John DiJulius | Customer Experience Blog

You can’t change the experience until you change the paradigm

I have worked with several hospitals and medical facilities over the years and I don’t think there is any tougher or more important jobs out there than taking care of people’s health. Their Service Vision, however, is one of the easiest and clearest to figure out, yet I have found that the medical industry typically does a very poor job in connecting the roles of their employees to that Service Vision.

The Ritz-Carlton Group Hospital

This is an exercise I do when working with hospitals and medical centers: Imagine The Ritz-Carlton has decided to open and manage a hospital. What would that look like? How would they approach things differently? Let’s look at some of the titles hospitals use for their employees: (1) tray passers, (2) receptionists, (3) nurses, and (4) patients.

The person who is in charge of delivering food to the patient is a Tray Passer. I asked why are they called that, and the response was, “That is what they have always been called.” How proud would you be if someone asked, “What is it that you do?” How difficult is it to get Tray Passers to realize the part they play in the company’s Service Vision? I found that Tray Passers are pretty important in educating patients on proper nutrition for the most rapid recovery. If this person’s expertise can have a big impact on a patient recovering fully and sooner rather than later, they play a major role in any hospital’s Service Vision. How about we rename Tray Passers “Chief Nutritionist Officers” or “Directors of Patient Diet”?

Upon arrival at a hospital, the person that you go to for information and directions is called the “Receptionist.” And most of the time they act like receptionists, by providing the least information they can, and only when asked. What if we changed their title to “Director of First Impressions”? Wouldn’t that title make them rethink the role they play in the experiences of all the visitors to the hospital?

Let’s talk about the toughest job in the world, nursing. Most hospitals today will tell you how nurses are underpaid, understaffed, overworked, and as a result, many are burned out. What if we called them “Daymakers”? Because that is what they actually are.

If they were constantly referred to as Daymakers and they had to introduce themselves as Daymakers, ­wouldn’t that make them reconsider their role and the sensitivity they must have with every patient and family member they come in contact with? Who do you think are happier with their jobs, nurses or Daymakers?

And finally the customers, who are the people who come to us for our services, whom we have always called “Patients.” Why? Probably because the first hospital that ever opened called them that and since then everyone else just did the same. Any employee of a hospital will tell you that after dealing with hundreds of patients per day, over time, the employees can become desensitized and numb. Especially when dealing with a new patient that has, what a nurse considers a minor, temporary condition, compared to the patient down the hall, who may only have a few days left to live. However, it is all relative to the patient and the “minor,” temporary condition may be the worst thing that has ever happened to that person and has him or her scared to death. Most nurses and doctors will also admit that instead of referring to patients as “Ms. Daniels in room 201,” they just refer to them as “201b” (meaning room 201, second bed). With that perspective, it can make it more difficult to provide a world-class patient experience.

Any good hospital will tell you that they have two external customers: (1) the patient and (2) the patient’s loved ones. Again, what if we thought outside the box and renamed patients, “family members,” and the loved ones “relatives”? In many situations, hospital customers are like hospital family members and hospital relatives, where the employees get to know them very well, even if it is just for a few days.

Like anything else, just giving new titles ­doesn’t change the culture, it is an aid in reminding that person of the role that comes with his or her position. But it is ultimately management’s daily responsibility to constantly demonstrate how each department supports and impacts the Service Vision of the organization, which drives the customer’s experience and level of satisfaction.

If you can’t change the people, change the people

Afraid your Service Vision will be met with some “rolling of the eyes”? You can’t let that stop you. One hospital that was committed to changing their culture was met with resistance by their 15 receptionists. So they asked all 15 to reapply for their existing jobs. Only three members of the original crew survived.

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