James Merlino (Jim): Thank you very much gentlemen, I’m happy to be with you today.
DT: Jim, What is the mission of the Chief Experience Officer in today’s healthcare environment?
JM: It’s a great question and I think it’s really simple. I think the mission of the Chief Experience Officer in healthcare is to insure that the organization keeps the patient and the patient’s family at the center of everything they do from strategy they design to tactics they develop and execute. So that they remind senior leadership. That they remind the entire organization that people come to work in healthcare not to just do their jobs; not to just be a doctor; not to just be a nurse; but to keep the patient at the center of everything that they do.
Robert Reiss: Jim, when you look at data and analytics it’s obviously critical to any customer experience in pretty much any business. However healthcare, especially with HCAPs is unique in that it’s completely data driven. Everything in a sense has a lot more transparency than other industries. What would you say are the pitfalls that people need to avoid in incorporating data and analytics into their customer experience?
JM: That’s a great question because you can’t improve something unless you have good metrics to help you identify where you’re at and ultimately drive the performance enhancement. I think in healthcare what the big problem is – is there are so many metrics that we have to pay attention to. So our responsibilities as leaders is to really understand the measurements but pick the metrics that are critically important that we can use to drive performance improvement. Now that I’m on the other side of healthcare delivery, which is the client service side at Press Ganey, what we’ve developed is a suffering metric. So you can take a variety of patient experience data points and really shape it into one metric that an organization can use to get an idea of how they’re doing. But this idea of really funneling all of the important metrics into a set of metrics that we need to get people to pay attention to is critical. Otherwise healthcare leaders, managers, front line people – are paying attention to so many things that they’re really not focusing on anything and you get this paralysis in your ability to really drive performance improvement. DT: At the beginning of the show I suggested that Robert is going to be offering our audience a great opportunity. Robert what is that?
RR: I am the MC of The Conference Board’s Customer Experience Conference. This is the 11th annual and only people listening to this and tied into Game Chargers are going to receive $500 off the price of it. This is the leading customer experience conference globally. It has sold out the last two years. It’s going to be on March 26 & 27 2015 in NYC and it has all of the top speakers. For example the morning that Jim is going to speak we’ll also hear from Bill McDermott, who is the CEO of SAP, and we’ll also hear from Dan Hesse, who was the CEO of Sprint for 7 years, and led the greatest turnaround of a company in that industry. So anyone listening here can sign up for $500 off.
DT: And Jim you are going to be speaking at the show as well, correct?
JM: I am and I’m very excited about it. I’ve been to the conference and I can confirm what Robert said. It is terrific and the quality of the speakers is fantastic.
DT: Robert you were going to ask a question about Dr. Merlino’s book.
RR: Jim, I read your book Service Fanatics and as you may know I read a business book a week so for the past 2 decades I’ve read well over a thousand. This is an absolutely breakthrough book. I particularly liked how it goes through all of the challenges of turning around a customer experience. But it also has straight forward solutions, like one thing I was thinking about, was the acronym H.E.A.R.T as a communications concept. Could you walk through what that is because I think it is something that is really fundamental but can be really helpful in responding to customer situations; and then talk a little bit more about Service Fanatics and what you set out to accomplish with it?
JM: Thank you for that Robert. I really appreciate your nice comments about the book. You know I just have to come back to your comment about why it’s important to talk about some of the challenges as well as the successes. My former boss Dr. Toby Cosgrove who is the CEO of the Cleveland Clinic always told us that we are never going to get better unless we really understand what worked but also what didn’t work so that we can build upon that. So, when we wrote the book we really wanted to give a real good look at the successes as well as the challenges because I think that some of the problems that we have in healthcare, all hospitals suffer with, so I wanted to be able to really help people understand that. The H.E.A.R.T. acronym was developed as a model to help caregivers recover service. Everybody thinks that when there’s a service failure in healthcare or in any situation that you should just apologize and do something to make it better, but the reality is that’s not the appropriate way to do it. In fact research demonstrates that if you appropriately hear the problem and recover and apologize that patients or customers walk away with a higher level of satisfaction. So the H.E.A.R.T acronym really is designed around: Hear the story. Provide Empathy. Act on the challenge. Respond to the problem and Thank the person for giving you their attention. So if you have a service failure, and you experience something you don’t like, we tend to get angry. If I apologize to you while you’re angry you’re going to look and me and think “you’re blowing me off; you’re not listening to me” – so you really need to hear the story and you need to do something to build some rapport and build some empathy. And once you do that – once you get the communication going then you apologize – then you respond to the problem- say you’re sorry, do something to make it better. And by the way remember to thank your customer. Thank your patient for being your patient and choosing you. So, you really want to teach people how to do it appropriately and the H.E.A.R.T. acronym gives them a very simple framework. It’s not about scripting – it’s just about providing a framework for caregivers to use when they encounter an issue with a patient.
