Customer Experience

Sutter Health’s VP of Brand Marketing Explains How to Deliver an Authentic Customer Experience

Mac Tillman, Vice President of Brand Marketing at Sutter Health, explored brand authenticity and what it takes for customer experience (CX) professionals to provide authentic customer experiences during his keynote presentation to Argyle’s CX membership at the 2018 Customer Experience Leadership Forum in San Francisco on March 22. In his presentation, Tillman offered tips to help CX professionals establish clear expectations and foster long-lasting customer partnerships.

According to Tillman, generating successful marketing campaigns in the healthcare space is exceedingly difficult. In many instances, consumers have perceived notions about healthcare providers. These notions often make it tough for healthcare providers to distinguish themselves from one another.

Ultimately, healthcare providers – like all organizations – must find ways to differentiate themselves from the competition. If an organization can show its target audience that it can provide a unique value proposition, this organization may be better equipped than its rivals to foster meaningful customer engagements.

“Most people don’t like healthcare marketing,” Tillman pointed out. “There is a sea of sameness in healthcare … and we need to show we can provide care from one of the most dynamic places in the world.”

At Sutter, the organization wanted to become a disruptor in the healthcare space. The organization explored innovation opportunities so it could differentiate itself from competing firms. Perhaps most important, Sutter examined ways to develop and deliver an “authentic” brand voice.

“We want to disrupt healthcare before the disruptors can disrupt us,” Tillman stated. “But all of our efforts come back to authenticity. And if your experience is not authentic, then nothing else works.”

Sutter wanted to show its target audience that it could provide exceptional care and support. To accomplish its goal, Sutter found that the “Golden Rule” worked best.

“Do unto others,” Tillman recommended. “Treat other people in the way that you want to be treated.”

An authentic brand fostered authentic leadership among Sutter’s employees. Meanwhile, authentic leadership can have far-flung effects on any organization, as it enables a firm to empower its workforce with the ability to use its strengths to drive transformation.

“When we put the patient first, problems get resolved. When we don’t, problems get created.”

In addition, an authentic leadership approach encourages employees – regardless of experience or expertise – to become difference-makers within an organization. This approach ensures employees can use their strengths to deliver value to an organization and its customers and collaborate with peers who can fill in gaps in an organization’s growth strategy. That way, authentic leaders can work together to help an organization achieve its immediate and long-term goals.

“Authentic leadership is about recognizing you as a leader,” Tillman noted. “It’s about saying, ‘This is me. This is what I’m good at and what I’m not good at. And that’s okay. Because I’m going to surround myself with people who are good [at different things].'”

Sutter also discovered that a patient-centric approach could make a world of difference in its day-to-day operations.

Putting patients at the forefront of its everyday operations enabled Sutter employees to focus on what was is important – keeping patients happy. Plus, a patient-centric approach ensured Sutter employees could eliminate patient problems before they could escalate.

“When we put the patient first, problems get resolved. When we don’t, problems get created,” Tillman said.

Innovation is a key priority for the Sutter team too. To drive innovation, Sutter examined innovation within the healthcare space, as well as innovation in multiple industries. This enabled the company to find unique ways to foster a culture of innovation at all levels.

“At everything we do, we find new ways to innovate,” Tillman pointed out. “We look at lots of industries and try to find ways to innovate.”

Today, Sutter is a pioneer in the healthcare space. It encourages its employees and patients to serve as pioneers as well.

“We strive to be a pioneer among pioneers,” Tillman stated. “The idea is that Sutter is a pioneer in California … and that each patient is a pioneer surrounded by other pioneers.”

Sutter leverages state-of-the-art technology, but the organization is not a healthcare technology firm. Instead, Sutter prioritizes patient care in all that it does – something that has helped the organization generate interest from consumers.

“There is a sea of sameness in healthcare … and we need to show we can provide care from one of the most dynamic places in the world.”

The Sutter team is committed to driving innovation and using technology to accomplish its goals. At the same time, Sutter employees maintain a patient-centric approach. This ensures Sutter employees can explore ways to help patients and deploy innovative solutions that deliver myriad benefits to the organization and its patients.

“We’re not about technology. We’re about every way that we deliver the care experience,” Tillman noted. “Our goal is to make sure that everyone in our company understands [his or her] role as a pioneer.”


Mac Tillman is a brand and consumer centered change-agent. For over 20 years, he has been shaping organizational visions for innovation, brand building and marketing activation at leading organizations, including P&G, Timberland, CamelBak, Del Monte & Big Heart Pet. As Vice President of Brand Marketing at Sutter Health, Mac is leading organizational evolution through brand transformation and conveys Sutter’s noble mission and life-changing accomplishments through passionate, creative and innovative storytelling.

Visit Argyle Executive Forum's 2019 Customer Experience Leadership Deep Dive: Artificial intelligence and the new CX in New York, NY on Sep 01, 2019

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