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No bull: Marketing lessons from the ER

By December 15, 2008One Comment

No bull: Service matters everywhere

We had to take my four year-old daughter to the emergency room yesterday. No, there wasn’t an accident—but a really bad cough turned for the worse and we needed medical advice, pronto.

We took her to Swedish Hospital’s Issaquah ER and got exactly what we were looking for, and more.

Though we’d never been to this ER before, instead of being handed a stack of forms and sent to the waiting room, we were in a private room in front of doctor in approximately five minutes.


Along the way, we were helped by at least five people who were friendly, attentive and professional.

We learned my daughter has a viral form of pneumonia, were provided with care instructions and then discharged promptly.

As we left, a woman in reception asked her if she’d like a surprise and showed her a large display of Beanie Babies. With a huge smile, she picked a rainbow-colored bear and was given the chance to pick a Beanie for her brother, as well.

“My brother loves red,” was her response as she pointed to ‘Snort’ the bull, above.

We’ve never left the ER with a smile on our faces, until yesterday. And with that, Swedish won one family’s business for life.

Here’s what Swedish did right:

  • By asking a few questions, not dozens, and letting us carry a few simplified forms with us into a room made us feel like treating our daughter promptly was their priority
  • A decisive, well-trained staff was able to run lab work and take x-rays immediately, providing the doctor with the information needed to make his diagnosis
  • The Beanie Baby gesture was unexpected and appreciated—and was certainly buzzworthy
  • The fact is, the way you serve your customers—at every contact point—may be the most important marketing you do.

    Great service—service that’s truly better—gets people talking.

    This post is evidence of that.

    So, where have you received exceptional service when you’ve least expected it? Did you tell others? How did it influence your selection process the next time you needed that product or service?

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    • WOW! I’m saving your post in the folder for the book I’m writing, which will have a big section on customer service. A hospital that gets it is rare indeed.

      Shel Horowitz, award-winning author of Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First and six other books

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