This week on the DrMarketingTips podcast, Jennifer and Corey discuss how your medical practice can achieve Ritz-Carlton-like patient care standards by making small, incremental changes in how you go about delivering customer service.

As one of the most successful hotel chains in the world, Ritz-Carlton has achieved unparalleled levels of success, profitability, and customer services standards and is often hired by hospital groups to evaluate, train, and revamp their customer service departments.

How do they do it? And how can you emulate it (for pennies on the dollar)?

Tune in to discover:

  • Ritz-Carlton’s three pillars of success and how they apply to medical practices
  • Why proper training and onboarding of employees (from Day 1) are critical to achieving excellent patient care
  • How you can change the culture at your practice through 5 minutes every day
  • Simple and effective ways you can empower your employees to become customer service champs

Free Healthcare Awareness 2024 Calendar

Nearly every month of the year has a health holiday or observance, and there are also a number of awareness months that your patients and staff would love to know about. You also don’t want to miss chances to celebrate with your practice’s followers.

Free Healthcare Awareness 2023 Calendar

Nearly every month of the year has a health holiday or observance, and there are also a number of awareness months that your patients and staff would love to know about. You also don’t want to miss chances to celebrate with your practice’s followers.

Transcript Notes

recording: Dr. Marketing Tips, paging, Dr. Marketing Tips, Dr. Marketing Tips. You’re needed in the marketing department. Welcome to the Dr. Marketing Tips Podcast. Your prescription to the answers you seek to grow your medical practice easier, better, and faster. This show is all about connecting practice administrators and medical marketing professionals with peer working in practices; learning from experiences, making mistakes, and sharing successes. Let’s get started.

Corey: Hey everyone, welcome to the Dr. Marketing Tips Podcast. My name is Corey.

Jennifer: And I’m Jennifer.

Corey: And we are gonna change things up a little bit this episode. We were recently at a conference where Jen was able to take a unique course. It’s called the Ritz Carlton Leadership Center Excellence in the Patient Experience. She was in there for no less than, was it eight hours?

Jennifer: Eight hours.

Corey: That’s a lot of patient experience.

Jennifer: It was.

Corey: So, Ritz Carlton is such a successful company. What we wanted to do, was sort of go back and forth. I’m gonna ask a couple questions, and Jen’s gonna share some big takeaways from the talk. Did they share any insights into why they’re so successful; how they got there?

Jennifer: Absolutely. First of all, I was really drawn to this because we’re so focused on patient engagement and employee engagement, and I’ve stayed at several Ritz Carlton’s over the years and their level of service is so much higher than anything that you’ll get with a mid-level hotel chain.

Corey: So Best Western’s not gonna do it?

Jennifer: No, Best Western’s a good, clean hotel, but it’s a different clientele, and the expectation is much higher.

Corey: Absolutely.

Jennifer: And they’ve built that expectation. It was really interesting to hear what their three pillars of success are. One, is employee engagement. There needs to be people behind the product in order to achieve greatness, and the Ritz Carlton is 100% employee-centric. They put their employees ahead of everything else.

Jennifer: They know that when they have a staff who understands their ‘why’, everything else is gonna work. We talk about this a lot. This was the first day of a week long conference that we attended in San Diego. It was part of ASOA, which is the ophthalmology groups, and on more than one occasion, I heard people talking about the Simon Sinek, Start With Why book. It made me feel so good.

Corey: Yeah, it was in, I think I counted, five of my talks.

Jennifer: Where they were referenced at? Even at one point, they did the Ted Talk, and so, for our listeners, we’ve got I consider a really good blog post on, where we talk about in December where we went to Walt Disney World for a week and took the entire team. We did a facilitated Start With Why session. I thought that was really good. That was the first pillar of success for the Ritz Carlton.

Jennifer: The second pillar, was customer engagement. If they make their employees engaged, then they start focusing on customer engagement. What he said, was, “Look, if employee engagement works, then number two is going to happen automatically.”

Corey: That makes sense, yeah.

