It would be unfair to characterize me as a bitch. Truth be told, I’m not a bitch, but I am one demanding woman. So I tend to bitch. And when it comes to business–professional or personal–I am a perfectionist. What was it Vince Lombardi said?
” . . . we are going to relentlessly chase perfection, knowing full well we will not catch it, because nothing is perfect. But we are going to relentlessly chase it, because in the process we will catch excellence. I haven’t the remotest interest in just being good.” -First team meeting as Green Bay Packers coach (1959)
Yeah! That quote gets my juices flowing. My poor staff can tell you just how demanding I can be (I love them, though I know it doesn’t always seem like I do). My colleagues know how I push and push to achieve ever higher levels of excellence (oh yes, I have made my share of enemies). My poor professors probably recall my arguments over their red-lining of my papers (though it always made me a better writer). Now my physicians are going to discover that I demand a level of excellence from them as well. I am a gadfly. You could say it’s a calling.
As far as I’m concerned, good customer service is a non-negotiable. In a doctor’s office, the receptionist is your front line to the practice. They may think they’re just there to make appointments and answer the telephone, but what they really do by virtue of every phone call answered, every appointment made, and every problem solved is represent the practice. And if they are doing a bad job, confidence in that practice could suffer.
I had to call my surgeon’s office yesterday; I needed some medical records sent to an oncologist for a second opinion on my oncological care. When the individual on the other end answered the telephone, the conversation went like this: “[unintelligble], I need to put you on hold.” Something told me it would be interesting to wait this one out. Ten minutes later I hung up the phone. There was no conversation. I never even got to say hello. I left a message with the office manager and told him about this and asked if I could please have this addressed by close of business. He called me, apologized, proceeded to assist me, and assured me that he would fax the material right away. It took less than five minutes with the apology.
Today, after mulling some general concerns, I decided that I would like to speak with my surgeon about some hesitation I had about the oncological end of my care. I figured he was on or going on vacation, but I thought I would call the office to see if I could speak with him–or leave a message for him to call at his leisure. The call was answered and I was put on hold. Five minutes went by. And finally someone picked up: “Are you being helped?” After I said no and that I had been on hold for five minutes, she sighed and asked how she could help me. Sorry I pointed out your bad customer service. Want me to point out your inappropriate attitude as well? When I said that this wasn’t for an exam, but I needed to speak with him all I received was a take-it-or-leave-it appointment. She offered no assistance: didn’t offer to take a message, take a phone number, or even ask how she could facilitate contact. Frustrated and annoyed, I told her I changed my mind and she hung up the phone. I didn’t even get to do it first.
So I did what I do best: I took to the keyboard and composed a short, honest, and to-the-point letter that I sent to the office manager and copied to my surgeon.
This is the thing: People aren’t calling my breast surgeon to have their tits lifted or to have fat sucked out of their ass. This is a practice where women seek treatment because they have BREAST CANCER. So when I call saying that I have some questions about my care and would like to speak with my surgeon, I expect a better level of service. That I didn’t get that makes me have concerns about my care. And it makes me have concerns about the practice.
Will I know if my doctor gets a message? Will information get to me in a timely way? What if there is an emergency, can I trust this staff to facilitate a solution? Well, no, I don’t think I can. A practice among the best in NYC deserves better. I, as a patient, deserve better.
So when you’re facing a lousy receptionist, a crummy nurse, a nasty doctor, or anyone who is rude to you when you’re facing a potentially deadly diagnosis? Embrace your inner gadfly and bitch. That business, if it cares enough, will be glad you did.