Similarities Between Hospitals and New Home Builders

Quality customer service diminishes uncertainty and reduces anxiety
By Bob Mirman

Let’s be real: I have never found any medical facility to be a fun place to hang out. However, as my parents have aged, I’ve spent an increasing amount of time in one of our local hospitals, the same hospital every time because it’s right across the street from my Mom’s home. I came to think of it as a pretty well run place, or maybe I was just impressed because they served incredible tuna sandwiches in the cafeteria. (Editor’s Note: Doesn’t that seem like an insensitive comment?)

Having experience in only one hospital over the past 20 years, I assumed all hospitals would take six to eight hours to work my Mom from ER admittance to a hospital room for overnight care. Yech.

But, last week, my Mom had a minor emergency (if anything can be ‘minor’ when you are 98), so we called 911. We quickly found that the ER driveway at our regular hospital was backed up with ambulances, kind of like a slow moving drive-thru at In-N-Out. So, the EMT driver was instructed to take Mom to a different hospital.

I wasn’t a happy camper to have to change hospitals. I had become comfortable in familiar surroundings.

But here’s the rub: The new hospital was different. But it was better. Noticeably better. The service was more responsive, more pro-active, and more in tune with my unspoken needs.

Whether you are a builder, a lender, or a design center manager, here are three things we can learn from this recent hospital experience:


  1. Hospital patients and family members are justifiably anxious, worried, confused, and scared. New homebuyers share these characteristics—although not to the same degree. For these customers, empathy goes a long way in reducing anxiety and making the customer feel comfortable. As the loved one of the patient, I was also a customer of the hospital; the nurses were sympathetic and caring, and they told me they understood how I must feel to see my Mom in this situation.

“I know you’re worried, but don’t be concerned, I will take care of this” goes a long way to reduce anxiety. (Especially when offered with a smile.)

  1. Occasionally, I would call for non-emergency assistance from the nurses’ station. In the old hospital, this would often result in unacceptable waits until a nurse would appear. In this new facility, if service was delayed, another aide inevitably stopped in to confirm receipt of our request and let us know that a nurse would be here shortly. Result: Diminished uncertainty and reduced anxiety.

Do your customer service and trade reps contact the home owner when delayed for service appointments?


  1. Here is the number one differentiator between the service delivered by average versus superior hospitals: Over the course of my Mom’s three days in the hospital, I received a daily call from a staff internist whom I have still never met. Her role was to keep the family updated on Mom’s treatment status, test results, and changes in diagnosis/prognosis. I never had to call to ask for information—what a comfort!

Similarly, Eliant’s research shows that the number one driver of homebuyers’ willingness to refer their builder to a friend is the degree to which the builder kept them informed of the status of construction…without the buyer having to ask!

Customer service in hospitals, auto dealerships, appliance repair, and new home sales: The same rules apply!


Bob Mirman is a psychologist and founder/CEO of 32-year old Eliant, the building industry’s largest firm specializing in managing the customer experience. He may be reached at


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