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Personalities: It's All About the Service

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As chairman and chief executive officer of Loews Hotels, Jonathan Tisch understands the importance of customer satisfaction. His recent book, Chocolates on the Pillow Aren’t Enough: Reinventing the Customer Experience, stresses the importance of making the customer experience memorable—even in healthcare, where often the only experiences patients remember are bad ones.

On the similarities of healthcare and hospitality: It’s about taking care of individuals who are entrusting an experience to you, the provider. When people leave the safety and security of their own homes, they are going to an environment that they might not be familiar with. The unknown is what often gets people scared. If you can work hard to reassure them in terms of the basics—comfort, dining and a sense of caring—you’ve gone a long way to covering the concerns that people bring to your facility.

On putting the “service” back in the service industry: We all have nice rooms and marble in the lobby and flat screen TVs, and we’ve upgraded our bedding product. But the real way you differentiate yourself from the competition is the attitude and the willingness of you and your coworkers to understand service and be able to offer value. Hospitals are in a similar situation. When you look at the dedication of the nursing staff and the medical team, they factor into it because that’s what people relate to. Human beings relate to human beings.

On the importance of first impressions: When someone is checking in, they are immediately doing a mental calculation: Is it clean? Is it safe? Am I going to be comfortable? How do you make people feel comfortable in an environment that is unsettling to begin with? It’s a daunting task, but hospitals now are reaching out to the lodging industry to find ways that they can all work together.

On compensating for subpar facilities: In my business you can overcome it with great service, but keep in mind that the competition is such that there will most likely be someone offering a newer product and wonderful service. That gets to the competitive nature of business today, whether it’s in lodging or in healthcare. There are a lot of smart, well-capitalized people out there who are finding ways to do it better than the competition, and that’s why it’s in the best interest of any type of service sector business to understand the intersection of physical product and the ability of humans to do the best they can to make their company or their particular hotel or hospital stand out.

—Molly Rowe