Tending to Your Clients: A Lesson from the Hospital Bed

By Tom Borg

Taking a cue from those in the nursing profession might just mend your business and give it a healthy future.

A short while back I had the good fortune to have my appendix removed. I say “good fortune” because the procedure saved my life. It also gave me the opportunity to experience some incredible examples of off-the-charts customer service.

Here’s what happened. One Sunday morning, I had abdominal cramps. I told my wife, and she wondered if it could be my appendix. I promptly retorted, “I doubt it,” because no one in my immediate family, including my father, mother, three older sisters and younger brother has ever had his or her appendixes removed. But as the pain grew worse, I wondered if I could be the first.

The pain continued to grow worse and worse, and Monday morning I made the decision to go to see our family doctor. After some tests, my doctor informed me that I needed to proceed to the hospital immediately. My appendix was highly suspect and would probably need to be removed.

Upon arrival at St. John’s Medical Center in Novi, Michigan, and after more tests and X-rays, I was informed that I would indeed need to have my appendix removed urgently. It was removed, and three days later I was sent home, only to develop post-operative ileitis, an inflammation of the ileum, the farthest segment of the small intestine. This complication got so bad that 10 days later, I was readmitted to the hospital for six more days.

As I lay in my hospital bed recovering, I discovered a team of doctors and nurses and other support personnel who behaved as though they were on an important mission. It’s a mission they take very seriously, which is to give their patients a caring and supportive environment in which they can heal.

Of all the team members involved in helping me recover during those nine days, three nurses stood out among all the others with whom I came into contact. They’ve given me permission to use their first names. The three super nurses are Sheila, Kelly and Leslie.

A team effort

These nurses worked three-day shifts of 12 hours each, either day or night. The first day shift began at 7:30 a.m., and Sheila was the lead nurse.

She walked into my room with a big smile, greeted me by my name, and introduced herself and her assistant. She explained to me in a very caring and concerned tone that their job was to help me recover enough to be able to go home. She communicated to me all the latest information about my condition, and how important it was for me to feel comfortable.

She welcomed all the questions I had, and explained that my healing and recovery would be a team effort between the hospital staff and me. She explained my options as to the medications and how they would be administered; how often I would have my vitals, such as blood pressure and temperature, checked; and showed me the button on the remote that I could use to call a nurse if I needed assistance.

One thing stood out about Sheila. Often she’d be whistling a happy tune as she walked into my room; I called her my whistling nurse. It was a little thing, but it meant a lot to me because it added such a cheerful and personal touch.

The next two nurses, Kelly and Leslie, worked as a team on the 7:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. shift. Sheila introduced them to me. I must tell you that after having spent 12 consecutive hours with Sheila, I felt that I really knew and liked her; I didn’t want to see her leave. Now I‘d be under the care of two strangers whom I didn’t think would be nearly as good as Sheila. I was wrong.

Both Kelly and Leslie bubbled over with enthusiasm and positivity. They struck me as people who are following their true calling and who really love what they do. They, too, told me their purpose was to help me heal and recover. They’d be on night shift duty for the next three days, and I felt really fortunate that I would have them watching over me during that time.

Kelly impressed me with her willingness to listen. She’d stop what she was doing, look directly at me, and listen, giving me her full attention. She listened to me as long as was necessary, and then a bit longer, creating such a presence of caring and concern that it was as if time stood still. I could literally feel a healing energy coming from her.

As for Leslie, I could tell that she was an experienced lead nurse who knew how to facilitate the healing process. She also radiated caring and compassion, making her an even more effective therapeutic presence. Together, Sheila, Kelly and Leslie were a powerful combination. I felt assured that I had the right team to help me on my road to recovery.

These three nurses weren’t just working a job, they were living out their life’s calling. They had a purpose and a mission they truly embraced.

Applying their lessons

You may be asking, “That’s great Tom, but what does all this have to do with business?” Let me boil down for you exactly what these three nurses accomplished and what lessons every organization that has clients or customers can learn from them and apply.

First, they answered my four silent questions.

They’re the same four questions your clients and customers have for you and your green industry team but will never say out loud. The questions are:

1. Do you like me?

2. Do you care about me?

3. Can I trust you?

4. Do you know what you are doing?

Sheila, Kelly and Leslie answered my first question, “Do you like me?” by the way they smiled, made eye contact and called me by name; by the words they used to introduce themselves; and by the positive vibrations they emitted when they were in the room with me.

They answered the second question, “Do you care about me?” by carefully explaining what they were going to do, answering my immediate questions, and assuring me that if I needed help, all I had to do was push the call button on my remote.

They answered the third question, “Can I trust you?” by their consistent professional demeanor.

And finally, they answered my last question, “Do you know what you’re doing?” by demonstrating knowledge about my condition, by regularly checking with the doctors handling my case and by instantly accessing my reports and test results online.

The big takeaways

Here are the takeaways that I want you as a leader to get from my experience.

• Make it your goal to hire people with the right attitude, who love what they do and are commited to doing it well.

• Help them to learn, understand and embrace your company’s mission and its goal of giving every client the highest possible level of service.

• Teach them to have a reverence for helping their clients get what they need and want.

Nurses and other professionals take continuing education courses throughout their careers. Make a commitment to your team to invest in their constant learning and improvement process. When they reach the level of professionalism demonstrated by the three nurses who took such good care of me, your organization will be in a class by itself.

Tom Borg is a team performance and customer experience expert who works with small businesses and organizations in the green industry to improve customer acquisition and retention. He helps these organizations through his consulting, speaking, training and mentoring. He can be reached at 734.404.5909 or at tom@tomborg.com, or visit www.tomborgconsulting.com.