Jennifer: It makes perfect sense. This is something Richard Branson often refers to. He says, “Look, you invest in your people first, and then they will deliver excellent customer service. They’ll take care of your customers.”

Jennifer: Then kind of the third pillar of success, was, the Ritz Carlton is successful, they’re profitable, and they have organizational success, only because the first and the second pillar are working. Because they focus on their employees 100%, those employees deliver excellent customer experiences. That, in turn, makes them profitable, and makes their organization work smooth.

Corey: Yeah, that makes sense in today’s day and age too. You think, if people are gonna look for a hotel, they’re gonna look for reviews, and they want the best experience. If the employees are providing that, people are gonna talk about it, then, in turn, people are gonna go to that hotel.

Jennifer: Absolutely.

Corey: Right? So, what was your biggest takeaway from the training, and how do you think that can apply to our listeners at medical practices?

Jennifer: The biggest takeaway that he drove away constantly, was that the most important word in customer service, or customer experience, is consistency. Delivering a consistent product, every single time. It doesn’t work if on one visit to the practice, that the room is clean or the doctor says one thing, if on the second visit, the room was dirty and the doctor says something different.

Jennifer: You need to consistently be delivering excellent customer service, all the time. Every time a patient walks into the practice, they should be greeted by their first name, or “Mrs. Jones”. You have an EMR, and in that EMR, you have things that you can put into it so that the person greeting them knows a little bit of information about that patient, so that you can tie it back and create that personal relationship.

Jennifer: You should consistently be smiling at patients when they walk in. You should consistently lift your head up and not be, like into the paperwork. You should consistently call people by their name. You should consistently walk them to the patient room. That consistency is what makes all the difference.

Corey: Yeah, and that makes perfect sense. Like you said, you’re looking at the EMR, which means you have, typically, the patient’s little photo. When they’re coming up to the desk when they have the appointment, you can probably figure out who that is. If they’re walking up and you say, “Oh, hey, Doug. Good to see you.” That probably makes Doug’s day, because he feels like you remember him.

Jennifer: There you go.

Corey: Yeah. So did you come away with any specific tactics that can be applied directly to medical practice, and if you did, share some of those with us.

Jennifer: One, is the way that the Ritz Carlton achieves this level of consistency, is that they have something called standards. They have the Ritz Carlton standards. They say, we all need standards. We need to know the ‘why’, and we need to know what the expectation is. If the standard is that we’re going to treat our patients with the utmost professionalism and show empathy and get them in as quick as possible, then, the ‘why’ is because we’re trying to serve our patients. The ‘why’ is, our patients are in pain and we’re trying to heal them.

Jennifer: The expectation is, you’re going to deliver smiles on every visit. The things we just talked about: you’re going to lift your head. You’re going to walk them to the patient room. You’re going to address them by their name. You’re going to say ‘thank you’. You’re going to say ‘you’re welcome’. You’re going to say, “Have a great day, Mrs. Jones,” when she walks out the door.

Jennifer: Those are very easy standards that we can created within our practices; that we often forget about.

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Corey: At the Ritz, if someone doesn’t live up to these standards that they set, what happens to that employee? Is there some sort of like a ranking system, or what?

Jennifer: Employees go through a rigorous training and on-boarding program, so that the expectations are very clear, from day one. Employees, they don’t look for necessarily folks who have had enormous amounts of hotel experience. What they look for, are people that can deliver on the wow-moments. It’s not so much about a transactional moment, meaning, I need a hotel. I’m gonna give you my credit card. I’m gonna stay in the room tonight. It’s more about experiential moments, and how do you create those experiential moments?

Jennifer: They drive that home as part of the culture, to drive that home so that the employee, whether it’s a housekeeper, or whether it’s front desk, or it’s management, or F&B, they have the authority to deliver on those experiential moments. There is all kinds of research on that. You can go to the Google, and you can look it up what the Ritz Carlton does, but basically, they empower their employees to deliver those experiential moments, by giving them up to $2,000 per person, to make it right, or to create an experience.

Corey: Wow. That’s really interesting.

