I had to find a new doctor this week. To anyone who has ever had to find a new doctor, immediate shrieks of horror go off in their head at just the thought. Searching, scheduling and information gathering all just to get an appointment is a laborious and frustrating process—and that’s hoping you are able to get said appointment in this decade. This is at least a national problem. In the state of Florida, however, I am pretty sure it is easier to help an eagle give birth to an elephant than it is to set up a new doctor appointment.
Exaggerations aside, the process is horrendously difficult, and it all started because of these things called “symptoms”. I wasn’t feeling well a few weeks ago and decided to check in with my regular doctor because of the symptoms I was experiencing – mostly extra sinus congestion and pressure. He right away recommended my dreaded fear; “It’s probably time to get you connected with an ear, nose and throat specialist.”
The crucible had begun. I knew I needed to find an ENT specialist, but in Florida, it is widely understood that clinics are notorious for the “bedside” manner. Let’s focus on the receptionist. They don’t care who you are or what you need, and why should they? Their job is to answer phones and enter data into the computer. They are underpaid, overworked and grossly under-appreciated. They also have to deal with patients face to face. Patients, especially when sick, are not usually nice people to be around. They don’t feel well, probably contagious and coughing everywhere and expect you to care for them, their pocketbook, and their schedule.
I called five different clinics. The first one never answered. I tried numerous times over a couple of days, but kept getting their “our office is now closed” message. What doctor’s office is closed at 2pm on a Wednesday? The next three were relatively nice, but couldn’t get me scheduled for a minimum of six months. Six months! Let’s hope these symptoms aren’t a sign of something bad.
The fifth receptionist was the worst. She made it clear from the start that she didn’t care that I had a referral and needed to get in sooner than later. In fact, while trying to explain my situation, she interrupted me, spoke over me and told me I needed to stop yelling and complaining. After the initial confrontation, I requested to talk with her supervisor, which she over-politely agreed to and said she would transfer me. She hung up.
Thankfully the sixth office was pleasant and accommodating. They got me scheduled within a week and after meeting some of their staff and the doctor—who sat and listened to everything I had to say, ran this diagnostics and did the dictation in front of me so I’d be sure to know that he took everything I said into account—I am certainly glad I ended up there. We are still in the process of figuring out what’s wrong in my head (insert joke here), but I am glad to end up where I did, despite the other five clinics.
Customer Service Needs an Overhaul
I share this story not just so that you can have an easy place to make a joke about me, but to showcase the reality of the customer service issue that has been plaguing mankind for the last handful of years. And while I certainly am happy to call out that particular lady who treated me like an insect for her customer service skills, we cannot lay blame on her and her counterparts. Not completely, anyway. We have to look at the motivation behind it. How are they motivated to do their best, despite the day-in-day-out complaints they live with? What power do they have to actually change anything for a client or prospect? And who knows what has happened to them before, during and after your situation with them?
The Golden Rule of Customer Service
The Golden Rule originated from the biblical passage in Matthew 22:36-40. It says, “Love your neighbor as yourself”. The idea extends to understand the principal that it is better to consider others before yourself and then think before you speak. We can easily understand and desire mercy on our behavior because we had a bad day. All arguments lead towards that being the right thing to give other people as well. Maybe that receptionist had just been yelled at by another patient and, wrongly so, she let it out on me. Maybe she had been mistreated as a child. It doesn’t matter. What matters is though I certainly don’t have to give her my business, I do need to choose to not respond to her aggressiveness in kind. It’s always better to err on the side of care and mercy.
Danielle MacInnis shared a similar thought in a post she wrote called No One Wants a Julia Roberts Shopping Trip. Though I have no clue what movie she is referencing, her story caught my attention. “She didn’t offer any help or assistance. She only said she never gets in size 5. I said thank you and was glad there was no size 5 as I wouldn’t have wanted to buy the shoes in that shop!” While there is no need for retaliation or argumentativeness, Danielle is correct in saying this. “Had the shop assistant engaged with me in any form it would have left a greater impression and I may have recommended the shop but instead I am venting to you about the lack of empathy the she showed.”
Her point flowed to the idea that one person in the store equates to hundreds and even thousands online. That may be another exaggeration, but the idea is correct. “According to a new survey conducted by Dimensional Research, an overwhelming 90 percent of respondents who recalled reading online reviews claimed that positive online reviews influenced buying decisions, while 86 percent said buying decisions were influenced by negative online reviews” (Marketing Land). This is true and deserves attention.
The point of this is to notate the importance of quality customer service from the vantage point of future revenue generation. Simply stated, if you make a bunch of people angry, they will tell their friends and pretty soon you won’t have a business. And usually, the business executive team understands this and cares about this. But what about your customer-facing personnel? Often times they are entry-level, low paid and undervalued individuals that have no real power or authority and are stuck in dead-end situations. I don’t know about you, but human nature tells me that I’m not going to care about you unless I have a reason to care.
I contend that the customer facing individual is the most important to your team’s overall success. Despite what may be going on personally or in the office or with another customer, the front-line employee is the one actually fighting the war for survival and growth. Their negligence or eagerness can both determine the outcome of that prospect or client, as well as many future opportunities. Give them the tools they need to actually be able to serve the customers; motivate them to focus on a calm and collected (and happy) attitude so that you, as the business owner, and be ensured that your fate is in happy and motivated hands.
The question ultimately boils down to what the most important thing is to your business. If you rely on face-to-face (or phone-to-phone) customer service, then invest wisely in your team. Motivate them properly and give them the ability to actually help the customers that cross their paths. These are moves you certainly won’t regret.
A Painfully Friendly Ending
I did not go online and post about that one particular ENT clinic that treated me horribly. Regardless of the times I have wanted to go online and slam a company over their treatment, it is actually a very difficult thing for me to do. But that does not mean I just let it go. I called back the next day, used a different name and worked my way through a few channels to speak directly with the doctor. Once there, I was able to tell him my story of the situation I faced. He was horrified. Had he known of this he would have made room for me in his schedule and been happy to help; which is a common reaction from the doctors. They do want to help; they want the business and are willing to adjust their schedule. He had the desire and the power. He, however, had not communicated that importance to his team, nor given them the ability to do what was needed; that is why, ultimately, he lost. He listened as I explained that to him, then I thanked him for his time and let it go – which is why I won’t be naming any names of anyone.
As a leader, no one can do anything fully on their own. They need others to support and fulfill the cause. They need front line troops, strategy experts and equipment handlers. But the best leaders understand that everything starts at the front line – if you lose the battle there, the rest is futile. Your business’ customer service agents are the one dealing daily with issues and problems. Listen to them and give them the ability to act in the name of the company for the benefit of the customer. It’s the perfect right flank to long-term success.