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Healthcare and Hospitality: Parallels from a Customer Success Maven

In both hospitality and healthcare, the customer experience is by far the best indicator of success.

From my time as a restauranteur and entrepreneur in New York to my current role helming customer success for evolvedMD, I’ve learned that crafting the perfect customer experience is a relentless pursuit.

Built from the ground up, my business partner and I opened The Deco Food + Drink in the heart of Manhattan’s historic Garment District in 2019. Its eclectic food selection, Art Deco-inspired setting, and inviting atmosphere continue to wow guests three years later. I’m extremely proud of what I’ve accomplished, yet I’m always wondering how I can take it to the next level.

The thing is, I never thought this journey would take me elsewhere—especially not healthcare.

Then in late 2021, two accomplished entrepreneurs spearheading the integration of behavioral health in modern primary care asked me to help reimagine the customer experience for evolvedMD’s growing list of customers. I didn’t think my background in hospitality qualified me to work in healthcare at all, but evolvedMD sought an outsider’s perspective to nurture their commitment to innovation. Now as its Director of Customer Success, I’m charged with delivering an exceptional experience for primary care practices when we integrate behavioral health services. Since beginning my journey with the company in January 2022, I’ve found there are several parallels between healthcare and hospitality that may seem surprising at first, but we have to ask ourselves: Why shouldn’t a visit to the doctor’s office be a great customer experience?

Collaboration and Nurturing the End-to-End Experience

The best brands understand two things: 1) the customer journey isn’t linear; and 2) it’s never done. Like our own personal journeys, customer journeys are always evolving and are meant to be tweaked. That’s why you might notice little changes every time you walk into your favorite restaurant. It may not seem like much—or barely even noticeable at all—but those little changes compound over time to curate an even better experience for you.

At evolvedMD, a customer's journey doesn’t end as soon as we staff their primary care practice with a licensed mental health professional. There are many questions we consider after deploying, such as:

  • Does the primary care provider’s experience (workload, patient outcomes, work-life balance) improve after evolvedMD integrates behavioral health into their clinic, or not?
  • Do staff feel more or less satisfied with their job? What about burnout?
  • How do staff feel about working hand-in-hand with evolvedMD?

Similar types of questions are at the core of every hotel and restaurant, and the answers determine everything from staff training to investment decisions. For evolvedMD, the answers to these questions determine patient throughput, how we approach pre-launch training, and other factors that ultimately impact quality of care.

So, then, how should brands effectively address the answers to these questions? Collaboration.

At evolvedMD, fostering deep collaboration with our customers (which for us means primary care groups or health systems) helps us better understand their current needs and anticipate future needs. Think about how hospitality brands use focus groups to source ideas, opinions, and beliefs about their product or service. It allows them to internalize feedback and take the guesswork out of creating a better experience. I take the same approach with evolvedMD’s customers, but we don’t just meet once and call it a day—collaborating, iterating, and acting on customer feedback is an ongoing journey.

Together, we co-create a world-class experience developed from multiple touchpoints across our implementation, marketing, and clinical teams. From when a patient enters a practice to when they engage with our clinician to when they continue on their journey – we curate an experience designed for optimal outcomes.

Brand is Experience

Many companies will argue they have a brand, but do their customers see it that way? Can they articulate what that brand stands for, or how it’s different and unique from its competitors? Branding is everything in hospitality, and research has shown how important customer psychology is to purchase decisions.

Think about how your favorite hospitality brands create unique experiences. From TV advertising to loyalty programs to store design, the Chick-Fil-A’s and Ritz-Carlton’s of the world create highly specific experiences that are revered by their customers and keep them coming back. Shouldn’t healthcare companies invest just as much in their brand as a restaurant or hotel chain? I think so, and that’s what my team at evolvedMD is doing with our customers.

How do we invest in building our brand? We start by being different, radically different. In a world that pushes virtual solutions, we believe the face-to-face experience we provide our patients, providers, and practices is more robust, more personal, and more effective. Placing a behavioral health specialist onsite and in person at the practices we serve only scratches the surface. This person—and by extension their Clinical Supervisor, another evolvedMD employee—becomes an embedded member of the practice’s collaborative care team (primary care providers, medical assistants, psychiatric consultants, etc.) to deliver a comprehensive solution tailored to patients’ needs. Nurturing this strong, in-person connection not only helps build a relationship with our providers and our practices, but it also ensures our patients have a unified team of advocates by their side right from the start.