Jennifer: They throw that $2,000 per person out there. It doesn’t mean that anybody is given $2,000 a day worth of experiences away, but they empower their employees to make some basic customer service to make things right, or to make things special for the guest. We’re not saying that, as a medical practice that you need to empower your employees to give out money. You could say, “Look if the waiting time is beyond 30 minutes, you’re empowered to go out and hand out cookies.”

Corey: Right.

Jennifer: Or you’re empowered to give somebody a $10 Starbucks gift card, so they can go across the street to the coffee shop. Empower your employees to deliver those exceptional moments.

Corey: That’s such a small change that would make such a big difference. If you put yourself in the shoes of the patient, if you had someone walk around from the waiting area, their desk, come sit next to you, explain what’s going on, why they’re behind, here’s a gift card, thank you so much. That would be huge. You would tell everyone that you know that that happened if you were a patient at that practice.

Jennifer: Yeah, they say, focus on the unexpressed wish. Don’t just focus on the expressed wish. The expressed wish is, “I want to stay in your hotel.” The unexpressed wish is, “I happen to be here for my anniversary.” One thing they were really driving home is, as an example, he was in a practice actually, because at the Ritz Carlton leadership training, they get contracted by a lot of hospitals to come in and do customer service training with their teams, or to help them kind of blow up their customer service department, and really start elevating their level of service.

Jennifer: He was saying, he was sitting at a practice and kind of just watching. He was a fly on a wall. A woman walked up and she was talking to the girl at the front desk, and her phone happened to ring. Her phone rang, and it was her kids on the other line. She’s like, “Yes, I’m gonna pick you up at dance at 2 o’clock today.” The girl at the front desk said, “Okay, well will your followup appointment be okay for Friday?” She’s like, “No, my daughter’s in dance and my son’s got a soccer match.” So, then she said, “Great, instead of 2 o’clock Friday, we’ll do it at 6 o’clock, whatever, it’s all good.”

Jennifer: The lady left, and he gets up and he says, “Well, this was a teachable moment, so what did you learn here?” She’s like, “I didn’t learn anything here.” He says, “But you did learn something. You learned that her daughter is in dance and her son plays soccer, so put that into the EMR, so that next time, you have an opportunity to make a connection with this patient. That will just blow her mind.”

Corey: Right, and what does that take, an extra 15 seconds?

Jennifer: Absolutely.

Corey: Yeah.

Jennifer: Absolutely. He gave another example of a dental practice, and the mom was getting her braces put on, and her son was being unruly. Like a seven year old son just being unruly. Bouncing off the walls, because it was taking a while. So, they grabbed the little boy, and they said, “Let mom do this. Come with me.” Took him over to a little drawing table. Gave the kid a picture, a piece of paper and some crayons, and said, “Draw us a picture of what you think your mom’s gonna look like when she has her new teeth and her teeth are straight and her braces come off.”

Jennifer: The little boy drew the picture. It kept him quiet, let mom deal with what she needed to do. Then, he said, “What could you do with this picture to make it extra special?” The practice decided, we’re gonna hold onto this picture, and when mom comes in to get her braces off, we’re gonna frame it and provide it back to mom and say, “This is what little Johnny thinks of you with your braces off.” It’s a beautiful picture, and it’s a keepsake, and everything else.

Jennifer: That’s about going beyond the transactional, to the experience.

Corey: That’s fantastic. That’s really cool.

Jennifer: It’s great stuff, and you can translate any of these types of little things that don’t cost any money, but could make a huge difference in the practices we work with.

Corey: Absolutely. That’s really cool. So, before we hop on the air here, you were telling me something about the Four R’s that they were talking about during your session. Can you expand on that for a little bit?

Jennifer: Yeah, let me see if I can remember what they are. It’s Reinforcement, Reminder, Revelation, Relevancy. So, let me just expand. Reminders: focus on the unexpressed wish; not just the expressed wish, like I was saying. It’s not just that I’m going to the Ritz Carlton to stay the night. It’s more that I’m going to the Ritz Carlton for my anniversary to stay the night.

