When the Walnut Hill Medical Center began seeing patients earlier this year, much of the focus around the services at the North Dallas hospital was centered on its approach to customer service.
It looked beyond the hospital industry, choosing instead to take cues from the finest names in hospitality such as the Ritz Carlton. Expect plenty of natural light, calming works of art, comfortable bedding and sheets, complimentary valet parking.
Last month, its CEO, Cory Countryman, was the sole Texas healthcare executive invited to the 2014 World Summit on Innovation and Entrepreneurship in New York City. He joined CEOs from Coca-Cola, Boeing, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, IBM, and Disney.
“It was learning how really intelligent people and corporations approach issues,” he said. “With hospitals, we get locked in to thinking about things in the same way. We all come from hospitals … there’s not a lot of out of the box thinking.”
I spoke to him about his experience, below are some choice quotes.
On the importance of focusing on customer service: “We look a lot at Apple and Starbucks. … Take Starbucks, why do people want to hang out and drink expensive coffee and not leave for three hours?”
On the reaction to others at the conference: “Really, I think they just had no idea that a hospital cared about (luxury customer service.) I don’t think they took into account this day and age that so much is publicly reported … everything gathers information about whether something is good, bad or otherwise. It was interesting to them to understand that some hospitals out there are leading the pack in that philosophy.”
On Walnut Hill’s advertising campaign: “It’s very organic, I call it a grassroots approach. We don’t have the ability to go out there and hang a billboard every 30 yards like some of my competitors do so we have to get out there and wow every single patient every single doctor every single time.”
On the importance of following up with patients: “Every time I go by a lobby or waiting room I go in and introduce myself. Every one of the lobbies and waiting rooms has a poster with my picture and contact information on it. We do a good job of calling the patients the next day. It’s obviously a customer service component, but it’s a patient safety factor, too.”
Takeaway from time spent with fellow conferees: “These people that really hit it out of the park, from Coca-Cola and Disney, just the way they approach things, the way they’re willing to break the sacred avenue of thinking of problems.”