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Vanderbilt Children's Hospital, Masters of CX Design

Customer Experience (CX) is all about creating positive perceptions.  Doing this is especially hard when your customers are going through a tough time.  Few would know this better than the team at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee.  People with unimaginable pain enter these doors every day, and yet most will exit with new hope and authentic smiles.  How does Vanderbilt design a patient experience capable of so much?  Many answers were revealed for our family this month as we navigated my daughter's tonsillectomy.  This post will explore the innovative principles of CX design used by Vanderbilt from which we can all benefit!

Children's hospital

Before we talk about anything CX related, I would like to say that the nurses, doctors, and supporting staff who serve in a children's hospital are remarkable people.  I can think of almost no occupation both as difficult and as important.  The family across from us in the pre-surgery area had been rocked by sudden news of a series health condition with their young daughter.  The love, compassion, and skill of the Vanderbilt staff as they accepted the responsibility of making her well was a powerful thing to witness.  I will quickly relay my personal experience with Vanderbilt Children's Hospital before isolating the key lessons in CX design….

The first thing we saw when we walked into the hospital was a young girl admiring a beautiful dress on display on the wall.  There are decorations like this everywhere, making it feel more like a children's museum than a hospital.  When we came into the surgery center, a friendly staff member gave us a map entitled "your surgery journey" to help us visualize precisely how the day would go.  How amazing is that!  Even my 10-year-old daughter could look at the map and understand the different stages.  We waited in what appears to be a game area in which a kind staff member was present to engage the children in exciting ways specifically.  While waiting in the pre-surgery area, there was a whirlwind of nurses and doctors explaining things to my wife and me.  Before my daughter could become overwhelmed by the lofty vernacular, a specialized nurse came in specifically to talk to her and explain everything visually.  My daughter was very concerned that they were going to hurt her in the surgery room while she was unconscious.  This nurse was able to explain that the vast majority of the equipment in the surgery room was not for her.  My daughter finally relaxed at that point and was wheeled back with more bravery then I could have mustered.  The doctor was fantastic, and the procedure went off without a hitch.  The recovery nurses were incredibly attentive and helpful.  Before we knew it, our family was in the car headed home feeling relieved and happy.

A few learning moments really stood out in this journey…..

Anticipate to Win- So much of CX design is anticipating your customer's needs.  In Vanderbilt's case, everything was designed for the children in mind.  They know that a positive experience for the child means a positive experience for the parents.  There were several moments where all we could do was wait, allowing anxiety to creep in.  By keeping their minds busy with positive distractions at crucial times, the whole experience was greatly enhanced.  Who is your key stakeholder?  What are they nervous about as they engage in a relationship with you?  Can anything be done to build excitement instead?

Expectations Are Everything - Customer Experience is all about managing perceptions.  By giving us the "surgery journey map" at the very beginning, we had a good idea what we were in for.  It's essential to offer your customers a vision of the future that is both realistic and easy to understand.  If you allow customers to create their own expectations, they are going to wind up being disappointed almost every time.  Have you made the customer journey easy to understand for everyone in the organization?  Are there moments where customers often become confused or feel as though expectations are not met?  Focus on improving these "moments of truth."

The Power of Simplicity - The nurse speaking to my daughter and putting the procedure in words she could understand was a significant turning point in our journey.  So often, we talk over our customer's heads and expect them to follow half-blind.  We make the journey about ourselves and expect the customer to navigate our processes.  The reality is the customer is the hero of the story.  It is our job to come alongside them as a guide and see them through to resolution.  How can you take the focus away from your company and put the customer in the center of the story?  How can you position yourself as a capable guide who is there to simplify and illuminate the path to success?

It's a remarkable comfort to know there are places like Vanderbilt Children's Hospital helping families in need and doing it with such skill.  We were fortunate to walk out the front doors that afternoon having concluded our current journey.  Many families have a far more difficult road in front of them.  All of us can help Vanderbilt with their mission of "getting children well on their way."  Visit here to learn more.

I hope this story inspired you in the pursuit of excellent CX design.  If you're ready to learn more, please join me at ICMI Contact Center Expo. I'll be speaking in session 203: Building Blocks of an Effective Customer Experience Program. In the meantime, don't hesitate to share in the comments what you are doing to create a fantastic patient or customer experience!