Patient Experience Lessons from Chick-fil-A

Posted by Kristin Baird on August 26th, 2014 • No Comments »

One thing I love about leading workshops for both leaders and front line staff is what I learn from them in the process. I’ve had countless rich moments and meaningful takeaways as they share their stories with me. Their insights and experiences have given my work more depth.

Over the years we’ve led hundreds of classes and focus groups with employees and consistently ask them to share stories of great customer service as an ice breaker. Chick-fil-A is mentioned as consistently as Ritz Carlton and Disney in certain parts of the country. When asked to be more specific about what this fast food chain does to impress customers so consistently, I hear about how attentive the workers are and how every request is met with the statement, “It’s my pleasure.”

I realize how different it is to be a nurse caring for a critically ill patient from a high school student serving chicken sandwiches, but the experiences both come down to the same thing: how the experience made the customer feel.

During one of my Nurse/Patient Partnership© workshops, one of the nurses spoke up about a small change she had made in her approach to care that made a huge difference to her and her patients. She shared an epiphany she had about her approach to care. And that epiphany was triggered by an experience at Chick-fil-A.

She told us, “I like going to Chick-Fil-A as much for the service as for the food. One day when the server handed me my sandwich, I automatically said, ‘thank you’ to which she responded, ‘it’s my pleasure.’ I got to thinking; the work I do as a nurse really is a pleasure. It’s an honor to care for my patients every day, but I hadn’t been expressing that. Sure I would say thank you to them, but I hadn’t been saying out loud just what a pleasure it is to be allowed to care for them. I thought to myself; if a server at Chick-Fil-A can be sincere in expressing that it’s an honor to serve a sandwich, I certainly can express the same sentiment to my patients. So I have started to tell my patients at the end of my shift that it has been a pleasure to care for them. I walk away feeling better connected to my work, and I can see the patients light up when they hear that they are important to me.”

When I started this work in the patient experience in 1990, so many healthcare leaders met me with everything from overt resistance to condescension that this was all fluff. They continually tried to ‘educate’ me about how healthcare was special and couldn’t be compared to other businesses. After all, healthcare is about saving lives. That was then and this is now. I’m so glad that we, in healthcare, are finally embracing the humanness of the work and humbly accepting that it all comes down to human beings caring for other human beings. And that is a pleasure.

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Baird Consulting

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