Jennifer: There’s some sort of unexpressed wish in the anniversary. Give it. Give whatever that unexpressed wish is to the patient, before they even know that they want it. They didn’t realize they wanted cookies, but could you have given them cookies? In customer service we should all know what the ‘why’ is, and know more about your patient than they know about you.

Jennifer: We’re not talking about, know more about their healthcare. No. Know more about their personal life than they know about you. Know more about their likes and wants than they might know about you. When we know more, we can do more. How can we find out more about our patients, so that we can elevate the overall patient experience. This is all about the patient experience.

Jennifer: Healthcare these days is very transactional. Anybody can choose an orthopedics. Anybody can choose where you’re gonna go for your internal medicine. Anybody can choose eye care. Where are you gonna go? Where are you gonna get your LASIK done? Where are you gonna get your cataracts done? It’s very open now. The patient’s in control. If you focus more on those experiences, the better.

Jennifer: It’s respect and value. Just knowing somebody’s name shows that level of respect. It’s great customer service. It’s all about filling in the little details in between.

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Corey: Yeah, definitely. And the Ritz Carlton, they do such a good job. They’re such a strong brand and they’re associated with that excellence, and so much of that, it sounds like, is because of their people, and they focus on the experience, like you were saying. So, how does the Ritz kind of get that buy-in from their employees to deliver that excellent service that they’re known for?

Jennifer: So, I think, one, it’s all about the way that they on-board their employees. When a new employee comes on, it’s a very structured onboarding process. They make sure that from day one, the new hire feels what that excellence is like. They go through and they have like a 90, plus another 90 days, it’s 120 total days, when they on-board, before a new employee is gonna be let out in the public. The day one, they hold your hand.

Jennifer: Something else they do, they said that culture doesn’t need to be talked about, it needs to be seen. It needs to be felt. They have a credo card, and this is something, when I was a county commissioner in Orange County, Florida, the mayor at the time, Mayor Jacobs, had a credo card, created specifically for the 9,000 employees that we had working with us at the county.

Corey: What is a credo card?

Jennifer: A credo card is basically, you said when you took that Seven Highly Effective Habits of Leaders, it’s your mission. It’s your values. It’s everything, on the card. For the Ritz, it’s part of their uniform. You can walk up to any Ritz Carlton employee, and in their pocket is the credo card, to be reminded. What they do to instill this culture is, every single day, they have a ten minute meeting of every person that works there. They work on shifts, so they make sure that there is a built-in overlap for shifts, because you cannot miss the meeting. The general manager runs the meeting at every place.

Jennifer: At every Ritz Carlton, every single day, they are having a ten-minute, stand-up meeting. You see this, you’ve probably heard about this. Wal-mart does it, Sam’s Club does it, but they come in and basically, they have 16 elements on their credo card, and they will talk about one every single day.

Jennifer: Let’s say that the element is something about cleanliness. They’ll read off the element, and then they’ll go around and say, “Hey Corey, you work in the billing department. How does cleanliness play into you? Can you give us an example?” They’ll share kind of those examples. They’ll also share, and it’s quick, it’s fluid, but they’ll talk about, what great experience did we deliver yesterday. Tell me your good story.

Jennifer: When there’s a breakdown, say there’s a negative or something happens, they don’t take it on as a blame. So, if a guest has a poor experience, they don’t necessarily blame the front desk person that happened to be working there, but they talk through what the breakdown was, so that collectively they can figure out how to move it forward.

Jennifer: They share kind of these big wins or these great experiences that get delivered, and every single day, they’re working on one of the credos. They know that, because every 16 days, they’re starting over, it doesn’t become redundant. The credo is kind of exemplified through the stories that are taking place at the hotels.

Jennifer: If you were to say, “I’m gonna start my day at my practice with a quick meeting, every single day, and we’re gonna focus on one area every single day of these ten areas that are our focus for the year,” let’s say that it’s patient experience, and you go around and you say, “Hey, Sally, you’re a tech, or you’re working at the front desk, what did you do yesterday? Share with me. Who’s got a story? Who’s got a story?” Those stories help develop the culture.