RR: What’s fascinating is that is a very straightforward tactic and it shows how people make the mistakes of jumping into solutions before going through the first steps. Can you give one or two more examples of tactics – these are specific things that people can employ that may not even cost much money but that can immediately enhance the customer experience – organization situation and this doesn’t have to deal with just healthcare.
JM: Absolutely. And that’s a great point – patient experience or customer experience improvement doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. One great tactic is leading by walking around. At hospitals we call it leadership rounding where once a month all the senior leaders would get together for a couple of hours and spend about 20 minutes celebrating caregivers. And then they’d leave the room, deploy in groups of 3 or 4 and they’d go talk to patients, talk to caregivers; they’d round the environment – all this for about an hour. And then they would come back and share the experiences. By doing leadership rounding which only costs a couple of hours of time a month, we learned a tremendous amount about our organization and were really be able to focus on some very important improvements and could drive operational excellence across the organization. So, little tactics – acronyms to help people think about interacting with the patients – simple things like walking around. It doesn’t take a lot of money. There are things that anybody can do. If you’re a leader of an organization whether healthcare or not, if you’re not on the frontlines talking to customers, if you’re not on the frontlines talking to your employees you are missing very important information about what’s going on in your organization.
DT: Well you raise a very interesting point here because you’ve talked about customer experience not only in the context of healthcare but other organizations. And as you know our audience although heavily skewed to the healthcare world is represented by other verticals; nearly every other vertical from consumer packaged goods to manufacturing to technology. So the question I have for you is how does the person in the role of a Chief Customer Experience Officer engage senior management – especially the CEO when it comes to making customer experience a priority?
JM: It’s a great question and I’d personally like to think that every CEO is already paying attention to it but I understand the realities of how businesses and hospitals work and unfortunately it’s just not the case. I think the best way to do it is #1 – the data – when you have data from your organization that shows that your patients are rating you poorly that is a very important sign that you’re not only failing from a service perspective but likely you’re failing from a safety and quality perspective as well. One thing that I hold Toby Cosgrove in high regard for is when he recognized that we had a problem in this area using the data he grabbed onto it and said we’re gonna fix this. This is going to become a top strategic priority for The Cleveland Clinic and he led it. So the data was very important. Another piece of that is data in a different way. It’s the anecdotes. It’s the things that people are saying to you in letters, in phone calls. It’s whispering in restaurants to your neighbors and your friends that are windows to tell you that hey you’ve got a problem. If you’re not paying attention to the anecdotes you’re missing something as well. It’s using the hard core metrics to really evaluate where you’re at and benchmarking across the field so you can see where you are relative to others. And it’s listening to what people are saying about you. Somebody once told me, and you would probably know better than me Robert, that the way people define your brand is what they say about you when you’re not in the room. That is true in healthcare and when they say that about you in healthcare it’s not only about the service it’s also about the safety and the quality of the care that you get.
RR: You mention Dr. Toby Cosgrove, who I know, and he is absolutely brilliant. I think what everyone would love to hear – before we talk about lessons that healthcare could learn from business and business could learn from healthcare is – The Cleveland Clinic story. What really happened, because it is a remarkable case study of a turnaround. If you could give from your perspective what really happened – what the challenges are – just like in your book, Service Fanatics, you talk about all the warts that were there but what the outcomes were and how you overcame them.
JM: So what really happened was when Dr. Cosgrove became the CEO of The Cleveland Clinic he had recognized that patient centeredness was a very important topic and that major academic medical centers weren’t paying attention to it. He really set out by saying this is really going to define who we are. This is going to be part of our brand; this is going to be something we are going to focus on. We want to be on the transition on this issue. So he pushed us really before it even became in-vogue in the market before Medicare was tying reimbursement to it. The second thing that happened was he was actually at Harvard Business School, speaking to a group of students, and a young woman raised her hand in the front row after he was done speaking. She said you know Dr. Cosgrove, my father needed heart surgery, and we know about your reputation as a cardiac surgeon, and we know about The Cleveland Clinic’s reputation as a heart center but we chose not to come to you because you don’t teach your doctor’s empathy.” You know, that was a great epiphany because in one anecdote that one woman framed the ROI for academic health centers and why this is important. People are choosing healthcare. They’re going to differentiate how they’re treated because that’s what’s important to them. And the really smart people recognize that, you know, high quality healthcare can probably be had at the top centers across the country. So if you have a choice who are you going to choose? You’re going to want to go where you’re treated as a human being. And he walked away saying we’re going to supercharge that. We’re going to resource this. We’re going to have a Chief Experience Officer. We’re going to make this a strategic priority.
