Clueing in customers. Academic Article uri icon


  • Leonard L. Berry and Neeli Bendapudi When customers lack the expertise to judge a company's offerings, they naturally turn detective, scrutinizing people, facilities, and processes for evidence of quality. The Mayo Clinic understands this and carefully manages that evidence to convey a simple, consistent message: The needs of the patient come first. From the way it hires and trains employees to the way it designs its facilities and approaches its care, the Mayo Clinic provides patients and their families concrete evidence of its strengths and values, an approach that has allowed it to build what is arguably the most powerful brand in health care. Marketing professors Leonard Berry and Neeli Bendapudi conducted a five-month study of evidence management at the Mayo Clinic. They interviewed more than 1,000 patients and employees, observed hundreds of doctor visits, traveled in the Mayo helicopter, and stayed in the organization's many hospitals. Their experiences led them to identify best practices applicable to just about any company, in particular those that sell intangible or technically complex products. Essentially, the authors say, companies need to determine what story they want to tell, then ensure that their employees and facilities consistently show customers evidence of that story. At Mayo, the evidence falls into three categories: people, collaboration, and tangibles. The clinic systematically hires people who espouse its values, and its incentive and reward systems promote collaborative care focused on the patient's needs. The physical environment is explicitly designed for its intended effect on the patient experience. In almost every interaction, an organization's message comes through. "Patients first," the Mayo Clinic's message, is not the only story a medical organization could tell, but the way in which Mayo manages evidence to communicate this message is an example to be followed.

author list (cited authors)

  • Berry, L. L., & Bendapudi, N.

citation count

  • 95

publication date

  • February 2003