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Caring as Marketing

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I'm alive, but man -- what an insane last couple of weeks, both personally and professionally.  I'll be blogging about the executive search-related issues after they get resolved, but not now.

On the personal front, my wife gave birth to our new baby daughter, Vivian Marie, on June 18.  Mom and baby were doing fine until Monday, June 25.  Beautiful baby.  Just beautiful.  Our fifth, btw.

Let me say how impressed I am with Northside Hospital in Atlanta.  Locally, the place is known as a "baby mill" -- and ladies, if you get a chance to deliver there, do it.  They have the whole thing down to a nit.  Every tiny corner of Northside's sprawling complex is filled with little signs and reminders for staff members on how to treat patients with the utmost care.

Get Good People

But just because you show a line-level employee a sign doesn't mean that they will treat their customers with real empathy.  That starts with hiring the right people.  Northside has this function dialed in, I assure you.  They anticipated my wife's every need -- and when things got "exceptional" they were able to use their common sense and deeply specialized knowledge of pediatric care to put out the fires.

So we delivered baby Vivian a week ago Monday, and continued to rave about Northside to anyone who would listen.

But this past Monday morning, my wife became very ill and had to be whisked away in an ambulance to Northside's ER.  I won't get into the details, but it was pretty intense.  My father-in-law used to tell me that "When you are healthy, you have a million problems.  When you're not healthy, you have one problem."

My wife (and I) spent Monday and most of Tuesday in Intensive Care.  She's fine, and we're home.  She's on bed rest, and the prognosis is excellent.

But again:  When we were in the ICU, Northside's staff was un-be-liev-able.  I'm talking about real empathy here, which is amazing considering that hospitals are temples of controlled chaos.  There's no point in managing by exception in an environment whose very existence is predicated on round-the-clock crisis.  As a nurse, there's no use pretending to care.  You either do or you don't.  Nobody can fake it all the time.

The Miserable Majority

Two years ago I heard an HR statistic that 66% of all workers hate their jobs.  Hate.  Sixty-six percent.  I don't know if that's true -- but even if the number is only 26%, then one in four people who are paid to serve you throughout your day (grocery clerks, postal workers, cab drivers, etc.) are doing so while transmitting the vibe that "my job sucks and my company sucks and I wish I were someplace else."  Friends, you're never going to win the hearts and minds of your clients like that, I assure you.  Technology and branding are irrelevant if you're hiring "well poisoners."

Good service is devine.

I won't get religious here, but I'll share something religious with you just to make a point:

There's an old Christian sermon about treating everyone around you AS IF they were Christ (or God) Himself.  Get it?  God is occupying the body of some random person that you meet -- just to see how you will treat them.  Sort of like a Mystery Shopper.  The story ends with the Bible verse "As you did it for the least of your brethren, you did it for Me."  There's probably a similar parable in the Qur'an, the Torah, and the sacred scriptures of other faiths.  Pretty universal concept.

I imagine that if you simply used this verse as your company's mission statement, you'd make a ton of money.  I'm not even sure the industry matters.

Certainly, the line-level staff members at Northside embrace this principle.  And now I'm blogging about it.  Tell your friends.  Send them a link to this post.  And for God's sake, hire those rare individuals who are genetically coded to care for others.  In a pinch, they'll make all the difference to your customer experience.

Now have a nice day.  And see to it that everyone around you does, too.  The money will take care of itself.

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Harry Joiner is an executive recruiter specializing in integrated marketing and "new media." He has been featured in MarketingSherpa's Great Minds in Marketing series and received coverage in the Wall Street Journal's Career Journal Online. According to Viral Garden's weekly rankings, Harry's weblog is one of the top 25 marketing weblogs in the world.

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  • by Paul Barsch Fri Jun 29, 2007 via blog

    Harry, glad to hear everything is well and congratulations on #5. Now as per your post, I think the administrators running King Drew Hospital out here in LA, could use a complete overhaul--in every respect.,0,5281026.stor...

  • by Lewis Green Fri Jun 29, 2007 via blog

    Harry, Thank you for sharing. Congratulations on your baby girl, and thank God and Northside that your wife is well. Your points are well-taken, but with the arrival of a new baby and a rush to the emergency room, I think I will leave my comment with the important things said.

  • by Mack Collier Fri Jun 29, 2007 via blog

    Harry congrats on Vivian Marie, and glad everything is ok now!

  • by Harry Joiner Fri Jun 29, 2007 via blog

    Thanks to all for your kind wishes. Strange how time passes so slowly in an ICU. It's like a fish bowl or something: a 10x10 room which you cannot leave, and into which only the orderlies (and Oprah) get to enter. Yet looking back on it, I'm not sure it would have made a better or worse impression on me had the amount of time we were there been 5 days. Time just grinds to a h.a..l...t....

  • by Ann Handley Fri Jun 29, 2007 via blog

    Happy Birthday Vivian -- and glad everyone is ok and home now. Thanks for the update, Harry.

  • by Harry Hallman Sat Jun 30, 2007 via blog

    Harry, congrats from another Harry from Atlanta. My granddaughter was born at Northside 2 years ago December. I agree they were excellent. I am happy to hear that things are okay now and wish you and your family the best. Harry Hallman

  • by Cam Beck Sat Jun 30, 2007 via blog

    Woo hoo! Congrats!

  • by Tinu Abayomi-Paul Mon Jul 2, 2007 via blog

    I love that Parable. Congrats on the health of your wife and the birth of your fifth child. I believe you're right, caring is the best marketing there is. The people at Desert Springs Hospital in Las Vegas are a wonderful set of truly empathic people as well - if you get sick in Vegas INSIST that you're taken there. Even without insurance you'll be treated with dignity and respect.

  • by Harry Joiner Mon Jul 2, 2007 via blog

    Thanks again to all. And Tinu, I still can't get over how emotionally draining nursing must be. I'm a commission-driven animal. If I were a nurse, I'd have to change my M.O. or my patients would drop like flies! I realize that's not a very Christian outlook, so don't quote me on that ... Ann, I love the new look and functionality of the blog. It's so smart! When do I get my new mug? And what about that pony?? Vivian was asking me about it earlier today!

  • by CK Tue Jul 3, 2007 via blog

    Harry: Thank you for sharing this experience that must have put you through every emotion available. Congrats on that beautiful baby and I'm so relieved to hear your wife is doing well. To think you took the time to compile this post that exemplifies amazing committment to superior work is really very touching...I'm sorry I missed it before today--but maybe today was the perfect time to read it. What your father-in-law says about having a million problems vs. one will never be forgotten; it's so true. Many blessings to you. Sending you much goodness (grace, too).

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