Recently, my wife and I spent six nights in the hospital with our newborn son who was admitted for a respiratory infection. Thankfully, we brought him home, healthy, a few days ago. We also brought home an overwhelmingly positive view of our experiences with all of those we encountered at the NC Children’s Hospital, part of the UNC Health Care System.
Specifically, we appreciated the excellent customer service. A focus on customer service? At a hospital? We were surprised too.
You would think a hospital wouldn’t need to have good customer service. After all, most hospitals don’t face significant competition for some of their specialized services. And the very nature of a hospital means that there are many stressful, rushed situations that are not conducive to the finer points of customer service.
But that’s exactly what we got. It was as simple as this: every single person that entered our room on the 6th floor of the NC Children’s Hospital, from our nurses to the doctors to the housekeeping staff, was courteous, friendly, and asked us, “Is there anything else I can get for you?”
As a businessperson, I am fascinated by how such a simple question could be so ingrained by all the people at the hospital–especially from those with such disparate roles–so that it was asked without fail every time someone left our room. If it hadn’t been so genuine, it would have been spooky. Even the day after we got home, a nurse followed up with us to see how our son was doing.
It’s clear to me that the people at UNC Health Care System have internalized their mission of Leading. Teaching. Caring. With another world-class hospital 10 miles down the road at Duke University, perhaps UNC thinks they need to compete on this customer service angle. There’s probably not that much difference in the facilities that are available at UNC and Duke. And, as this article from the magazine Healthcare Executive mentions, it’s easy to provide the high-tech items that patients and families desire. It’s harder to provide the high-touch items.
Regardless, it’s clear that UNC’s strategy is working because my wife and I chose UNC for our son’s care precisely because of the positive experiences we had there during the births of our two children.
So what can be learned from this experience?
1) If you’re going to have a mission, you have to commit the resources to back it up. Most of the time, missions are created and quickly forgotten. But when you can show consistency between your mission and your action, you provide value to your customers.
2) Even if the UNC Health Care System wasn’t in a competitive environment with Duke University Health System, the way UNC treats its customers is the right thing to do. It makes families who are already tense and scared feel welcomed and cared for.
3) The UNC Health Care System is well-run, whether that is due to good management of employees or good selection of employees that fit with their mission. I’m guessing it’s a little of both.
Has a good customer service experience surprised you before where you’ve least expected it?