It’s a Ruff Day … or, Should We Treat Our Customers Like Dogs?

By Dennis Knox, contributor.

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I’ve always been an advocate of having a pet therapy program in my hospitals. It’s typically a program where once a week volunteers bring pet therapy dogs into the facility. The resulting joy for the patients is therapeutic and they are left with a heart-warming, lasting impression.

That reminds me of a story of a personal experience in Phoenix some years back that left a lasting impression in my mind. I am very fond of dogs—especially my beloved Boxer, Blue. One Saturday, my wife and I were in search of a doggie day care where we could have Blue continue to not only socialize with other dogs, but where she would be well cared for. We went by a business that was called “It’s a Ruff Life,” and I recalled seeing dozens and dozens of Pugs swarming all around! No other breed was in sight! The constant motion was hilarious!

Dennis Knox, CEO

It’s a Ruff Life

It’s a Ruff Life was actually closed to the public that day, being a weekend. I found out that the event they were putting on was called Pugapalooza, and it was an annual get-together event for Pugs. They obviously had their hands full, and the last thing they needed was an interruption, but we expressed to the staff that our objective was to simply check out their business and we only had this weekend to accomplish the task.

To our pleasure, even though we disrupted their day, they did not express disdain, they did not roll their eyes, and they did not even hesitate as their customer service instantly kicked into high gear. They immediately engaged us in discussions about Blue and conducted a tour of the facilities. It was evident that the staff knew what they were doing and treated their dog customers like they were their own personal pets. They talked to them, they treated them affectionately, and they interacted and played with them in a caring manner. The dogs reciprocated with understanding, trust and appreciation. By their actions the staff instilled the message in my wife and me that they wanted our business and that our pet was in good hands. Clearly this was the place for Blue!

Should We Treat Our Customers Like Dogs?

The dynamics I witnessed that afternoon prompted the unusual question, “Should we treat our customers like dogs?” In all seriousness, what if our business depended on us talking and interacting with our customers and their families in a caring manner? Would they react with understanding, trust, and appreciation? Would we be their hospital of choice?

This is obviously a rhetorical question because we all should be on a transformational journey to a patient-centered care culture. I believe that a big part of the journey is for individuals to focus on improving their own work environment so that they can better serve their customers. If your employees aren’t happy, your patients, guests, and physicians will not be happy.

I believe many of us do this to a great extent inherently, but it’s probably not consistent enough to become part of your hospital’s reputation. If each of us consistently demonstrates this type of caring behavior, you can and will be known as the hospital of choice and the employer of choice!

With every patient encounter we can leave a wonderful lasting impression in the minds of our customers!

Dennis Knox is currently Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Aethena Healthcare Holding Company in Los Angeles. Aethena Healthcare Holding Company “is a healthcare consolidation platform with the mission to consolidate the fragmented Urgent Care industry. We plan on having scalable growth, achieving exponential revenue growth with incremental increased costs through streamlining operations. We are seeking vertical and horizontal integration of all facets of assets within this sector. Through standardization of care along with major improvements in the business infrastructure, we will be the Starbucks of Urgent Care, projecting to go public by 2020.”

Mr. Knox has also been CEO of Antelope Valley Hospital in Lancaster, CA; CEO of Western Medical Center, in Anaheim, CA; CEO and Managing Director of UHS/Southwest Healthcare System; CEO of Ardent Health Services/Lovelace Medical Centers/Downtown & Gibson, in Albuquerque, NM; CEO of Vanguard Health Systems/Phoenix Baptist Medical Hospital and Medical Center - Phoenix, AZ; CEO and System Vice President of Memorial Hermann Health System/Memorial Hermann Pasadena Hospital & Memorial Hermann Continuing Care Corporation in Pasadena, CA; and CEO and Executive Director of R.T. Jones Regional Hospital/Hospital Authority of Cherokee County in Canton, GA, among other prominent roles in healthcare. 

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