It Pays to be Hospitable: in Healthcare and in Life

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Creating a culture of service excellence that goes beyond ‘good customer service’ is all about being hospitable. Having spent my entire professional life in two service industries; the airlines and healthcare, using ‘hospitable’ to describe a customer-centered, service-oriented culture is not a commonly used word within these two industries.

It wasn’t until I read the book titled, “Excellence Wins”, written by Horst Schultz, the longtime president and COO of Ritz-Carlton that I understood the value of providing hospitality in healthcare. (1) I learned about the book from one of our larger clients. This particular client used Excellence Wins as their primary resource to reinvigorate their culture, ensuring the patient was at the center of their mission and moving beyond ‘good customer service’ to a new level of service excellence, which included being hospitable to their patients.

Google Results fro MedicalGPS Excellence WinsAfter reading Excellence Wins I wrote a series of blog articles that applied the principles of hospitality, as described in Excellence Wins, to the delivery of healthcare. If you’re interested in taking a look at the blog posts, just Google, “MedicalGPS Excellence Wins” and you’ll find links to the articles.

To experience hospitality in healthcare is rare yet so very powerful when it happens.   The good news is more and more healthcare organizations, including physician practices, are endeavoring to get there.


Great hospitality is catering to your customer’s needs, whether it’s a hotel, restaurant, cafe, or any other type of hospitality business. Great Hospitality is a Positive, Friendly Attitude. It takes more than just catering to a customer’s needs to create great hospitality. (2)

Hospitality is about people welcoming other people into their homes or other places where they work or spend their time… The words hospital, hospice, and hostel also come from the word “hospitality”. (3)

In the Forbes article, “The Hospitality Truths That Will Deliver Better Patient Experiences In Health Care”, by Shane Green, CEO of SGEi, Mr. Green identifies four truths that must be embraced in healthcare organizations if the highest levels of customer service are to be achieved.

“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.”   — Shane Green

Truth 1: Guest experience is defined by what is remembered, not necessarily what was encountered.
Truth 2: Employees define those critical moments.
Truth 3: A great guest experience comes from a great employee experience.
Truth 4: Leadership is the single biggest driver of a great employee experience. (4)

In the Forbes article Mr. Green quotes behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman as follows.

“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.” (4)

I can give personal testimony that the four truths Mr. Green outlines are as important today as they have ever been.  Let’s examine them one at a time.

Closeup on mother with baby thanking pediatrician doctor for examination

Truth 1: Guest experience is defined by what is remembered, not necessarily what was encountered.

Absolutely true!  It’s the “Wow Factor”.  We walk away from the encounter and find ourselves saying, “Wow”!    Oftentimes we tell others about the amazingly wonderful experience without being asked.  

Whether we are interacting with one another at work, in play, or just in doing life together, whenever our emotions are touched, it is at that moment our memory banks are etched and we store that encounter away as having ‘emotional significance’. Most of us don’t realize what’s happening, but it happens.  

How can the “Wow Factor” help your practice?  Train your support staff to use all the interpersonal skills necessary to make the patient’s experience as memorable as possible. As part of MedicalGPS’ service improvement program, Endeavor for Excellence: Start Where the Patient Starts, we spend a great deal of time and effort making sure front-line team members understand how to use, and put into practice, interpersonal skills that truly make a difference – leaving the patient saying — “Wow, that was exceptional service”. 

Truth 2: Employees define those critical moments.

Your team members, as they interact with patients, have the potential to create “wow factor” moments — good and bad — that make up memorable aspects of the patient’s experience.  Consequently, the best way to take care of your patients is to first take care of your employees. 

“Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”  ― Richard Branson

Truth 3: A great guest experience comes from a great employee experience.

There are key elements of the employee’s experience that have a direct impact on the patient’s experience. To take end, taking care of your employees is the key to taking care of the patient and ultimately fosters organizational success.

What are some of the most important elements of employee engagement?  It starts with employee orientation and continues throughout the employee’s entire time with the company. If you are in a position of leadership, please allow me to reaffirm, investing in your employees WILL make the difference.

The Forbes article makes a point to mention, “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.”

Truth 4: Leadership is the single biggest driver of a great employee experience.

Effective leadership, not management is the key. Leaders inspire, managers manage. Does your organization use employee feedback to help assess leadership effectiveness? Are your organization’s leaders held accountable to lead using the core values of the company? If so, how often and what happens afterward? All good questions that must be part of a successful organization’s overall strategy.  

Leadership is indeed the single biggest driver of a great employee experience, which leads to a great patient experience, which leads to a great organization.

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Thank you!

Jerry L. Stone
MedicalGPS, LLC






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