Hospital and Hotel Leaders Advance Customer Experience
Robert Reiss | Forbes
Perhaps the most important way executives uncover new innovative customer models is by learning from other industries. In the hospital and hotel industries, there is a unique crossover and opportunity to learn new ways to advance the customer experience. No surprise that the word "hospital" is at the core of the word “hospitality.”
On Dec. 6, 2016, I held a roundtable to explore the sister industries. The participants were:
- Jolyon Bulley, Chief Operating Officer, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) – the Americas, a top hotel system with 5,000 hotels and more than 750,000 rooms across 12 brands.
- Dr. Kevin Churchwell, Executive Vice President of Health Affairs and Chief Operating Officer, Boston Children’s Hospital, which is cited as the #1 Children’s Hospital in America by U.S. News and World Report.
- Albert Morales, Healthcare Industry Leader North America at IBM, which ushered the age of cognitive health with IBM Watson Health.
- Mark Solazzo, EVP and Chief Operating Officer at Northwell Health, a leading healthcare system with 21 hospitals, and 61,000 associates.
Robert Reiss: How have you advanced your business model’s customer experience?
Jolyon Bulley: We realize fundamentally we are in the sleep business. And it comes down to the selection of mattresses, the linen cleanliness, the lighting, noise in the room and outside the room, the ambiance, and getting pillows right so each person has the perfect pillow for them. So we’ve gone through this incredibly forensically over the last couple of years, and launched a multi-brand platform that we call the “IHG Way of Sleep.”
Also, a few years ago we launched EVEN Hotels which is all about healthy, wellness and well-being, particularly for the corporate traveler. These can be summed up into four steps: the people experience, the visiting experience, the bed experience, and the in-room experience.
Mark Solazzo: We hired a Chief Experience Officer we recruited from the Henry Ford Health System, who spent many years with the Ritz Carlton, executing and implementing service standards at new hotels in Germany, Japan, Indonesia and the US. There are many hospitality functions that occur within a hospital, and you have to marry the clinical aspects of what is needed by patients with the customer service elements. So I’ll tour our facilities with our Chief Experience Officer. We start in the parking lot and walk in the hospital, and he sees things from an entirely new perspective, noticing things that I never did. With those observations, we’re able to recognize things we need to change.
Kevin Churchwell: A key element of experience is the concept of the room itself. We’ve gone from wards of patients with the patient separated by curtains to double or triple rooms, and our goal is to go from those double rooms to single rooms. We’re actively creating an expansion effort to convert all of our rooms to single rooms. The next step is to look at the ambiance in the room with ideas like having the family and the child be able to change decorations and light colors so it’s not just all white light. They have a button that empowers them to change the ceiling lights from white to blue to red, or dim the lights. And when a child can own the decorations in the room, it feels like home and Boston Children’s can become a home away from home.
Albert Morales: The relationship between customer experience and the word “personalization” is getting closer and closer. It seems as though both industries are making changes to personalize the experience of their patients and customers for their particular situation or their particular stay.
Reiss: Talk about the future.
Solazzo: A real opportunity for us is that we have over 4 million touches a year and of those and we’re collecting increasingly more information so we can look at trends. Historically, healthcare has been a transactional business based on patient “discharges,” “visits,” etc. We are changing that to make it sticky, so we have a lifelong relationship with the individual. Specifically, we deliver more than 40,000 babies a year in our health system. What a great opportunity to latch onto a wonderful event and establish a relationship with a family with the Chief Medical Officer of the family—the mother. To build on that relationship, we’re going to launch a partnership with a national company that pushes out information to mothers. I think that’s where healthcare has to go. It has to build that relationship.
Churchwell: We believe the future of medicine is personalized medicine, which means identifying the disease and the characteristics of the disease that is particular to that individual patient and tailoring the therapies to them. Additionally, advancing experience is part of the personalized approach. For example, music therapy is very important, and it can be personalized for each patient. Maybe the adolescent gets the guitar and you’ve got the little baby who’s got just the bongos and they’re happy just beating away.
Bulley: Traditionally the hospitality industry has followed the airline industry in areas like distribution, revenue management, product innovation but things are changing so rapidly, so we’ve been spending a fair amount of time studying mega trends, and not just millennials but every generation. Now we’re starting to look at industries and leaders like Amazon and Uber and gain new ideas on the future of the customer experience.
Morales: There’s a wealth of data that’s just sitting there and people don’t know what information is inside that data. What more sophisticated organizations and perhaps other industries are beginning to do is aggregate and mine that data and look at what I call the "small signals." Things that on their own might seem meaningless, but when you put it together with another piece of data suddenly you can begin to spot these micro-trends. And as you aggregate more data, these trends become patterns, patterns become insights to what customers may want. The retail industry has been leading in this space and I think healthcare can learn from that model.
In summary, as I think about the insights from the four participants, I believe the key is to look at other industries—especially related industries – and think through what elements of their model might help enhance your customer experience.
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