What can the NHS learn from hospitality?

Yesterday I sat in the hospital waiting area with my Dad, while he waited for a scan. As an in-patient this made a welcome break from being on the ward all day. We were actually there for over an hour and a half, and during the lapses in conversation I observed the receptionist.

(I use the term receptionist loosely here as my understanding of the term receptionist is attributed to someone who greets or welcomes visitors, patients, or customers, and alas I did not see much greeting or welcoming going on here).

She didn’t appear to be particularly busy. In between munching her way through a large piece of cake I observed her barking out the question “Name?” (note, no please), lots of scowling over the top of her reading glasses, and telling people to take a seat. Absolutely no indication of the wait time, where to get refreshments, or any attempt to put people at ease.

In the hour and a half we sat there I cannot claim to having seen her make eye contact or smile with any one of the patients.

Contrast this with the welcome I received at the little B&B I was staying in near to the hospital. A big smile as my host opened the door to me, and addressed me by name. I was shown round, and taken to my room. 5 minutes after arriving I was brought a welcoming cup of tea (and yummy cake), and asked if there was anything else I needed. All this in the space of 5 minutes and more welcome than I’d seen to the entire population of that hospital waiting room in the hour and half.

What does it cost to show a little warmth and welcome to people who are probably already nervous about the examination they are about to have, or the results they will receive? I think the NHS should take some lessons in customer service from hospitality. You never know, if people get a better experience, it might make them feel a little better, and might even go some way to aid their recovery.  

Getting the best from your team will be the theme of my tele seminar – Leading for Peak Performance – on 19th October

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