RR: Great story, thank you. So let’s look at healthcare and what other industries can learn from healthcare and then what healthcare can learn from other industries.
JM: The reason that we’ve gotten great success is because we looked at other industries outside of healthcare. We often have this philosophy that – well, if it’s not in your industry vertical than it’s probably not applicable – and I think that you can learn a lot from other industries. What I think industries can learn from healthcare is the whole idea of how you deliver great service to a relationship of customers where the patient experience is probably critically more important than anything else industries do. So, let me talk about that for a minute. If you look at relationships with customers where is it more personal than in healthcare? There’s no place. But yet we are in the ultimate service delivery business where the customer is not always right. We have to do things to patients that they don’t like. We create pain, we cause suffering and so we have to design our processes around delivering high service but at the same time engaging those customers so that they understand that it’s not just about when there’s a service failure it’s layering on something nice and new. It’s being able to communicate, have the discussion, helping people to understand what’s going on. So, I think the complexity of our service interactions is greater in healthcare. And what I would say to private industry is that you can learn from healthcare, because when we do this well, we manage to say no in a much better fashion than I think a lot of industries are capable of saying no at.
DT: This is really, really interesting because it does come back to cross benefitting from a whole variety of industry experiences. So, what advice would you give a Chief Marketing Officer – industry not withstanding, on how to create a great, memorable, relevant customer experience?
JM: I think it’s first asking the question: What do you want the experience to be? What kind of organization are you? Ask your employees, ask your customers and you’ll identify and pinpoint. You’ll identify their wants and desires. Number 2 I think it’s using data to understand where you’re at. It’s measuring what does the current state look like? And then number 3 – how do you execute? So you know that this is where you want to be. You agree that we’re going to make the customer or patient a strategic priority. We understand our data. So ask the question how do we execute? What are the processes that we need to put in place? What are the best practices that we need to adopt? How do we create training programs to make sure that our people are aligned around our customer? How do we incorporate talent management strategies so that we’re getting the right people into our organization that adopts our values and our mission that are driving our culture? So I think you can approach it from a very practical business perspective of really laying out almost a business plan to develop a strategy to develop a great customer experience.
DT: Earlier when Robert was asking you about shaping the customer experience you alluded to the idea of what the customers say when you’re not in the room. I really keyed in on that because I think there’s a tremendous amount of truth to that statement. One of the things that I would love to get a sense of from your point of view is; how do you turn your customers or patients into advocates? How does social media play into this? How does just pure and simple word of mouth work in a healthy customer experience environment?
JM: I once read something that providing a great customer service or patient experience is about doing nothing wrong and a few things really well. So I think it’s about really operationalizing your process and making sure that you’re doing things well. You’re not making any mistakes. That’s the first step. But then it’s understanding along that journey as customers, or in our case patients, as they march through healthcare what are the critical tactics? What are the critical touch points that are really going to get them walk away that they’re carrying the brand with you? What are the wowing experiences? What I think are the wowing experiences in healthcare for instance is number one how we communicate. Does the patient and their family have a clear understanding of what’s going on? What are the next steps? Do they feel like when we did communicate with them that we cared? That we drove compassionate care? Do they feel like the care was connected? So I think communication is probably a critical tactic in healthcare to drive great experiences.
DT: So empathy, good communication and a heartfelt connection with the patient or the customer is critical for success in the customer experience world, yes?
JM: Absolutely. Empathy is not just a healthcare term. It applies to any business that has customers. Do you really understand what it’s like to be a customer at your organization? Do you take the time to try and understand? I think that when you do that you learn a lot of things. And when you build your processes out to improve it people notice that and it creates tremendous loyalty to your organization, but more importantly relating to your earlier question it causes people to go out and talk about your organization in a very positive light.
DT: Jim, thank you for joining us on Game Changers Live. We really look forward to your talk at the upcoming 11th annual Conference Board Customer Experience conference, again to be held in New York in March. Until next time this is Dennis Troyanos and Robert Reiss for Game Changers Live. Game Changers Live is a production of The Troyanos Group. Excellence in executive search and consulting in the marketing arena.