Customer service is a lost art. If you don’t believe me, go to the Sonic down the street from my home around 4 p.m. and try to order a slushie and some tots. Chances are you will sit sweltering in the car for a while before they take your order because the automated order system is down. Then, it may be a while before the car hop approaches with your grub (I’ve had it be the wrong food a few times). When you finally get the right food and inquire what took so long, you’ll have to listen to the teen tell you what a bad day she’s having with no apology. This scenario has happened to us a bunch over the past few years. It’s not isolated.
If you took a poll to ask people on Facebook if they’re more likely to talk about good customer service or bad, what do you think the response would be? Most would say that they would turn to their wall and rant about poor customer service immediately and ask their friends to share. People are more likely to talk about bad customer service than good. So, it makes me wonder why businesses don’t try harder to provide an excellent customer experience and give customers incentive to talk about them?
Sadly, the past few years, the majority of customer interactions that I’ve been involved in, have been with health care related industries. We’ve spent a lot of time with doctors, at hospitals, picking up prescriptions, scheduling physical therapy and honestly, I’ve had more bad experiences than good. When I ranted about one the other day on Facebook, an old friend pointed out to me that the reason behind the lack of service is that the hospital has a monopoly. In the Kansas City area, there’s nowhere else to go for pediatric care. I thought about it after and yes, its true. But there’s also another reason; doctors don’t care if they give excellent customer service. That’s not how they get paid in their business model. In fact, I’d be shocked if there’s any discussion about customer service with them in medical school or residency. They look at us as patients and parents, not as customers and that’s a problem. In fact, in a study 96% of patient’s complaints were related to customer service.
When I was kid and needed to go to the pediatrician, my mom would call and they’d squeeze us in. I’d leave the appointment with a lolly pop and a hug from my doctor. In 2017 this is a rare occurrence. Why? The business model for physicians has morphed from a private practice to a more corporate one and insurance has changed the way that doctor’s get paid. The result? You have practices that are almost impossible to get into and when you do, they spend 15 minutes or less and move onto the next patient. In fact, if you have a health concern that you need to discuss with a doctor, you can no longer do it at your physical, you have to set an additional appointment (this is not the doctor’s fault, it’s insurance). It’s definitely not a customer service based model.
The past five years, we’ve had more negative experiences than positive ones. Part of the problem is dealing with so many doctors with none of them communicating with each other (the specialty model. We only treat our body part). But, to be honest, the majority of the problem is that we’re not being seen as people or they just don’t care. We had a doctor that refused to see us when my daughter had complications. We’ve had trouble getting into clinics in a timely manner. Calling a patient advocate (the hospital’s attempt to improve customer service) didn’t help. It’s been a frustrating experience but honestly, it doesn’t have to be. (In full disclosure, I do want to say that we’ve had positive experiences there as well. Our pediatrician, cardiologist, hematologist and physical therapist are all wonderful)
A year ago, we were fired from our local children’s hospital’s neurology department because we “didn’t agree with their plan of care.” To me, tossing drugs at my child for five years, only seeing her twice a year and not really trying to find the root of the problems isn’t a plan of care. When she refused to see my daughter twice, I filed a complaint. I was told in a form letter that she wasn’t and then received a certified letter the next week that they would no longer treat us. It was the best thing that’s happened to us.
Since then, we have received outstanding customer service.
Our new neurologist got us into his practice within a week. The first appointment, we not only got a diagnosis, we had a plan in place for tests to move forward. Shortly after, my teen had a massive migraine and they pulled her into the office to infuse her instead of having us go to the ER. They return calls quickly, schedule things fast and actually listen to us. We are heading to Cincinnati Children’s hospital on Sunday per their referral. I have nothing but good things to say.
Now, let’s talk about the customer service in Cincinnati. Not only did they get us in quickly, they did a good job with the initial intake interview and paperwork to make sure we’re in the right clinic. Every phone call I’ve had, the nurse or case manager on the other end has actually listened and let me tell our story in-depth. The went after all Rosie’s records quickly and the entire team reviewed them this week to come up with a plan before we even walk in the door. The clinic functions as a team. That’s customer service.
While you could say that this is an anomaly that can be attributed to this hospital clinic, it’s not. Cincinnati Children’s Hospital makes everything easy. They have a guest services department that helps to schedule your travel. They directly made our hotel reservations and secured our shuttles and when I had to call back to make changes, she did with a smile on her face. They also provide free tickets to local attractions for patients.
Now, you may be thinking of course we’re getting great service because we’re leaving our home hospital. We’ve done it before. We went to Mayo in February of 2015. I had to do all the research to find a hotel, negotiate a better rate and then figure out how to navigate the place. While they did get Rosie’s records before, I talked briefly to a nurse before the visit. We spent a lot of the week going over health history that could have been taken care of before to make the visit faster. While we didn’t get bad customer service, it wasn’t outstanding.
You see, it’s not impossible to give excellent customer service in the health care industry, you just have to make it a priority. Customer service is top-down so it has to come from the administration. I guarantee that our neurologist knows that if he gets people in quickly and his operation runs smoothly, that he’ll have a consistent referral stream. So, yes, he’s still playing the numbers game that everyone else is, it’s just in a different way. I am also 110% certain that Cincinnati Children’s Hospital runs on a patient-based model for the same reason. If you over service your customers, they not only return, hopefully they will sing your praises.
Now, back to my Sonic. Unlike the health care industry where you’re often stuck because there’s nowhere else to go, there are lots of choices when it comes to junk food. If I owned that location, I’d work hard to fix all the infrastructure problems and hire people who want to hustle and provide good customer service. If you ask a bellhop, they make good money, if you own the place and really stress customer service, they’re guaranteed to make more. Simple, right?