Most organisations claim that their customers mean everything to them…..that their customers are at the heart of everything they do.
When I Googled the phrase I found pages and pages of companies making the claim….from chemists to bookmakers to housing associations.
For the last few weeks Bromford Support and St Giles Hospice have been discussing joint working ideas and having a ‘knowledge swap’ to help us both bridge the gap between housing and health. Recently I went over to visit them at their main hospice site in Whittington, near Lichfield.
I received a warm welcome and my tour of the inpatient and other facilities taught me much that I didn’t know – dispelling many of my misconceptions about the hospice movement in the process (not least that 80% of St Giles work takes place in the community, in people’s homes; that of the minority of clients who do need the inpatient service, about 50% are able to return home for their final days.)
The inpatient areas felt more like a swanky hotel than a hospital ward (all the wires and cables and ‘medical stuff’ were discretely tucked away behind panelling or attractive screens).
Everywhere was carpeted or had quality wooden floors.
There were well designed and equipped areas for children, partners and teenagers so they could be close to a family member but wouldn’t get bored or feel they were in the way.
Everywhere was flooded with light.
There were balconies with beautiful views of the gardens and planting.
All the staff and volunteers I met were friendly and welcoming.
The older parts of the facilities had been refurbished to match the new so no one using St Giles need feel neglected or forgotten.
I could go on, but you get the point. Everything about the hospice was designed to quietly help people feel valued…..like they mattered….at one of the most difficult times.
When my tour was over we walked to the ‘head office’ part of the building – the part where we were to meet the CEO; the part where HR and Finance and IT and Governance and all the senior management lived. As my guide pulled open the door at the top of the stairs I had let out a gasp before I could stop myself….
This was the area that in most companies is the most lavish – with the nicest carpets, the biggest desks, the designer light fittings, the best of everything. But at St Giles it was……well tired. Not awful. But after the light, beautiful…..uplifting….areas used by St Giles’ customers, the low ceilinged, drab and rather cramped offices used by their back office were nothing if not a contrast……..
Next time you visit the head office of your organisation try to see it through the eyes of one of your customers…….better still take one of your customers with you and ask them what they think.
What does it say about you?
What does it say about how your organisation spends its money?
Have a look at the carpets, the signage, the IT, the space……the cars in the car park. How do they compare with those at the buildings or facilities that your customers (or colleagues who work with customers) have access to?
The day I visited St Giles Hospice I was there to meet their CEO (to talk about Bromford’s Leadership Academy and culture). It was our first meeting so I wanted to make a good impression…..I even wore a suit! When I bounded up to him and shook his hand and told him that I thought his offices looked ‘tired’ he seemed rather pleased.
Perhaps St Giles really does have its customers at the heart of everything it does.
(St Giles needs to raise over £5m a year to continue its work. You can make a donation here.)