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4 core behaviors for patient experience success

Posted Oct 02 2013 11:23am

by Anthony Cirillo

In September, I attended a local American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) event around customer service. The two-behemoth health systems were represented as well as one other local competitor. However, the person who stole the show was the local franchise owner from Chick-fil-a, Rob Rogers. While others droned on about evidence-based patient experience and role-playing, he got to the fundamentals.

Rogers definitely impressed me because he boiled employee and customer experience down to basic human values. (Although you may not agree with the corporation's values, keep in mind he was speaking as a franchise owner with his own views and values.)

So what was this franchise owner squawking about? Here goes.

He cares for his employees

You're thinking that I'm writing about "the old caring and compassion thing" again. Well, yes, in a way. You see he hires people of all ages, from 16 to 75 years olds. And he's there for those hard to handle teens, getting to know them and taking an interest in their grades, for example. Even in a 50,000-employee organization, directors and managers can do the same. After all, this franchise owner has 78 direct employees. How many direct reports do you have? When he truly takes an interest, he gains loyalty from a workforce that truly wants to help him succeed.

He constantly communicates and demonstrates his vision

Just like Cleveland Clinic CEO Toby Cosgrove, M.D., never misses a chance to talk about or demonstrate his commitment to patient experience, our chicken man never misses a chance to walk the talk. Each franchise is independently owned and he puts his own stamp on his store. And it's not about selling chicken. It's about creating great experiences. He is on the floor and involved.

He sets high expectations

Not much to say here except to mention his take on business and the setting of expectations--we aim too low and don't expect enough. Set the bar higher.

He focuses on the core four

Rogers asks his employees to follow the "core four" (and makes some of his hiring decisions based on how prospects do or don't incorporate them during the interview process):

1. Assess the mood

2. Make eye contact

3. Smile

4. Maintain the relationship

In other words, be mindful of the person the entire time they are there. As a customer (think patient) walks in the door, assess his/her mood. Prepare your approach accordingly. Check in with them and stay connected until they leave the store.

These sound like simple things yet it took two years for him to drill down some of these basics. And guess what? Chick-fil-a vetted him for five years before they allowed him to buy the franchise. How often do we get that right with the 16 percent CEO turnover in the hospital industry?

People often ask me about innovation in healthcare and patient experience. Sure, I can talk about some of the best practices inside and outside of the industry and make my own predictions.

But you know what? I think innovation might just come from simplification.

Throw out the scripts and role-playing. Concentrate on a few core behaviors. Empower your employees to make them their own. Use the core four.

Anthony Cirillo, FACHE, ABC, is president of Fast Forward Consulting , which specializes in experience management and strategic marketing for healthcare facilities. He also is the expert guide in Assisted Living for About.com .

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