The Hospitality Truths That Will Deliver Better Patient Experiences In Health Care

Post written by

Shane Green

CEO of SGEi, Culture Hacker and Commentator on all things Corporate Culture. “Company values aren’t just some philosophical BS.”

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Patient experience, like the guest experience in hospitality and customer experience in many other industries, is the most important strategic focus for health care providers. We’ve learned in health care that while there is a lot of focus and investment in service training and improving patient satisfaction, many organizations in that vertical fail to adhere to some of the most important hospitality axioms, or truths, when it comes to their culture and patient care. Here are four hospitality truths that health care organizations must remember when committing to improving their patients’ experience.

Truth 1: Guest experience is defined by what is remembered, not necessarily what was encountered. In hospitality, as with other industries, it is important to consider that when a guest has talked about their experience, what they were really referring to is one or two moments or interactions that stood out to them that created the overall perception of their stay. We saw in a hotel experience certain interactions or moments that mattered more: for instance, the reservation experience if the guest called or checked in, if they made a call to request a service (including room service) and any interaction where a problem or feedback was stated. The last key moment was the first 30 seconds in the guestroom where a guest checks three things: the view, the comfort of the bed and whether or not the bathroom looked clean at a quick glance. That is not to say everything and everyone else the guest interacted with did not matter, because any one of them could have lead to a problem. But when it came to delivering a great experience, we focused specifically on the five or six moments that defined the guest experience.

Behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman explains the power of memory this way: “Each person perceives reality from two different, sometimes competing perspectives — the experiencing self and the remembering self. The experiencing self is present at every touchpoint throughout the customer journey, but the remembering self takes inventory of the emotional significance of each experience and ultimately decides which memories to keep.” This all means that when it comes to delivering a great patient/client experience, it is important to understand the critical moments that can define the total experience rather than trying to think about every single touchpoint. By understanding those critical moments, such as the initial welcome, intake process, initial consultation (bedside handoff or shift changes), diagnosis conversations and follow-up care, health care providers can focus additional training, resources and investments into what really matters, rather than spreading it out all over the place.

Truth 2: Employees define those critical moments. While hospitals invest in upgrading amenities, technology, rooms and food to improve patient satisfaction, they need to remember that the most important consideration in how a patient feels is the employees they interact with. In hospitality, as in all industries, it should be remembered that employee attitudes matter. Attitudes will determine how much effort employees put into work, how productive people will be, how happy employees will be and, specifically, how well they will take care of their customers. We’ve all experienced what it is like as a customer to interact with someone providing you a service who has a bad attitude; it’s just not good. Our patient experience learning experiences focus more on attitude, stress management and managing emotions than they do on typical service skills. As a result, health care providers must consider what they are doing to invest in their employees in a meaningful way.

Truth 3: A great guest experience comes from a great employee experience. Company culture is defined as the collective hearts and minds of the employees. Culture is defined by your employees’ attitudes about what they do and who they do it for. There are many activities, processes and people that impact an employee’s experience at work, which in turn impacts their attitude. Similar to your patient experience program, an employee’s experience is made up of all the touchpoints they have during their job tenure and their daily routines. Also similar to the customer experience are the certain touchpoints that are more impactful to employees, such as their orientation and onboarding, how they are recognized, whether they are set up for success and empowered to make decisions, how well they are communicated with and whether they are being developed. Some health care organizations that we’ve worked with are building better employee experiences by addressing what really matters to their employees, like reducing school debt, ensuring appropriate time off, promoting wellness and providing amenities that save employees time. These are truly the best investments to improve employee attitudes, engagement and the organization’s overall service culture. The focus on employee experience must be at the forefront of any customer experience organization.

Truth 4: Leadership is the single biggest driver of a great employee experience. Every organization has managers, but how many actually have leaders: someone in charge who can inspire people to be their best and deliver the type of employee experience necessary? Leadership is critical in service organizations, and when it comes to investing in ways to improve your customers’ experience, leadership should be one of your first priorities. When an employee has a manager who inspires them through their passion, expertise, effort, example and, most importantly, care, employees will want to do more and take better care of their patients. Like those in other industries, health care providers cannot just promote people who are good at tasks into management positions without consideration for their ability to lead and deliver a great employee experience. If you want a great patient experience, you need leaders who first hire the right people and then enable, empower and inspire them. This means putting the right managers in place: ones who not only run a great operation but also do so through their employees by creating the ideal experience for them.

While the focus is patient experience, a lot of success will be driven by what you do with your employees. One of my favorite quotes is from customer experience futurist Blake Morgan, who says, “A company's customer experience tells us everything we need to know about what's underneath the hood." What’s under every company’s hood is their employee experience, and if you want to know what that is like, patients just need to consider the type of experience they receive. While ignoring patient experience is no longer an option, neither is ignoring your employee experience.

