By Tom Paquin
A few months ago, my wife Kate and I welcomed our baby girl into the world. She is the light of our life and I am so madly in love with her, proud of her mom for everything she put her body and mind through to bring her into the world, and overjoyed at a lifetime of possibilities for our little one.
While we were very fortunate to have a relatively straightforward pregnancy and birth for our child, I understand implicitly that the act of childbirth is never really stress-free. Birth at a hospital, too is complex—You’re working with a network of caretakers, managing processes that can shift on a dime, all the time with the implicit need to keep processes quick and seamless.
As it is with any service-oriented activity, I can’t turn off my service brain, and, really, any visit to the hospital is a kind of service appointment. For my baby girl, it was her first. And like any service appointment, there are lessons that we can learn and apply broadly to other service instances. Let’s discuss a few. For this exercise, we’ll consider a hospital as the service provider.
Predictive Planning and Scenario Screening
While it’s impossible to know precisely when a baby is going to be born (unless it’s scheduled, of course), you can usually get a pretty decent idea how many patients will be giving birth at any given time at a specific hospital. You take the number of childbearing people who have OBs within the hospital’s network and build some statistical analysis based on how far those people are along, how many additional people might show up unexpectedly based on historical data, and you can build a pretty decent projection of staffing, inventory, and room needs for a given time within a specific range.
We’ve talked about this before but it remains a salient—and overlooked—utility for service development that I think is key in all service scenarios, but in hospitals, getting it right could be the difference between life and death.
Television shows have long prepared me for the presence of the eponymous “chart” hanging from the end of every hospital bed in the world, ready to share any pertinent information about a patient’s symptoms, status, and course of treatment with the medical professionals on any given shift.
Understanding not just the milestones that a customer experiences as they go through a service visit, but also the “condition” of that customer is key in any service appointment. Are they ready for an upsell? Do they have specific requirements as highlighted in an SLA agreement? Not too long ago we discussed the importance of meeting customers where they are, and this is another component of that.
When you have a baby, if everything goes according to plan, there’s an instant when suddenly there’s a new patient. The mother, as a patient, is “sunsetted”, and the baby, as a patient emerges (Somewhat literally). This can happen in all sorts of service appointments, as well. Perhaps, in isolating an issue on a customer site, it becomes clear that there’s, instead an infrastructure problem. This is not uncommon in areas like telco and utilities, in which consumer needs are often tied to transmission and distribution challenges, though the two are not always mutually exclusive, and are sometimes interconnected.
The important thing in these scenarios is don’t forget customer #1. If the issue is resolved at the handoff, but persists at the symptomatic site, then guess what? Not only do you have an unhappy customer, you have an issue that hasn’t been resolved.
These are just a few examples, but these are all competencies that, while spending a few days in the hospital with our daughter, we saw managed with various degrees of competency. Nevertheless, when you’re living it (and you can’t turn off the service part of your brain), you start to see the connections, and realize that there are a great deal of areas that service companies could ignore at their own peril.