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Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Environment is Part of the Experience

A business' physical environment can create expectations about the service about to be performed, facilitate the service exchange and differentiate one experience from its competitors. Most often, however, environment is treated as afterthought, or modeled after benchmarks that may not be appropriate.

Children’s Mercy Hospital uses the physical environment to help in giving world class care to children.

Operating in the most complex of service environments, Children’s Mercy understands that the customers – children in various states of health – are dramatically impacted by their physical environment.

The experience starts before a patient has passed through the doors, with an edifice that more resembles a giant playhouse than a hospital. Inside, the layout and internal architecture plays to the fancies of children while guiding patients toward caregiving interactions. “Down the hall, 3rd door on the left” is replaced by, “follow the balloons to the balloon elevators.” Floor patterns and wall murals resemble fantasy play areas, and most directional signs pertaining to children are kept at their height-of-eye.

The carefully scripted environment puts children at ease in a time where they may be scared or in pain - in itself making the effort well worth it. From a service providers’ point-of-view, the environment also puts patients into a more comfortable state regarding the complex and somewhat scary experience that awaits, creating, even in small children, a customer much more capable of fulfilling their role in highly personal interactions taking place.

CMH is a great example of what so many other organizations could do to make their physical environment a contributor to service success.

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