A little customer service goes a long way

Just a little vent to start off our week….

Last night, I had to spend the night in the hospital with my two year old son, so he could be tested for sleep apnea. Now, unless you’re having a baby, which is probably one of the most glorious experiences you’ll ever have inside a hospital, most people are apprehensive about visiting and/or spending the night in one of these facilities, since you’re usually only there if you’re sick, or if you’re visiting someone who’s sick.

Nonetheless, our city’s hospital has the only pediatric sleep lab in the area, so off we went, with our overnight bags in tow. We go to the specified room, where the technician on duty that night grunted which room we were to be in. No introductions. No smile. Seeing as we were already apprehensive about being there, the night was starting off great.

We get my son settled in his pjs and go through his nighttime rituals. The technician again comes in and monotonously runs through his schpeel about how he would hook up about 100 sensors to my child so he could monitor his sleep and oxygen levels overnight. (Again, he never once looked at my son or even addressed him. They may be small, but toddlers are actual people, too, and understand more than you think).

We get my son to sleep, and the tech comes in and spends the next hour and a half hooking him up to a maze of wires and sensors. Miraculously, my son never woke up.

After a fitful night’s sleep for both of us (I can’t believe he slept as well as he did with all those wires on him), the tech came in this morning to unhook him. No good morning. No, “How did he do?” Just started taking these ledes off, which feel like ripping off band-aids. Except, again, there were about 100 of them.

My son was such a trooper and held it together. Except for one moment when he looked at me with this scared little face and his lip started trembling. One little tear dripped down his cheek, and you could tell he was so scared because this strange man was unceremoniously ripping these things off of him. It broke my heart.

When we left, there was no goodbye or mention when the test results would be in (although already knew that from our referring physician).

The moral of this rant is that a little customer service can go a long way. This technician obviously didn’t like his job, didn’t like children, or both. Especially in a hospital setting when people are already on edge, you would think medical employees would work to be a little more sensitive to people’s fears and concerns – and especially when there are young children involved.

And because you’ll always tell WAY more people are your negative experiences with a brand versus your positive ones, you can bet I’ll be telling anyone who’ll listen about how we were treated during my son’s sleep study. It may not make a difference, but it will make me feel better.

We have to wait three weeks to get the test results back, and unless it’s absolutely medically necessary, I won’t subject my son to that kind of treatment again.

If you deal with any kind of customer in your business, keep in mind how far a little good customer service can go. It might just be a the difference between someone raving about their experience with your brand, or telling the world about their terrible experience.

Now, I’m going to take a nap……

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7 Comments

  1. Oh no! Yep, this is totally someone “just doing his job.” It’s so unfortunate. I had a much less stressful experience stranded on our return trip from Michigan… we found out the hard way that somehow only one of our cars had roadside coverage. Wha???

    As I was waiting on hold, I was ranting to my sons (who are a bit older than yours, at almost-12 and 7) about how when they hold a job one day, it’s not just a job. These are real, live people on the other end of whatever it is you’re doing. I’m still stumped by how many people still don’t see that.

    If you’re taking a food order, it’s someone on the other end who’s hungry.

    If you’re shipping a package, it’s not just a box, it’s something of meaning to someone… a birthday gift, maybe? A scrapbook of your recently deceased grandmother? You never know.

    If you’re setting up car insurance, it’s someone who might need a lot of help one day.

    If you’re strapping up a toddler to a bunch of wires, it’s not only the toddler who’s scared and confused, it’s the parents who have been spending many sleepless nights hovering over this child, checking to see if he’s still breathing. And watching as he endures a nasty night, not understanding why.

    It’s not just a job. It’s a human being on the other end. Really. We have to get this.

    Okay, that may seem a bit over-blown, but not really. How do we get people to see this??

  2. Amen, Christy. And thanks for your note. You’re right, I’m not sure why it’s so hard for people to understand how much their actions impact others experiences. It’s honestly why a company could have the best branding material in the world, but if the people on the front lines don’t deliver on that promise, it’s just words on a screen or piece of paper. A brand promise isn’t a promise unless everyone carries it out together.

  3. Hey Liza,

    Sorry to hear your little guy had such a bad experience at a place that is supposed to be about making people better.

    The guy helping you may have just been a bad apple, but more than likely your experience is a result of the seeds that are sown in that workplace. The people at the top set the tone for what is important for the employees and its apparent that smiling and interracting with the scared little kids and their parents arent a top priority.

    For every one business that i find that provides over the top customer service, i find 20 or more that provide mediocre service at best. Its not really more difficult to be extraordinary, but it takes someone at the top fostering that ethic. In order to make it work, the employer has to think of their employees as customers and be committed to providing them the same extraordinary experience that they expect their employees to deliver.

    Hope you got in a restful nap!

  4. You’re right, Rick, I’m sure this guy could’ve just been a bad apple. Do you think it’s harder, though, as a company gets bigger, to keep that ‘top down’ approach in tact? I would think it would be easier for smaller organizations to foster that kind of environment, since employees would be able to watch leaders up close and personal. But I wonder how visible the leaders are within the big organizations? (And by now, if you live around here, you’ve figured out which hospital we were in last night). It’s more a challenge for the larger organizations but here are plenty of good examples out there of companies doing it right. And there are plenty of good apples in the bunch, too. It’s too bad when one bad one has to spoil it for everyone.

  5. Hey Liza….Just being small doesnt guarantee great service…most of the examples of poor service that i see comes from small business, it is probably just easier for a small business to correct a problem than it is for a large one. Large companies have definitely proven they are capable of providing over the top service. Ritz Carlton, Southwest Airliines, VirginAir are all large companies that have proven how to excel in customer service and the big hospital system here in Greenville is just as capable. It just takes the person/persons at the top proving how important it is and then keeping their eye on the ball.

    This guy could very easily just be a bad apple or had something very wrong going on in his life and it got the best of him last night. Either way, if he was representing my company I would want you to tell me about it. Things are going to go wrong from time to time, that is a reality. The true test of a company is how often they have something like this happen and how they ultimately react to it. I think you should pitch them the ball and see how they respond, you may come away a bigger fan of the system because of it.

    Here is a great example. I experienced a small issue this morning at the Commerce Club. It was nothing big but they have proven to me how important great service is to them so I knew they would want to know. I called Stephanie at the Club and discussed it with her. Within 10 minutes of hanging up, she had researched and addressed the issue and followed up with me. Even though they stubbed their toe a little this morning, I feel even more loyal to them because of the way they handled it afterwards.

  6. Great points, Rick. See my update today to show how the hospital handled the situation – very well, might I add, in my book at least.


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