Caring about Your Audience: A Lesson for Marketers from Central DuPage Hospital

elephant and dog sit under the rain

Hospital experiences, especially for parents of a teenager getting her tonsils out, are rarely something to write about. In particular, outpatient surgery can seem like same-day dry cleaning — very expensive, high-volume dry cleaning with low levels of quality control. As the president of an event and communication agency, I have high standards for any customer experience. My expectations were muted at best on the last day of 2013 when my family and I drove to the outpatient surgical building at Central Du Page Hospital in Winfield, Illinois, for a procedure to remove my daughter’s tonsils. But in the course of a single day, the hospital not only exceeded my expectations but also taught a lesson on how to provide a memorable customer experience by being empathetic and sensitive to the needs of your audience.
First impressions count. When we were greeted by a pleasant and knowledgeable parking lot attendant offering free valet service, Central Du Page Hospital showed straight off that the organization understands that a family facing outpatient surgery does not want to be distracted having to find a parking space in a 12-building complex, especially when the temperature outside is 2 below zero. Valet parking is a luxury, but by offering the service, the hospital set the right tone, and my expectations immediately rose.
Once we were inside the hospital, the information desk and registration personnel gave the impression of being overwhelmingly practical, efficient, personable and informal. Even before we had our coats off, the staff broke down barriers, provided practical information, and addressed our individual needs and concerns personally.
Nurses and doctors attended the same surgical prep sessions, or “presenter rehearsals,” to cite an analogy from my own background in the events industry. They spoke with us, not at us. They answered our questions and told us that the various players within the surgical team would be asking the same questions over and over again to ensure excellence in our daughter’s care. The personnel gave an impression of a collaborative team as opposed to a collection of egos. We left her confident in their hands.
The hospital also leveraged technology for our benefit. After leaving our daughter as she was taken into surgery, we followed her progress in the waiting area via a flat screen and simple color code. Understanding how to use technology to follow the surgery was one of the key points we learned when we had first met Mary, the dedicated patient advocate, during our check-in. Her purpose was to ensure we were informed and to empower us to get answers if we were not. And she helped us with a demeanor that conveyed efficiency and kindness.
Practical, efficient, personal and informal . . . those attributes were prevalent throughout our four-and-a-half-hour medical experience. We encountered plenty of “presenters” and lots of content, and yet all the elements were aligned around a very focused purpose: ensuring excellence in every experience for both the patient and, in our case, the parents, too.
Providing an excellent experience is so simple to conceive and yet so extraordinary to achieve. I believe at the heart of this organization’s culture is an intuitive sense of awareness and understanding of its attendees’ needs, achieved through practical empowerment of every presenter throughout the experience.
Few industries have endured the public, media and political pounding as the meeting/event industry, with the exception of healthcare. But clearly, Central Du Page Hospital understood our needs before we even walked in and then delivered on them. Can the attendees of our events say the same of us? I hope so: not only for the sake of our attendees, but also for the health of our industry.

This post was originally published on the One Smooth Stone blog on January 16, 2014. For a complimentary 30-minute consultation on how to build your brand and inspire an audience through events and communications, please contact Brian Duffy by calling 630.427.4235 or by emailing


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