Post-launch, my Implementation Specialists regularly visit our customers’ practices to do “detective work.” While onsite, I ask them to consider the following items:

  • What are patients doing in the waiting area?
  • What are they looking at?
  • If you were a patient, where do your eyes go?

From there, we’re able to make small tweaks for big impact. For example, what if we flashed a graphic on a television in the waiting room featuring our Behavioral Health Manager’s headshot, their name and bio, the evolvedMD logo, and this headline: “We are ready to listen. Reach out to get the clarity and support you need – now?” Prospective patients want to put a face with a name, and recognizing our Behavioral Health Manager walking down the hall after seeing that graphic shows that help is available to them. The patient may then consult with their primary care provider to inquire further.

Turning Your People into Brand Ambassadors

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If you’ve ever been to Disneyland, you can probably imagine how much time, money, and effort they invest in training their “ground troops” to be brand ambassadors. Whether they’re dressed as Goofy, serving you at one of Disney’s many restaurants, or showing you around the gift shop, these brand champions personally address each customer and anticipate their needs before the customers are even fully aware of those needs. What’s Disney’s secret? They nurture a culture of belonging that puts the customer at the center of the magic, empowering their employees to make each day a magical experience for their customers.

evolvedMD has long understood that nurturing a strong culture helps connect employees to our mission. By promoting a culture around self-care and wellness, making sure our employees feel heard, nurturing their passions and ambitions, and thoughtfully recognizing their achievements, our employees connect to our mission on a deep, emotional level. After all, if our employees don’t feel connected to our mission and our brand, then how can we expect our customers to? That’s why adding a personal human touch and emotional connection can translate into real impact through delighted customers.

On a grander scale, taking care of our whole team fosters an emotional connection that translates into impact noticed by our customers:

Even when things don’t go as planned, the same raw connection creates positive impact for patients, too. See the testimonial from one of our Care Coordinators below:

Like hospitality brands, evolvedMD relies on its people to deliver exceptional experiences, but we can’t expect our employees to succeed if they feel disconnected from the brand. Going the extra mile to show we care about our own people empowers them to champion our brand and go the extra mile for our customers.

Providing Customers Additional Value

Remember all those free gifts, free upgrades, and other add-ons you didn’t expect when you bought something? Hospitality brands know that creating extra value directly impacts their customers’ attitudes and thus directly impacts the brand’s long-term success. Creating value in a rapidly evolving field like healthcare may seem difficult, but when primary care practices partner with evolvedMD, they aren’t just getting a behavioral health specialist to treat patients—they’re getting an entire team of mental health experts that’s committed to everyone.

For example, our master’s level mental health professionals work closely with primary care providers onsite to promote and practice self-care. They don’t wait to be prompted, either—they regularly check in with clinic staff to make sure they’re taking time to practice self-care and even offer tips and activities. Something I look forward to launching soon is delivering monthly self-care and well-being newsletters, in-person presentations on various mental health topics, thought leadership content, and much more that can be disseminated to the clinic staff. I also envision our behavioral health specialists conducting lunch and learns and other specialized trainings with clinic staff on a regular basis to ensure the collaborative team delivers consistent service for patients.

Closing Thoughts
As a people-pleaser, I’m always wondering how I can deliver memorable experiences for others. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do so in a healthcare setting—I’m certainly not a doctor—but I’ve quickly learned that there’s quite a bit of overlap between my role at evolvedMD and my previous ventures. If there are people involved, there will always be a need to build meaningful relationships and create exceptional experiences. Keeping our customers satisfied and engaged directly impacts our ability to increase access to care, reduce stigma, and deliver best-in-class modern care. If we continue to innovate around the customer experience, there’s no doubt in my mind that we’ll solidify our status as the market leader in behavioral health integration.


Partner with evolvedMD to integrate behavioral
health services into your primary care practice today.

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