The Customer Prevention Department
By Randy Gage in Critical Thinking, Success, Prosperity.
Recently we looked at how creating unrealistic expectations kills business. But how about something even more basic – customer service?
It is simply shocking how many businesses seem to have a customer prevention department. They actually appear to do anything possible to drive business away.
Here’s an experience I have to share with you, because there are so many lessons to be learned from it…
Dr. Jack M. Trainor in Fort Lauderdale promotes his practice as Trainor Sports Medicine. The website says he was a college baseball player who tried to continue his career professionally for a few years. Since I’m interested in extending my legendary (in my own mind) softball career, I called for an appointment.
The call went very long. The lady wanted extensive information, including my date of birth, what conditions I wanted treatment for, what insurance, plan number, member number, etc. After all that, she confirmed the appointment and said I should arrive 15 minutes early – to fill out the new patient form. I asked if that wasn’t what we just did, since she asked for everything.
She said, “No, that’s just so we can enter you in the system.” Now if there’s one thing I hate, it’s when people waste my time, because that is so valuable. But what’s the point of arguing with a robotic employee who doesn’t make policy? She said the form was on the website and could be filled out there.
When you fill out the form online, it’s just a PDF you download: You have to print it out and bring it in; nothing is entered into the system. Think how much sense it would make to actually have data fields on the site, so everything the patient enters would automatically be in the system.
Then, the few extra things that weren’t in the phone interview wouldn’t need to be manually entered by an employee. (And of course if you did do that, you wouldn’t need to waste the patients’ time with an extra 15 minutes on the appointment call.)
Imagine a software package specifically for doctors, dentists, chiropractors and other professionals (attorneys, accountants, etc.) that they could put on their websites and mobile apps to expedite the new patient/client process. Not sure, maybe Clay Collins, Brian Short, or Naomi & Jim Rhode already have a template system like this. If you do, I know a place that needs it! If not, there’s a great opportunity for someone here…
Now what are the lessons so far?
Like a lot of businesses today, this one is torn between the paper world of the past and the digital world of the present. They’ve been having new patients fill out paper questionnaires for years, and no one is enough of a critical thinker to question whether it still makes sense. They took all the information on the phone, then made me do it again on the form because they don’t care about inconveniencing their patients or making it easy to buy from them.
Now some of you will argue that doctors and other professionals get an exemption from this. They see people as patients, not customers. (I actually used to manage a medical center once, and can sympathize with the hassles of running a practice today in the HMO and Obamacare environment.)
But lousy customer service is still lousy customer service…
So that was supposed to be the blog today. A short rant about lousy customer service and an example to demonstrate how solving a problem could create a new business opportunity.
But wait until you read what happened next…
I arrive at the appointed time. The nurse or medical assistant calls me into the back just a few minutes later. That’s a promising sign. Then she says, “We’re going to sit down and talk a few minutes, I’ll take some pictures of your shoulder, and then you can make an appointment for your herniated disc.”
Of course I reply that I’m there to check out both my shoulder and herniated disc. She says, “We only work on one body part each appointment. You can schedule another appointment for your back. That’s the way we have to do it.”
I explain that my herniated disc is causing me the most pain and I want to speak to the doctor about it. She replies, “Then we can look at your back this appointment and make another appointment for your shoulder.”
I don’t even now how to process what she’s telling me; it might as well be Swahili. I start stuttering and stammering, trying to explain that I have two issues to discuss with the doctor. She says, “I’m sure they told you when you made the appointment: we only treat one body part at a time.” I respond that they certainly did NOT tell me that, and I want to speak to the doctor about both issues. She stops what she is doing, looks very sternly at me and says, “I’m not trying to give you a hard time. And I don’t expect you to give me a hard time.”
Now I’m looking around for the hidden camera, thinking this has to be a new prank reality show. No such luck…
She tells me that my insurance only covers one condition per appointment. “Okay,” I reply, “I just pay the difference.”
She says that’s “not allowed.”
“Okay I will just pay cash for both things, just forget the insurance.”
“We can’t do that; it’s illegal.”
“It is not illegal. There are no laws that prohibit me from paying cash for my own medical care.”
“It’s too late. We already entered your insurance information. I told you, I’m not trying to give you a hard time. And I don’t expect you to give me a hard time. We only treat one body part at a time.”
“I want a holistic doctor, one that treats my whole body.”
“I told you, we only treat one body part at a time.”
I took one last look, hoping to find a camera crew somewhere, so we could all laugh about the joke, but there was none. So I left.
There are enough customer service and marketing lessons in this one 20-minute experience to build a whole workshop around. Bottom line: It doesn’t matter if you call them clients, passengers, patients, or some other label – they are still customers. And businesses that want to stay in business should respect them. Make it easy for people to spend money with you, instead of driving them away.