More Stories from the Road – By Janiece Gray (with help from Jim Mock)

medical kit

Ever since I was a little kid, I wanted to do two things when I grew up: I wanted to be  like my Mom and take care of kids, and I also wanted to be like my Dad who carried a briefcase and left the house each morning. So yes, I played a ton with dolls, but I also carried around my Fischer Price Doctor’s Kit pretending it was just like my Dad’s Hartman attaché case. (Occasionally I switched it up and tried carrying the Cootie box around but it wasn’t quite the same.)

For the past 40 years, my Dad has travelled  three to four times a month for his work in sales all across the country. In fact, he’s travelled enough to earn the distinction that few hold: he is a 2 million miler with his airline of choice.   My last blog compared several travel experiences to healthcare experiences, and it generated so many emails and comments from those of you who read it, I thought I’d reach out to the person I know who travels the most, my Dad, for a few more examples of customer service stories that stuck out to him from all of his adventures.

Scenario One from Dad

“…When they called me by my name, my first name. Those are the moments I remember. If you ever want to break down a barrier, address the other person by name and if appropriate use their first name. No matter what the situation, it puts two people on the same team — it can lead to a state of familiarity and closeness. Closeness can lead to loyalty and can encourage cooperation.”

I had that same experience Sunday evening when boarding a flight for San Jose. I wasn’t feeling the greatest and while I appreciated being bumped up to the Comfort-Plus seat, I wasn’t thrilled about being in the middle seat on a 3.5 hour flight! So, I kindly asked if there wasn’t an aisle seat available somewhere else. The gate agent had to call me back to the front and butchered my first name, as usually happens. I am so used to it after four-plus decades, I hardly noticed. When she was done helping me she said, “How do you say your name? I’m so sorry I pronounced it wrong.” This made a significant impression on me as someone who has all but given up on finding people in the general public that can figure out my name!

In the Care Team Coaching I do, I always encourage physicians and staff to try to pronounce the patient’s name but to also ask them what they like to be called. For example, when people address me as “Mrs. Gray” I still look around for my mother-in-law!

Scenario Two from Dad

“As an airplane begins its descent to the airport at the end of a flight, I like it when the pilot comes on the sound system and says, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, as we begin our preparation for landing, I just want to say that we realize you have a choice as to which airline you can choose for travel. Thank you for being on our flight today and thank you for choosing XYZ Airlines.’

I wonder what a patient’s reaction would be if a doctor would say something similar? Certainly, now more than ever before, people have choice as to which doctor and which clinic they use.

Personally, I had to have a CAT Scan prior to a medical procedure. Three days later, I got an envelope in the mail from the laboratory. I thought perhaps it was an invoice for the services rendered. Instead, it was a thank you card from the radiology technician who performed the test, thanking me for choosing their facility.”

Wow, talk about service that sticks out and creates a memory! I’m interested to hear from you. What things have you experienced or what are you doing in your organization to help put some of these types of “Wow” factors in place?

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, that’s my original “doctor’s kit” a.k.a. pretend briefcase in this week’s photo. Thanks to my Mom who kept it all these years; all of the inside pieces are there as well! Now all three of my kids, (yes I did get to become a Mom) have enjoyed playing with it.  In fact, photo credit to my daughter, Alyson Gray, who texted me that picture in time for this blog since, you guessed it, I’m travelling!

Janiece Gray

I began my career as a social worker and later, with my Master of Health Administration (MHA), directed operations at Allina Health in Minnesota. I later directed patient experience at Allina. My background and experience give me strengths in approaching healthcare opportunities and challenges through a systems lens – with unique strengths, challenges and activation points. My experience is also informed by leadership roles leading performance improvement in patient-centered care and patient experience departments. Working in the client role with healthcare consulting firms inspired me to address some unmet needs in the industry, and to co-found DTA Healthcare Solutions. I have a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, and find that the discipline of practice translates to healthcare work very well.

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