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Patient experience, like the guest experience in hospitality and customer experience in many other industries, is the most important strategic focus for health care providers. We’ve learned in health care that while there is a lot of focus and investment in service training and improving patient satisfaction, many organizations in that vertical fail to adhere to some of the most important hospitality axioms, or truths, when it comes to their culture and patient care. Here are four hospitality truths that health care organizations must remember when committing to improving their patients’ experience.

Truth 1: Guest experience is defined by what is remembered, not necessarily what was encountered. In hospitality, as with other industries, it is important to consider that when a guest has talked about their experience, what they were really referring to is one or two moments or interactions that stood out to them that created the overall perception of their stay. We saw in a hotel experience certain interactions or moments that mattered more: for instance, the reservation experience if the guest called or checked in, if they made a call to request a service (including room service) and any interaction where a problem or feedback was stated. The last key moment was the first 30 seconds in the guestroom where a guest checks three things: the view, the comfort of the bed and whether or not the bathroom looked clean at a quick glance. That is not to say everything and everyone else the guest interacted with did not matter, because any one of them could have lead to a problem. But when it came to delivering a great experience, we focused specifically on the five or six moments that defined the guest experience.

Behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman explains the power of memory this way: “Each person perceives reality from two different, sometimes competing perspectives — the experiencing self and the remembering self. The experiencing self is present at every touchpoint throughout the customer journey, but the remembering self takes inventory of the emotional significance of each experience and ultimately decides which memories to keep.” This all means that when it comes to delivering a great patient/client experience, it is important to understand the critical moments that can define the total experience rather than trying to think about every single touchpoint. By understanding those critical moments, such as the initial welcome, intake process, initial consultation (bedside handoff or shift changes), diagnosis conversations and follow-up care, health care providers can focus additional training, resources and investments into what really matters, rather than spreading it out all over the place.

Truth 2: Employees define those critical moments. While hospitals invest in upgrading amenities, technology, rooms and food to improve patient satisfaction, they need to remember that the most important consideration in how a patient feels is the employees they interact with. In hospitality, as in all industries, it should be remembered that employee attitudes matter. Attitudes will determine how much effort employees put into work, how productive people will be, how happy employees will be and, specifically, how well they will take care of their customers. We’ve all experienced what it is like as a customer to interact with someone providing you a service who has a bad attitude; it’s just not good. Our patient experience learning experiences focus more on attitude, stress management and managing emotions than they do on typical service skills. As a result, health care providers must consider what they are doing to invest in their employees in a meaningful way.

Truth 3: A great guest experience comes from a great employee experience. Company culture is defined as the collective hearts and minds of the employees. Culture is defined by your employees’ attitudes about what they do and who they do it for. There are many activities, processes and people that impact an employee’s experience at work, which in turn impacts their attitude. Similar to your patient experience program, an employee’s experience is made up of all the touchpoints they have during their job tenure and their daily routines. Also similar to the customer experience are the certain touchpoints that are more impactful to employees, such as their orientation and onboarding, how they are recognized, whether they are set up for success and empowered to make decisions, how well they are communicated with and whether they are being developed. Some health care organizations that we’ve worked with are building better employee experiences by addressing what really matters to their employees, like reducing school debt, ensuring appropriate time off, promoting wellness and providing amenities that save employees time. These are truly the best investments to improve employee attitudes, engagement and the organization’s overall service culture. The focus on employee experience must be at the forefront of any customer experience organization.

Truth 4: Leadership is the single biggest driver of a great employee experience. Every organization has managers, but how many actually have leaders: someone in charge who can inspire people to be their best and deliver the type of employee experience necessary? Leadership is critical in service organizations, and when it comes to investing in ways to improve your customers’ experience, leadership should be one of your first priorities. When an employee has a manager who inspires them through their passion, expertise, effort, example and, most importantly, care, employees will want to do more and take better care of their patients. Like those in other industries, health care providers cannot just promote people who are good at tasks into management positions without consideration for their ability to lead and deliver a great employee experience. If you want a great patient experience, you need leaders who first hire the right people and then enable, empower and inspire them. This means putting the right managers in place: ones who not only run a great operation but also do so through their employees by creating the ideal experience for them.

While the focus is patient experience, a lot of success will be driven by what you do with your employees. One of my favorite quotes is from customer experience futurist Blake Morgan, who says, “A company's customer experience tells us everything we need to know about what's underneath the hood." What’s under every company’s hood is their employee experience, and if you want to know what that is like, patients just need to consider the type of experience they receive. While ignoring patient experience is no longer an option, neither is ignoring your employee experience.

Forbes Coaches Council is an invitation-only community for leading business and career coaches. Do I qualify?

CEO of SGEi, Culture Hacker and Commentator on all things Corporate Culture. “Company values aren’t just some philosophical BS.”...