Missionary or Mercenary?

Hank Adams, global director for health at HDR in conversation at the Cleveland Clinic Patient Experience Summit with Garrett Miller, vice president of strategic marketing and creative director for healthcare, education and government with Herman Miller; Peter Ruppe, senior vice president of footwear at Under Armour; and Matthew Von Ertfelda, senior vice president of food and beverage for the global operations of Marriott Corporation.

Adams:  Matthew, you mentioned that your father is a physician, so you have a unique experience and perspective on healthcare. What surprises you about healthcare experiences? Are they better or worse than experiences you try to create for your guests at your hotels and restaurants?

Authentic Human Connection in Service Delivery Design

Von Ertfelda:  It isn't easy having a father who has been a physician for 47 years and is still a practicing physician at the seasoned age of 81. I have experienced a lot of what you have been on the receiving end of from my dad who walked me through private practice to his new job not working for a healthcare provider. There are a lot of similarities.

The one area that I would really focus on is probably service design/service execution. You’ve heard my fellow panelists talk about emotional engagement and when we think about hospitality and think about my area of focused food and beverage, it is all about emotional engagement. Restaurant and bar experiences are the last frontier for true human service, touch and connection in a typical hotel. Your front desk experience will be automated. Certain tiers of certain brands will always be present, but in some areas, the front desk is going away. If you go to a Moxie hotel, you will check in at the bar, not at the front desk.

There’s something about service as a vehicle for true human connection that allows us to deliver a people-first philosophy and has obvious analogs for this side of the business. When I think about some of my own personal experiences, my dentist has this wonderful progressively-designed waiting area, lots of natural light, forward thinking, organic tones. I feel healthy. The associates at the desk address me by name, look me in the eye, are courteous and preemptive. There are never any issues. I contrast that with other experiences I have had in healthcare that have been completely institutional where there hasn’t been any hero moments from a service perspective and has been purely functional.

I equate those experiences with how we and other hoteliers approached brands way back when brands were substitutable and now it is through service delivering differentiation by brand. In healthcare there are certainly opportunities for service to deliver similar distinctions and that is how you deliver humanity. That connection is very important for us as people to maintain particularly in this area. 

Ruppe:  Everybody seeks a degree of comfort in whatever the experience is so you have to anchor yourself in that. The design principle is to understand that from the standpoint of how much I can move you forward from that, what is acceptable to you? We think about this in product design or experiential design.

One of the very first industrial designers in America came up with the principal of “most advanced yet acceptable.” What I would ask you is, where is your playground? Where are you experiencing the ways to push the envelope? Do that in a safe space, in a way where you can learn. Where is your Underground? What is your lab?

Instead of putting it right into your mainstream business, think about how to step forward just a little bit, how to engineer the experience to move it forward, and find the ways to do that where you can test it.

Miller:  Something we think about at Herman Miller is our own agenda. What are we trying to do in the industry?

In healthcare, not only thinking from a patient’s perspective and what they’re asking for or the doctors, or all the various staff, but also saying, as a larger entity, what are we authentically trying to do in this world? How do we translate that to an articulable agenda that can help us drive and focus the areas where we want to start to push, want to start to see what are people willing to do? How can we help encourage our employees to start to engage in different ways or, from a product standpoint, where are we going to place bets not just because we think that’s what could work, but because we want that to work because we have a stake in this game too and would like to see this industry move in a certain direction?

Von Ertfelda:  There is the long game and longer term bets that often require more time, more capitol, are more resource-intensive. But then there are the smaller experiments, the POCs, the experiments that can actually deliver similar, comparable value in a shorter time duration.

When you’re driving change and trying to unlock this innovation value of creativity across the organization, you have to think about how you’re going to do that, and I think it is a mixture of being a missionary and being a mercenary.

When you are a missionary, you evangelize and get people to buy in emotionally and drive and cultivate advocacy to other stakeholders, but you should also cultivate some mercenary tactics too where you can be a little subversive, break rules through proof of concept tests, which is a wonderful avenue for unbridled creativity and to do some things that, quite honestly, unsettle senior leaders and unsettle the organization. That is how you drive change — driving people sometimes to their discomfort zone. Balancing sort of both personalities of missionary and mercenary is one way to think about how to get some of these ideas pulled through.

Global Director, Health