Customer service Marketing Training & Development

“Management Lessons from Mayo Clinic” That We Can All Learn

Every service provider is challenged with engaging employees and creating systems to deliver a positive customer experience, but none more so than those who work in healthcare. So what can be learned from the Mayo Clinic? This excerpt, from the book Management Lessons from Mayo Clinic by Leonard Berry and Kent Seltman, explains it best:

“Imagine what can be learned from an organization that serves customers who:

  1. arrive with some combination of illness or injury, pain uncertainty, and fear
  2. give up most of their freedoms if hospitalized
  3. need the service but dread it
  4. typically relinquish their privacy (and modesty) to clinicians they may be meeting for the first time.

“Mayo Clinic and other well-run healthcare organizations serve just these kinds of special customers who are called patients and still earn high praise and fierce loyalty from them. Yes, indeed, a successful healthcare organization offers important lessons for most business organizations.”

Inside Mayo Clinic

There’s quite a story behind the powerful and enduring brand that is the Mayo Clinic with its emphasis on patient-first care, medical research and education, an integrated approach to healthcare, and a strong partnership between physicians and administrators (an adversarial relationship in many hospitals). Co-authors Leonard Berry, Distinguished Professor of Marketing at Texas A&M (one of my mentors), and Kent Seltman, former Marketing Director at the Mayo Clinic, studied Mayo Clinic’s service culture through in-depth interviews and observing patient-clinician interactions.

Their book paints a fascinating picture of the history and culture of Mayo Clinic, including how it engineers its internal systems to support its patient-first mission. Best of all, the book contains great lessons on creating and managing a brand that has achieved incredible growth in a difficult and challenging industry while staying true to its core values. The story is even more amazing given ongoing medical technological advances and the financial and political pressures placed on the healthcare profession.

Listening to the Voice of the Customer

Berry and Seltman share numerous quotes and testimonials from patients, their families, doctors, nurses, administrators, and their families, to illustrate the Mayo Clinic story. (Some of the anecdotes brought me to tears.) Even with Mayo Clinic’s unique position in healthcare, the authors do a great job discussing lessons applicable to other service firms in the “Lessons for Managers” section throughout the book.

One of my favorite chapters describes how Mayo Clinic manages the different types of clues that positively impact the customer experience:

  • demonstrating competence to instill customer confidence – e.g., with a collaborative team approach to patient care and integrated & timely access to medical records.
  • influencing first impressions and expectations – such as the design of physical space to convey a sense of healing and calm to reduce the stress of patients and staff.
  • exceeding customer expectations – including extraordinary sensitivity to patients and their families.

I recommend Management Lessons from Mayo Clinic to all service management, marketing and branding professionals … and everyone who works in healthcare.

Caution: the only downside after reading this book is the possible dissatisfaction with most healthcare institutions. If my family or I need critical care, my first choice would be Mayo Clinic!

2 replies on ““Management Lessons from Mayo Clinic” That We Can All Learn”

I agree with your assessment of this book as “must reading.” There are some wonderful lessons to learn from a successful “100 year old brand” and I have used similar examples from Mayo in presentations to my clients (see “Clueing in “Customers”, by Leonard Berry and Neli Bendapudi in The Harvard Business Review, 2/03).
The point, of course, is that strong brands are vital to increasing customer trust of intangible services such as healthcare – and driving organizational growth. Moreover, a service brand is created, in large part, by the customer experience.
My own work in healthcare marketing has to do with helping organizations that don’t have a 100 year history to develop a competitive and differentiated brand strategy. And while this is a pre-requisite to the development and execution of an effective communications effort, too often this job is seen as the sole province of the marketing department and the advertising agency.
This book makes the inescapable point that the external marketing efforts need to be consistent with and supported by the customer experience delivered by the internal organization. I echo this point with my clients – suggesting that brand development begins with a clearly articulated strategy that reflects the internal culture, is embraced by the employees and then reflected in its external communication. When these elements are aligned, the brand grows in strength. And strong brands have a variety of benefits, from growth and volume to employment and retention, etc.
Enjoy the read. It’s well worth it.

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