Should We Treat Our Customers Like Dogs?

Dennis Knox - high resBy Dennis Knox, CEO of Antelope Valley Hospital

Healthcare may not be going to the dogs, but perhaps it should be. In my experience, we can learn quite a bit from those who make their living caring for man’s best friend. 

A personal experience I had in Phoenix left a lasting impression in my mind and underscores my point. My wife and I were searching for a doggie day care center where our beloved Boxer, Blue, could not only socialize with other dogs, but where her handlers would take really good care of her. We went by a business called “It’s a Ruff Life” where dozens of pugs were swarming all around during the center’s annual “Pugapalooza” get-together event for pugs. Because of the event, the center was closed to the public; and the staff clearly had their hands full. But when we knocked on the door and explained we wanted to check out their business and we only had this weekend to do it, they welcomed us with open arms.

To our pleasure they did not express disdain, roll their eyes nor hesitate to show us around amidst all the pugs. They immediately engaged us in discussions about Blue. It was evident they treated their dog customers like they were their own personal pets. They talked to them, loved-on them and played with them in a caring manner. The dogs reciprocated with understanding, trust and appreciation. Clearly this was the place for Blue!

As I think back to that day in Phoenix, the dynamics I witnessed make me wonder, “Should we treat our customers like dogs?” After all, if we interacted as caringly with our patients as the It’s a Ruff Life’s staff does with their canine customers and their families, wouldn’t they, too, react with understanding, trust and appreciation? Would we be their hospital of choice?

Although hospitals and health systems are clearly not doggie daycare centers, I think we can all agree that there is a lot to be gleaned from how we care for man’s best friend. When we treat the sick and the vulnerable under our care, we have just as great a responsibility for their well-being as those at the doggie day care facility showed for our cherished four-legged friends. So in this regard, if healthcare does indeed “go to the dogs,” my experience shows it will be a good thing. 

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