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Ideas. Insights. Inspiration.

Retail Lessons from a Hospital

My mother had some minor foot surgery recently, so I spent a day at Humber River Health.

The experience was not what I expected.

It was much, much better.

I was extremely impressed by how the hospital had implemented "everyday technology" to make things easier for patients and family members.

For example, when my mom checked in, the person responsible for her intake assigned her a number. That number, along with an associated QR code, was printed on a wristband and placed on my mother's wrist.

Then the intake specialist asked who was at the hospital to accompany my mom; my mom called me over and introduced me, and I was asked for my email and cell phone number... I could get real-time updates on her surgical journey.

This is incredibly smart.

There was no need for me to bother the nurses for updates, or worry that I haven't heard anything, because I got every available update in real-time.

In fact, I didn't even need to check my phone: the waiting room had a large television screen where (anonymized) patient status scrolled through (by assigned number) on an ongoing basis.

A TV screen displaying anonymized patient information at a hospital.

Keep in mind, this wasn't new technology.

After all, we track shipments throughout the supply chain with precision every single day.

And if I can track the location of a package being delivered from a warehouse to my home, why shouldn't I be able to track the precise location of my mother in a hospital?

No, this wasn't new technology.

It was old technology used in a new way.

That's the first lesson retailers can learn from this hospital:

The technology you need likely already exists, you just need to discover how to best deploy it in a way that makes things better.

I was also pleasantly surprised (and extremely impressed) by how every single person we met with friendly, empathetic, and knowledgeable.

Every single one.

When I needed to get through a locked door, the receptionist didn't push a button and "buzz me through", she got up from her station, walked over to the door, and swiped me in. I joked that she needed a remote control to save her the trouble, but she just laughed and said she didn't mind. And do you know what? I believed her.

Whenever I had to ask someone where I needed to go, the hospital employee didn't point in a general direction and offer some unclear directions they hoped I'd be able to follow. Instead, they all said, "let me show you", and walked me where I needed to go. This happened on three separate occasions.

When the paramedics were poking and prodding my mom with various instruments and needles, they made a point to ensure my mother and I understood what was happening. Hospitals can be scary places, but sometimes the more your know, the less you fear.

It was clear this hospital decided to ensure the patient experience was a top priority.

And it showed.

That's the second lesson that retailers can learn from this particular hospital:

When you make the customer experience a priority, people are likely to notice.

I hope I don't need to go back to Humber River Health any time soon because, well, it's a hospital... and who wants to spend any time in a hospital?

But if I do need to visit a hospital anytime soon, and I have any choice in the matter, I know where I'd like to be taken.

And I suppose that's the third lesson to be learned:

When you work to make things more efficient and focus on delivering exceptional customer experiences, people will choose you whenever they can.

Retailers, take note.


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