Lesson From Dana-Farber: Treat The Whole Person

As part of yesterday’s Customer Experience Day celebration, I attended a CXPA local networking event at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) in Boston. The session kicked off with a panel from the DFCI discussing patient experience.

I’m a big fan of DFCI and have enormous respect for the great work that it does in battling cancer. The panel, which included a cancer survivor turned volunteer, was fantastic. I was inspired by the commitment and compassion they displayed.

One of the points that came up was DFCI’s commitment to treat the whole person. This explains why it provides things such as hand massages during chemotherapy treatment. DFCI doesn’t just treat the disease, it treats the whole person.

I love the concept of the whole person. It’s not just applicable to DFCI or other health care providers, but to every organization. It’s a powerful concept for anyone who cares about customer experience.

Here’s how I think about the whole person:

  • Emotion, not just success. DFCI doesn’t have data showing that hand massages will result in better clinical outcomes. It knows that a patient’s positive medical outcome is important, but it’s not enough. Your customers are the same. You need to understand, care about, and actively design for your customers’ emotional states.
  • Goals, not just interactions. A chemotherapy patient is battling cancer, not just getting treatment. When customers interact with you, it’s often part of a broader goal. A customer who calls to change her address, for instance, probably has a life change going on that dwarfs the need to update your administrative systems. The better you can understand and cater to these larger goals, the more opportunity you will have to build loyalty.
  • Community, not just individuals. One of DFCI’s key elements for helping patients is supporting their caregivers. These people are a critical element of the patient’s medical journey. Your organization needs to understand the role that community plays in your customers’ lives. How can you help your customers achieve their goals by supporting key members in their personal ecosystems?
  • Caring, not just doing. DFCI doesn’t just mandate a set of explicit activities that define how people should focus on the whole person, it consistently reinforces the importance of this focus in achieving DFCI’s mission. It gets employees and volunteers to care about these elements, not just follow a bunch of directions. You need to help employees understand why the whole person is important, and spark their natural capabilities for caring.

I hope that you are inspired to drive your organization towards focusing on the whole person. Here are a few tools that should help:

The bottom line: Start focusing on the whole person!

About Bruce Temkin, CCXP
I am a customer experience transformist, helping large organizations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. I am also a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Simply put, I am passionate about spotting emerging best practices and helping companies master them. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm that helps organizations become more customer-centric. Our goal is simple: accelerate the path to delighting customers. I am also the co-founder and Emeritus Chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

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