In a recent article about that wonderful book Influencers, I mentioned an example of influencing that reminded me of my hospital experience earlier this year.
A large medical centre’s service quality scores had been steadily decreasing, I wrote, as patients and their families felt they weren’t being treated with care, dignity or respect. So a team was formed to locate those among them who scored highly, to see how they behaved in ways that resonated with their customers.
The good behaviours the team found among the high scorers were: smiling; making eye contact; identifying yourself; letting people know what you are doing and why; and ending every interaction by asking “Is there anything else that you need?”
A strategy to influence the behaviour of the other staff was initiated, resulting in the centre’s scores rising significantly.
Splendid. And yet I now have an update on this, emerging from a conversation I had with the CEO of Gertrude’s Children’s Hospital, Robert Nyarango, who introduced me to the book If Disney Ran Your Hospital: 9½ Things You Would Do Differently, by Fred Lee, a former hospital executive.
On Googling the book, I came across a link to a TED talk on the subject by Mr Lee, one of the most engaging speakers I’ve encountered in a long time.
In the talk, he refers to the exact list of five positive behaviours displayed by the best carers as quoted in the book I’d read… insisting this is far from sufficient to generate the kind of “customer experience” that is possible – and that is offered by organisations like Disney at their Disneyworld sites. (No wonder they call those who visit them “guests” rather than “customers”.)
So what should carers do more than smile, make eye contact and so forth? Mr Lee takes the deliberately mild example of a nurse taking blood for testing, where the patient still may feel unduly anxious about the prospective pain and the complications that may arise.
Where there’s anxiety, he explains, the blood pressure rises and so the pain threshold falls.
We hear from Mr Lee about a study that related the lower pain levels felt by patients whose blood was taken by nurses who received only compliments from patients: the positive consequences of feeling psychologically comfortable with the person inserting the needle.
To distract from patients’ anxiety, carers make small talk, like asking if they live nearby, or getting them to talk about their family. Then, they mention how expert and experienced they are, displaying a reassuring combination of competence and confidence – this with a light touch.
Mr Lee quotes that famous line from W. Edwards Deming, about only managing what you measure, but he adds the far lesser-known additional thought from Deming that being satisfied cannot be measured or scripted, as it only comes from the heart – like wanting to deal with the person again.
The approach to patients by the former hospital executive was transformed by reading the 1999 bestseller The Experience Economy by Joseph Pine and James Gilmore, who described this new way of thinking about connecting with customers and securing their loyalty through offering positive experiences beyond good service.
As I have been doing from time to time since my release from hospital earlier this year, I will again relate to my own customer experience while a patient. The gentleman taking my blood each day was a very jovial fellow, and of course, I wouldn’t have minded were it not that his visits were at 5 am.
He would enter my room with a loud greeting and switch on the light, shocking me into premature wakefulness. I would dread that daily pre-dawn knock on my door by the man I came to call my Dracula, and his high-energy entrances made me feel so uncomfortable that after a few days I requested him to tone down his whole performance, which happily he did.
Here I have been describing how to generate the best possible customer experiences in stressful hospital environments. But as you have been reading I hope you have extrapolated to your own situations.
You have your customer experiences, both positive and negative. But how do the customers of your organisation experience their interactions with your staff?
Do your people know how to put your customers at ease and make them feel good about having interacted with them? Can they hardly wait to deal with them again?