It just makes sense, doesn’t it? If you treat people with kindness, they’ll reward you with their loyalty. It’s a simple concept, but it’s not always easy to instill this among employees.

Let’s say you’re traveling home from a business trip. Your flight is delayed, you’ve had a long week and you really just want to get home. The gate agents are all but dismissive of your concerns. They’re tired too! Oh sure, they may apologize, but in the end you’ll still have to wait with little to no explanation for the delay. They don’t smile. They have their heads down looking at what you hope is the latest information on your flight, but what is probably their latest Facebook status update. The minutes turn to hours and your frustration level is steadily rising. You may not know when your flight will take off, but what you DO know is you’ll never fly this airline again. And you’ll be quick to tell everyone you know to do the same.

We’ve all heard horror stories like these. Whether it’s in the airline industry, at retail shops, in banks, and yes, even in hospitals and health care facilities. Too often, we get so caught up in going through the motions of our jobs, that we forget our primary job is to be kind. Human being to human being. It’s about empathy. Walking in another’s shoes. Seeing with a different set of eyes.

It’s about kindness.

Now think of the same situation I described above, except this time – consider if kindness was part of the picture.

The gate agent is knowledgeable, responsive and helpful when barraged with questions. Even if he doesn’t know the exact answers, he promises to update you and the other passengers every ten minutes. He smiles. He listens. He makes eye contact. You know the delay isn’t his fault and you trust him to keep you informed and to get you on the flight as soon as possible.

Kindness is one of those “soft” words that is easy to dismiss. But when it’s ingrained in the culture of the workplace – especially in the healthcare industry – it’s a powerful tool that can strengthen patient loyalty. Consider these results from a 2013 survey conducted by Wakefield Research for Dignity Health:

• 87% of Americans feel that kind treatment by a physician is more important than other key considerations when choosing a physician – including average wait time before appointments, distance from home and cost of care.

• 90% of Americans would feel like switching healthcare providers or physicians after receiving unkind treatment.

• 72% of Americans would be willing to pay more for a physician who emphasized kindness when treating patients.

• 88% of Americans would be willing to travel further to see a healthcare provider or physician who emphasized kindness when treating patients.

So as healthcare professionals, how can we begin to integrate kindness into our daily practice? Look people in the eye. Learn what name they prefer to be called. Speak in terms they understand without using medical jargon or being condescending. Listen. Empathize.

These little acts of consideration and kindness from physicians, nurses and all who affect the patient’s experience will dramatically increase the patient loyalty, as your patients begin to see your center as an exceptional place for people to heal.

We’d love to know what you think? How important is kindness in your life? Has being treated unkindly caused you to stop relying on a service or a specific business?