Bridging Hospitality and Healthcare: A Convergence of Service Excellence


In the realm of service-driven industries, hospitality and private healthcare stand out as beacons of guest-centricity, each with its unique desire to connect and their overarching objectives. While hospitality has a long history of unparalleled service delivery and immersive guest experiences, private healthcare has been looking to better understand how to incorporate this magical connection and part of its offering. Whilst looking back in the mirror hospitality is reaching to gain more perspective on increasing the human connections of empathy, warmth, care, and compassion in its quest to attract a more boutique offering.

Each has the capacity to learn from other as ultimately, they are both in search of the recipe to engage employees to deliver on a more defined and clear guest experience. However, the intersection between these domains is often overlooked. By scrutinising their respective offerings and aspirations, comparing customer service to guest experience, and advocating for a shift towards a guest-centric mindset in private healthcare, we can uncover valuable lessons for both sectors.

Hospitality has evolved into a gold standard of service excellence, characterised by engaging staff, personalised experiences, and a relentless pursuit of customer satisfaction. Whether it is a luxury hotel, boutique property, or high-end renowned brand, the ethos of servitude must permeate every aspect, aligning employees with the vision and values. Central to this sits in the mindset of a Hotelier and one that is driven by the cultivation of pride and ownership. This only comes to life through the employees fostering a culture where every interaction is infused with genuine warmth, attentiveness, and a true desire to exceed expectations.

In contrast, private healthcare is propelled by a profound commitment to empathy, care, and compassion. Patients, often in vulnerable states, entrust their well-being to healthcare professionals, expecting not just medical expertise but also understanding, support, and reassurance. Yet, the parallels between hospitality and healthcare are striking and sometimes misunderstood. Both revolve around serving guests – whether patrons or patients – in a heightened state of emotional need and expectation. While the emotions evoked may differ, ranging from anticipation and excitement in hospitality to anxiety and apprehension in healthcare, the underlying complexity remains constant. They both necessitates a workforce that is not only highly skilled in their respective fields but also emotionally intelligent and attuned to the nuanced needs of their guests or patients.

The terminology used – customer versus guest – is not merely a semantic distinction but a reflection of a broader landscape.

While “customer” implies a transactional relationship, “guest” conveys a deeper sense of warmth, belonging, and hospitality. In both hospitality and private healthcare, guests are welcomed into environments where their well-being is paramount, whether they are paying patrons, family members, suppliers, or transient visitors. Hence, I understand the challenge with the word customer and therefore advocate the term guest experience in healthcare. The choice of term underscores the profound significance placed on human connection and the art of making guests feel valued, respected, and cared for.

Delving into the historical context, we find a shared legacy of hospitality transcending mere accommodation. Welcoming visitors into one’s property, however temporary, was an honour steeped in tradition and status. Similarly, private healthcare institutions have historically embraced a duty of care towards those seeking healing and solace. Both sectors are fuelled by a sense of servitude, where the passion of employees breathes life into the promised experience, transforming mere transactions into enduring memories. These two worlds are more alike in many ways as both require exceptional and resilient employees that embrace a true desire to make a difference in the lives of others.

At the heart of customer or guest expectations lies the quest for emotional fulfilment. Whether it’s the exhilaration of a luxurious hotel stay or the reassurance of competent medical care, guests yearn for experiences that resonate on a visceral level.

The notion of “we pay more, therefore we expect more” is not confined to one domain but permeates both hospitality and private healthcare, elevating the stakes and intensifying the pursuit of excellence. Understanding the drivers behind guest expectations is imperative for both sectors to deliver on their promises and safeguard their reputations.

Drawing from my extensive experience working with prestigious private healthcare organisations such as BUPA Cromwell Hospital, New Victoria Hospital, Saint John & Elizabeth Hospital and One Welbeck, combined with my involvement in a ground-breaking transformation project transitioning the Ritz-Carlton Palm Beach into a boutique hotel, Eau Palm Beach Resort, & Spa. I have witnessed first-hand the transformative power of fostering a guest-centric mindset in both sectors. In each of these endeavours, the common thread lies in the unwavering dedication of employees who believe in a higher purpose – whether it’s providing exceptional medical care or creating unforgettable guest experiences.

Guests seek out establishments not only for their expertise but also for the kindness, support, and sense of responsibility they offer for their well-being. This shared desire underscores the profound impact of employee ownership in crafting experiences that delight, bring joy, and ensure safety, fostering lasting connections between guests and staff. However, many organisations aspire to create memorable guest experiences but fall short by failing to document, train, and empower their employees, leaving them in a state of ambiguity and setting them up for failure.

In both hospitality and healthcare, it is imperative to document and introduce a clear and guided guest experience as part of the employee journey, from induction through to development and reward. Guest experience should be integrated into the fabric of the organisation, becoming woven into its DNA. It can never be lip service or looked at as a tick box exercise. To create truly memorable guest experiences, it must be driven by the values, beliefs, and clear standards that are documented for employees to benchmark and surpass with high degrees of autonomy and enthusiasm.

A great guest experience is ultimately the by-product of a clear brand promise, positioning employees to see and feel the messages that attract guests to the property be it hospital or hotel.

It goes far beyond a list of amenities and truly sits in the hearts and minds of engaged, focussed, and connected employees. Employees need to embrace the brand promise as this enables them to better understand what is expected of them, both from a business perspective and in the eyes of the customer or guest. The brand creates the promise, and it’s the living brands that deliver on that promise, creating the ultimate guest experience. This mindset should permeate throughout all levels and departments of the organisation, from senior leaders to frontline staff. Celebrating success stories internally and externally is essential, truly embracing the employees who create magic in other people’s lives every day.

Mutual outcomes of building a great guest experience include:

  • Enhanced Trust: Both hospitality and healthcare thrive on trust. By prioritising guest experience, both sectors can cultivate trust with their guests and staff, leading to increased satisfaction and loyalty.
  • Improved Reputation: A commitment to guest-centricity results in positive word-of-mouth referrals and online reviews, bolstering the reputation of both hospitality establishments and healthcare facilities.
  • Increased Revenue: Satisfied guests are more likely to return and recommend the establishment to others, driving revenue growth through repeat business and new guests.
  • Better Patient Outcomes: In healthcare, a focus on guest experience can lead to improved patient satisfaction, compliance with treatment plans, and ultimately, better health outcomes.
  • Elevated Employee Morale: When employees feel empowered to deliver exceptional guest experiences, it not only enhances guest satisfaction but also boosts employee morale, leading to a more positive work culture and lower attrition.

Why then, do I advocate for a shift towards the term “guest” in private healthcare? Because it encapsulates a philosophy rooted in warmth, attentiveness, and meticulous attention to detail.

By embracing the mindset of hosts welcoming guests into their homes, healthcare professionals can cultivate environments that prioritise not just medical outcomes but also holistic well-being. This shift in perspective fosters deeper connections, fosters trust, and elevates the guest experience to new heights of excellence.

In conclusion, the convergence of hospitality and private healthcare offers a wealth of insights and opportunities for mutual learning. By recognising the parallels between these two environment’s, embracing a guest-centric mindset, and infusing every interaction with authenticity, warmth, and care, both sectors can elevate their respective offerings and create truly transformative experiences for their guests. In a world where service is under scrutiny the union of hospitality and healthcare offer a haven where service excellence should be paramount. Though some lens the boundaries between sectors blur, however the focus remains unwaveringly on the well-being and satisfaction of every guest.

Dale Smith

Creative Director

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