bring things up from their car or grab them lunch if they were in appointments all day. I just tried to make an impact.”
“Once he was better and stopped coming here to meet with doctors, the two of them stayed in touch. One day, they made a trip down from Grand Rapids just to say hi. And this time, they brought me lunch,” Ryan said with a laugh. “I went home that night and realized what I was doing was important.”
Ryan’s career began as a truck driver, a job he considered too lonely. The Ann Arbor native applied for a job with Towne Park at UMHS and has never looked back.
“I’m a people person, and my mother was in customer service, so I started to look for jobs where I could interact with people,” Ryan said. “This is where I want to be. I can help people keep a positive attitude, which, in turn, may help them in the healing process.”
Indeed, Ryan and his colleagues are often noticed by UMHS patients. One patient’s wife wrote a letter praising Ryan and the entire valet staff.
“Ryan always had a little extra to say to cheer me up,” the woman wrote. “One day, when things didn’t look great for my husband, I [got emotional] in front of Ryan. He took me aside and helped me gather myself for a long ride home. … Ryan is the smile, an informal friend, that greets me with extra personality at the end of a grueling day.”
When reminded of this message, Ryan couldn’t help but flash his smile. “That’s why I’m here. I make a difficult time in somebody’s life a little bit better.”