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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Several of these things are not like the others.

Last month, I posted on Children’s Mercy Hospital and how they effectively used the physical environment to create expectations, facilitate the service exchange and differentiate it from other care experiences.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to visit a specialist clinic considered a branch location of the hospital.

Great care once again, but a completely different experience.

The physical environment of the main location was not nearly as evident as it was the main hospital. Though partly due to working out of a leased space vs. the owned environment sculpted to fit the strategic service vision, the effect was evident throughout. The staff was not visibly oriented to perform child health care, making it feel like a regular, every day clinic.

Providing consistency in service experiences is tough. Operating from multiple locations makes it even more difficult, adding differences in the experience from location to location. Even if the quality of outcomes is consistently high, an inconsistent experience diminishes the reliability of the brand promise.

To combat the effect that location-to-location differences have, the “keep it simple” mantra works well.

If the experience is going to be managed centrally, focus on replicable aspects. Standardize core service processes, while giving front line service employees the ability to work outside process to stay true to the spirit of the service. Create uniformity of the service philosophy through how internal service providers, performance measurement and front-line hiring principles, and consistent internal brand messaging. Where service-enabling technology is used, implement system-wide.

There was no outcome failure. The care given by the branch of CMH was consistently exceptional, but because the location had less focus on the unique needs of the child customer than the main branch, I left with a diminished opinion and future expectation of the brand.

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