Corey: Yeah, and I would imagine too that, if they have some time within that ten minutes, they recognize employees, right? So if there’s a birthday, or an anniversary–

Jennifer: That’s exactly what they do.

Corey: So you’re telling me, all it would take is an extra five minutes a day, and then you could really sort of hammer home on some of these things?

Jennifer: Yeah, and they use this time too, we’ve talked about this so many times, one of the number one reasons why people are leaving our practices, employee-wise, is because of communication breakdowns. They use this time to say, “All right, today’s Thursday. We’ve got a VIP in the hotel. This is who the VIP is. The service elevator is down, so pay extra special attention to that. So and so’s birthday. We’ve got this going on. We’ve got that going on.”

Jennifer: If you just took two minutes a day, where everybody had said, “All right everybody, this is what’s happening at the practice.” You could change the culture.

Corey: Yeah, and if the meeting was mandatory, like you said it was at the Ritz, they can’t say they didn’t hear about it, they didn’t know about it.

Jennifer: There you go.

Corey: Whatever it was. They feel engaged. They feel included. That’s very cool.

Jennifer: You know every branch manager, every manager, if you’ve got satellite offices, can be responsible for their own.

Corey: Their team, yeah.

Jennifer: Absolutely. It’s an easy way to change the culture, and you don’t have to do too much planning for it. It’s just one of those things. You do a quick stand-up meeting. You’ve got a start time, I mean, at practice, you have a start time, you have an end time. Every practice, you’re not open 24 hours a day.

Corey: Right.

Jennifer: There’s no reason you can’t start a day for five or ten minutes. If you open at 7AM, start at 6:50AM, and take on those extra couple minutes.

Corey: I love that idea. Okay, so before we started, you said, I have to ask you about the pickle. Show me the pickle. What does that mean, and why did I have to ask that?

Jennifer: I love it. We watched a video, of a gentleman who owned a bunch of kind of ice cream parlor restaurants. It’s an older video, probably from the 80’s, and I can find it and we’ll put it in the show notes. It’s on the Google. Basically, this restaurant owner got a letter one day, and it was from a customer. The customer said, “I’ve been coming to your restaurant for ten years, and I love it. I love your pickles. Those pickles are the best darn pickles. I came in last week, and I asked the waitress if I could have an extra pickle, and she charged me an extra 35 cents.” The guy was like, “Ughhh. We can just give away those pickles. Just give them the pickle. It’s just something little. It’s so incremental. It doesn’t cost anything extra. Give them the pickle.”

Jennifer: That’s what customer service is. We don’t need to be nickel and diming every single thing. So, how can you take that whole philosophy of not nickel and diming, and creating those extra special experiences back to your practice. Just give them the pickle.

Corey: That’s great. I think there’s a ton of value in that course, and it sounds like there are some quick things that can make a big difference for a lot of our listeners out there; a lot of big takeaways from such a successful company. Would you say that was worth your time? It sounds like it was.

Jennifer: Absolutely worth my time. I’m excited to go back into our patient experience training and maybe even add a couple modules based on what I learned here. I really think that spending time on your employees, focusing on delivering exceptional experiences, not just to the patient, but also to the employees, will pay dividends to the practices we’re working with. I’m stoked. I think it was a great spend of my time. I look forward to the next time I can spend some time on my education.

Corey: Awesome. So, with that, I’m Corey.

Jennifer: And I’m Jennifer.

Corey: And we’re gonna go get some pickles.

Jennifer: There you go! Have a great day!

recording: Thanks for listening to the Podcast. If there’s anything from today’s show you want to learn more about, check out for our Podcast resource center with all the notes, links, and goodies we mentioned during the show. If you’re not already a subscriber to our show, please consider pressing the subscribe button on your podcast player, so you never miss one of our future episodes. And, if you haven’t given us a rating or review yet on iTunes, please find a spare minute and help us reach and educated even more of our medical practice peers. Thanks again for listening, and we’ll catch you next time, doctor’s orders.

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