Taking a leaf out of the hotel business

Suzy Jones headConcetto MarlettaHCA’s The Lister Hospital has launched Project World Class in its drive to deliver a five-star hotel service. Chief operating officer Suzy Jones shares her dream with Independent Practitioner Today, while Concetto Marletta (right) describes the training involved


Customer service is integral to the reputation of any organisation, whether it is a corner shop or a world-leading private hospital.

High-quality customer service builds reputation, increases the chances of repeat business and provides a competitive advantage.

In an aim to further build its new and existing customer relationships, HCA’s The Lister Hospital (pictured below) in London recently embarked on an exclusive five-star training programme: Project World Class.

Lister Hospital smallDelivered by Totally Indispens­able, experts in international luxury hotel service, Project World Class aims to differentiate The Lister Hospital from its competitors through its standards of service.

A five-star hotel service is the next stage in providing luxury hospital care and The Lister Hospital is the first to take on the challenge.

Suzy Jones, the hospital’s chief operating officer, explains why they decided to take on the challenge: ‘It is our vision to make The Lister Hospital the hospital of choice, and to do so we need to ensure all patients leave feeling positive and happy about the experience and the care they received.

‘We want them to tell others of the exceptional service and exceptional care. The effect on staff morale and positivity is equally amazing.

‘I met with Totally Indispensable just over a year ago when I was looking to raise the standards of service within the hospital to that of a five-star hotel. The brand is widely accomplished in training London’s top hotels and high-end brands, but has never previously worked within a hospital.

‘It was an exciting concept for both of us. We spent several months working together observing the way in which we work and areas where we may want to focus.’

Mystery patient

Concetto Marletta, founder of Totally Indispensable, says the training took eight months from the assessment to the final result.

‘The initial assessment began with a mystery patient at the hospital, who stayed for a week and allowed us to observe the way in which a patient is likely to be treated.

‘Simultaneously, one-on-one interviews and focus groups with the management team and the employees were conducted, as well as surveys to assess exactly where the hospital currently stood with regards to its customer services.’

Ms Jones continues: ‘Following the assessment, the company sent us a lengthy report based on their observations and interviews with both the managers and the staff.

‘This consisted of a 128-page report outlining the strengths of the hospital and the opportunities to improve, especially with regard to the need to promote consistency in the provision of services. From that moment on, Project World Class was born.’

Patient’s journey mapped

According to Mr Marletta, the project was one of refinement and sophistication. ‘We mapped out the exact course of a patient’s journey to include all potential interactions and measure the parameters of achievements. We then produced a manual of service standards for the hospital to enable them to achieve consistency in their customer service.

‘The training programme itself involved educating all staff of the hospital on the importance of the change to reduce resistance and promote the transformation. The hospital had to design a service that individualises each single patient.

‘It has all kinds of people coming through its doors – from celebrities and aristocracy to middle-class parents and working-class people – and part of the training is to know how to deal with each of these people.

‘Other defining parts of the training involve teaching the employees how to always be present to the patient, in ways that vary from their approach to the patient to their approach to their colleagues.

‘Explicit measures such as looking and sounding the part also were taught and implemented, involving grooming, body language and use of language in the hospital.

‘These were discussed and rehearsed during interactive, role-play exercises and were designed to cater individually to each department – from the nursing department to the catering department to the pharmacy.

Maintaining momentum

‘The Lister Hospital’s standards were divided into two categories: the Detailed Standards of care, which include black and white options on how to behave, with specific time-frames for each department, and the Core Standards of care, encompassing the pillars of standards for the hospital to acknowledge and follow at all times.’

After the official training ended, there was ongoing training and updates to maintain the momentum and keep the project alive.

It is expected that the programme will not only give the hospital the opportunity to learn how to do what it already does better but also to help it to recognise how the staff can add special touches by adjusting their behaviour in the way they deliver services and helping them to learn how to create memorable experiences for everyone they interact with.

‘Our aim is not only to attract new patients, but also to acknowledge and empower the exceptional colleagues that we have here.

‘We can’t afford to stand still in such a competitive market –although we’re all doing a fantastic job already, there is always scope to raise the levels of service offered by the hospital, mirroring the levels of hospitality offered by any international five-star hotel.’

Anticipate needs

Ms Jones says: ‘Our goal is to create memorable experiences in every interaction for the patient; going the extra mile, being proactive in all dealings with patients so we anticipate their individual needs. We can also get the basics right just by being polite, well mannered and showing respectful behaviour  – that is the service we need to be constantly applying.

‘We want to give our patients the best experience we possibly can, both with the consultants’ level of expertise from London’s top teaching hospitals, our state-of-the-art clinical setting and equipment and truly individual care, attention and service.

‘When new staff or temporary staff do not act or meet the standards we have created, we guide them to these standards, as we do not want to see the standard drop.

‘These core standards are now set and are in a format that allows teaching and rationale at meetings or staff review sessions. Once we begin to embed the programme, our aim is for patients to insist that their GP send them to The Lister Hospital and staff members are queuing to work here – that’s the dream.’