Healthcare can Learn from the Hospitality Industry.
By John R. Hendrie, CEO of Hospitality Performance
Saturday, 28th January 2006
We understand that the Visitor Experience in a Destination area is based upon the performance of the Destination components – not only the Hospitality related businesses but also the other contributors, such as Taxis, Police, even street vendors. 

Another, often forgotten player, is our community Hospital or Medical Center, which although meeting unbelievable standards and sanctions, often misses the mark when it comes to Customer Service.  Our Visitor does remember that Experience,

We all have witnessed the changing landscape of Healthcare – the consolidations, new affiliations and the demise of favored institutions.  DIFFERENTIATION  makes you stand out in the marketplace. How do your Destination Health Care facilities measure up? 

A Hospital/Medical Center setting is in many ways no different than a full service Hotel. They receive patients, families and visitors, direct and register them, accommodate and feed them, provide amenities and services during the stay, and "check them out" at the end of the visit.  However, they must compete in a world where the Experience, not the "service" (medical care, clinical resources, even surgery) nor the product, becomes the value for the Consumer. They have to create an Experience where their audience says, "I didn't really want to be there, but the Hospital treated me like a king!" Word of mouth will dictate their success, as well as the Destination's.  They are a Brand, and they must learn to market their excellence.  The difference in the Experience is Customer Service with that touch of Hospitality.

The Boston Globe addressed this issue last month, wondering what Mass General could learn from the Ritz Carlton Hotel. The article, "Lessons in Hospital Courtesy", focused upon how various Boston Medical institutions interacted with their patients and visitors, and the result was poor performance in some basic courtesies, leading to frustration and even disgust.  They recognized that Consumers have choices in Health Care, much like Hospitality, and, although there might be the best Doctors available, the Consumer simply will not be treated disrespectfully; they will go elsewhere.  Beyond the obvious financial ramifications, Customer Service needed major Hospitality emphasis.  It might be the influence with telephone answering, a smile, improved food service and menu choices, and using the Guest's name when possible, even some patient room redesign.  This was a significant cultural challenge for the staff.

Obviously,  Medical Staff and Clinicians provide the life sustaining attention – why we are there in the first place – but our senses are piqued with anxiety upon arrival, and our Experience is a Holistic one, where all interactions and environments impact our well being.  How they balance our body, mind, spirit and emotions impacts our Experience and certainly their reputation.  Hoteliers know this.

They remain competitive with investments in technology, enhanced medical and clinical services, first class doctors and community outreach programs.  However, Federal Medicare Programs will begin to share with the public results of Patient Satisfaction Surveys – next year. Just think if this were applied to Hospitality businesses.  We have dodged another bullet!

They should consider an In-depth Assessment of their Product, Service and Facility, where there is a hands-on Hospitality audit of the Visitor/Patient Experience in the Hospital/Medical Center.  The Experience begins with the initial contact, which may be by phone or even the parking lot, moving through the  Lobby, Registration area, reviewing signage/directionals, to the patient Room/Bathroom, Food Service, including the cafeteria and vending areas, and associated amenities  offered to the Consumer. Visitor/Patient contact positions are evaluated for their courtesy, assistance, empathy and professionalism.    Assessment of current information gleaned from existing Patient Satisfaction Surveys should also be considered with data evaluated, meaningful trends identified and reasonable recommendations from the audience integrated.  One now would have quantifiable results, Benchmarks established and Recommendations for Continual Improvement stressed.  A byproduct of the Assessment could surface areas which would enhance Revenue, as well as create some new Revenue streams.

The goal is to create a sustainable Customer Service System, driven by:

>   Constant, on-going meaningful information from Visitors and Patients

>   A proper vehicle to review the results of the System and take action

>   Timely sharing of Program Results with the Community

>   Providing a third party, objective audit of Program mechanics, as needed, and

>   Professional Hospitality recommendations on Programs and initiatives to further enhance the effort and success.

A Hospitality perspective represents quite a different take on Health Care and how it is delivered.  Most Hospitals/Medical Centers have in their Mission Statement a concern for the dignity, respect and comfort for their patients.  There is no better way to demonstrate this than by embracing the essence of Hospitality – the warm welcome, the attention to needs, the heightened service, the valued relationship, even the smile.  Some Health Care facilities even have a Concierge, Ambassadors greeting visitors, Room Service and elevated amenities.  The Experience can be memorable for all the right reasons, and their reputation will soar! 

Destination leadership needs to take a hard look at this community facet – Healthcare is often a significant employer and certainly a valuable asset, yet, they can quickly diminish the Visitor Experience with poor Customer Service.  Task them, work with them to improve the performance and the expectation.  You know the importance of Customer Service!

The author believes that Remarkable Customer Service is the portal to a Memorable Experience.  Please visit:  www.hospitalityperformance.com
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