Everything Matters

On my umpteenth commute through an airport this past year, I picked up a book from Tom Peters’ Essentials series called “Design.” It’s a quick and entertaining read perfectly designed for cover to cover perusal over the typical span of time one spends waiting for planes, waiting on planes, riding on planes, deplaning – well, you get the idea.

Peters hooked me on page 16 under a quick passage called ‘Hotel Hell.’ What any road warrior will tell you is that after getting up at 4 am for a 6 am flight to make an 9 am meeting that finishes at 4 pm in time for you to catch a 7 pm to arrive at the next stop by 9 pm where you get to your hotel by 10 pm and hope to catch up on the day’s emails and prep for tomorrow’s meeting before falling to sleep at midnight — what MAKES YOU CRAZY is that most of the time, you are moving furniture or crawling around to find a power outlet close enough to lounge on the most comfortable piece of furniture with your laptop. To quote “only 1 in 10 or 15 hotels get it.” It, being that after 16 to 17 hours of hard labor, the last place I want to sit and work is “at a crappy desk, with unbelievably crappy desk chairs. ”

The point Peters makes is that design is the principal difference between ‘function’ and ‘experience.’ Peters explains, “For me, design encompasses not just manufactured goods . . . but a company’s entire value proposition. In other words, every aspect, tangible and otherwise, of the experience on offer by the company.”

In other words, everything counts. And it counts from our customer’s point of view. Walk into Apple, Starbucks, Whole Foods — look up, down and sideways — everything from layout to decor to uniforms to product mix to technology to employee engagement is purposefully designed to create an indelible experience. Customer experiences create brand perceptions, brand perceptions influence consumer behaviors, consumer behaviors drive business outcomes. It’s a pretty simple formula.

How many of us as health care executives have spent the day waiting in our own emergency rooms, sat in a hallway half dressed for hours, tried to call and schedule an appointment with a doctor’s office on our lunch break, met a registration clerk that doesn’t look up while barking ‘next,’ didn’t get the call about biopsy results because no one thought it was necessary to report a happy negative, tried to schedule appointments around working hours, filled out the same information over and over on forms — should I go on? The point is — it all matters. No matter how much we fall in love with the ‘promise’ of our brand, it’s the ‘action’ of the brand that imprints like permanent ink.

Fast forward to chapter 3: “We continue to talk about ‘service and quality’ as the key attributes of value; instead we must understand that “EXPERIENCE” is not only a very big word . . . with far reaching implications . . . but it is nothing short of the basis for a . . . totally re-imagined organizational life form. (Truly.)”

(Composed after finding a power outlet behind the bed)

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