Stories Build Desired Culture

Stories are the backbone of culture. And like culture, they must be orchestrated by design to be most impactful. 

Quantitative data is essential in moving organizations toward specific goals. You must be able to measure your starting point, milestones, and the target goal. When plotted on a graph, the numbers tell a story, but won’t like evoke emotion. 

When I started my consulting business, healthcare organizations were just beginning to collect patient satisfaction data. I mistakenly thought that with the data collection, they would also be ready to see their shortcomings and be eager to make changes. I found a high number of leaders who, instead of accepting the data, disregarded the survey tools, methodology, sample, and everything else in order to denounce the findings. 

It struck me that, to help leaders believe the numbers, I needed to present stories too. It was during a kickoff meeting with a group of executives. We had come a day early and walked the campus, surreptitiously snapping photos of things that evoked a reaction- positive, negative or just curiosity.  This was pre-smart phones so we had to take several steps to digitize photos for presentations. 

Mystery Shopping Stories

When the executives started expounding on why the data was wrong, I booted up the computer and started sharing photos and stories from our walk through the day before. I talked about my first impressions and how those impressions made me feel about the organization as a whole. At one point, the CEO stopped the meeting and gave the order to remove broken and bandaged furniture. Seriously. Our photo showed a chair in the main waiting area held together with white adhesive tape. 

It was then that our mystery shopping services were born. We had learned that pictures and stories speak volumes about the patient experience. Since then, we have collected thousands of stories from consumers about the experiences that determine whether or not they would recommend an organization. One demonstrates the need for both quantitative and qualitative research.

We often wonder how all the HCAHPS dimensions can look good but the “would recommend” question scores are low. Here’s why. During an ER visit, one mystery shopper shared positive experiences about wait time and provider interactions but said she would never return or recommend. Why? Because during her wait, one of the employees cursed at a mentally ill patient telling her to shut the F*&! up. Game over. When this shopper told the story, she described her shock and horror followed by the thought that “they” are rude and disrespectful here. The survey didn’t capture this story and yet, the patient was clear that she would never return. 

Find the real stories, good and bad, and you’ll find the real patient experience. 

Tags: , , , , ,