My friend, John, has been seeing the same attending physician for 30+ years. The attending physician has gotten a little set in his ways. John was understandably anxious to get the results of a biopsy on his lung. After all, a spot on your lung can be a pretty nerve-racking thing to have to deal with.
He was originally told the results would be available in 4 days. For 8 days, he struggled to get through the doctor’s phone system which is essentially a brick wall, designed to keep patients away. After finally connecting with the attendant in the doctor’s office, better known as the gatekeeper, she informed him that they could not find any record of the biopsy. She further quizzed him on where the procedure was done. Miffed and angered to the extreme, he complied as best he could with the questions until he finally hung up.
He is still waiting for the results.
In the meantime, on the same day, he called and engaged membership with a concierge physician. Expensive, but with the level of service in healthcare today, well worth it.
The strong emergence of concierge physicians in our country is not without reason. You can take the ‘bad’ piece above and get all you need to know about the level of customer service in healthcare. They have forgotten the Hippocratic Oath. The good news for this particular concierge physician is that he now has ‘John’ as a customer for life. The concierge service probably runs somewhere between $3,500 and $7,500 annually, but given the level of non-service issued by the other options the money is well worth it.
Take a look at how this happened. One medical service is fired and another engaged on the same day for the same reasons we talk about all through this website.
Disengaged, disinterested, arrogant and insensitive behavior and service are pathological—as it relates to service. Why is this so hard to grasp? If any area of business needs a total overhaul of their understanding of the word ‘service’ it is the healthcare industry.
At a time when I was a horrible flyer, my wife and I took a trip to Key West. In those days, when we flew, we always made arrangements to be on big jets because of my anxiety when flying.
As we are coming back from Key West we arrive a little late in Atlanta, where we were to make our connecting flight home. We arrive late but we get to the gate, where our nice big jet is waiting 5 minutes early. The door to the ramp is closed.
I ask the attendant if we can get on the plane.
She never looks up at me, never takes her eyes off the computer. She is pounding away on the keyboard and says “the door is closed.”
Not “Sorry the door is closed”
“The door is closed you can’t get on yet”
“When the door is closed, the flight is shut down.”
“The door is closed.” Go away.
I immediately run across the hall to another gate with one of those wonderful, nice, people. I plead my case, and she at least tries to call the captain but to no avail.
This series of events tells me two things:
- If I had gone to the other gate first we may have got on the plane—but why would I? I was at the right gate.
- That airline was in dire financial trouble at the time. I wonder why?
I will never, never, fly that airline again. My fear of flying has been sent packing thanks to the US Air fearful flyers class which I completed. My wife and I fly to Las Vegas, San Francisco, Austin and New York regularly. I now enjoy flying and fly Southwest every chance I get. Without fail their support personnel and flight attendants are smiling and helpful. Not sure how much I spend but I know my American Express points are always around 250,000. I wouldn’t get on that other airline if the flights were free.
I owned a meat packing business from 1981-1987. I was a horrible operator and eventually went broke. No one person’s fault but mine, but man did I get a million-dollar education. I tried like hell to always have the lowest price. I let the customers, which in this case were area restaurants, hotels, schools and institutions, dictate my prices.
I was too intimidated by the customer demands, and too weak of an operator to know exactly how to handle the pricing pressures.
When they said “so and so only charges 4.99/lb for New York strips.” I took the bait and matched or beat the price.
Wow. How dumb.
Exactly the wrong way to do business. And the worst by-product of all of this is that the only way I could get close to the price pressure was by sacrificing quality and breaking down a lesser quality of beef.
Had I truly had the customers’ best interest in mind, I could have controlled the situation by making the customer more successful! The answer was quality not price.
The mission of the customer (in this instance a restaurant operator) is to get buying customers to come to his or her business. You don’t do that by serving moderate or below average food to the customers!
Had I been a little more skilled and less anxious to jump and get the customer through lower pricing, I could have served the customer better. With higher quality beef, he could have put more customers in the restaurant and made more money and tied to me in a way that I would not lose his business because of price. Once again, the customer is not served, so the supplier gets notice that he is fired.
Eric checks in at Hotel Wonderful, which is widely noted and known for great service and for accommodating the elite class customer. But this gentleman does not ‘appear’ to be in that class. He is not with a group or a big convention. Nor is he conducting a big presentation.
He’s just a guy checking in for an evening. This gentleman is fashionable but is not wearing a $10K suit like some of the other ladies and gentlemen at Hotel Wonderful. He requests a late check out for the following day. The normal check out time is 11:00 am. He needs to check out at 2:30 otherwise he will have 3 ½ hours of dead time prior to his engagement. His request is handled this way by the front desk attendant, “sorry Mr. Jones but we can only extend your check out by more than one hour unless we charge you for another full day.”
A full day at Hotel Wonderful costs $459.00
Once again, terrible customer service finds its way through the mouth, and heart, of a non-thinking attendant. It happens over and over, every day, in every business in every city.
For 2 ½ extra hours the unknowing, unskilled attendant blew it for Hotel Wonderful.
You see, she didn’t know she was waiting on the Executive Vice President for Berkshire Hathaway. Eric was scouting venues for company retreats, settings for having a notable speaker hold his customer service training sessions at Hotel Wonderful. Berkshire Hathaway has 42,000 agents and 1,200 office locations.
Knowing what you know now, do you think that John would hold these conferences at Hotel Wonderful?
This is just another example of not knowing who you are waiting on or lacking creativity in dealing with a unsteady situation. Thin-skinned behavior that always sees a challenge from a customer as an affront. For surrendering a few extra hours, this attendant could have increased the bookings at Hotel Wonderful in such a manner that she would be the “front desk” lady of the year. But, alas, America’s Customer Service disaster wins again.
And so does the OTHER HOTEL!
It is a fact that 90% of the realtors make 10% of the money. It follows that 10% of the realtors make the other 90% of the cash.
There is a reason that is not too hard to figure.
The successful realtor cultivates customers while the less successful realtor cultivates closings. I know what I am talking about here, because as a mortgage originator for 28 years, realtors were my main source of referral business.
To support my position I will give you an example.
The year was 2002 and banks and mortgage bankers were essentially forced into the ‘subprime’ mortgage business. The catch phrase used by Fannie Mae, the largest purchaser of conventional mortgages at the time, was ‘Everyone deserves a home.’
Even though everyone has a right to buy a home they still have to qualify for a mortgage.
Well the subprime mortgage basically eliminated the non-qualified buyer. One of the most successful realtors told me, “if you do a subprime financing for any of my customers, I will never do business with you again.”
When I asked why she said, “because in two years when these loans balloon and the rate skyrockets, I will not be left with the undoing of these unsuspecting people. They don’t realize what they are getting into and when their loans hit the wall, I am going to be seen as the reason.”
Boy did I take that to heart.
I decided even though it could have doubled my income, my company would not do these loans. This was one of the best business decisions I ever made.
This realtor is still in business, has an impeccable reputation for standing up for the customer and probably makes $1 million a year. A lot of realtors that put people in homes with subprime mortgages are out of the business for good reasons.
And the same follows for the mortgage companies and brokers that made those loans.
I eventually sold Paul Karem Mortgage to a highly respected bank. Had I become a subprime lender that could not have happened. You can only imagine the scrutiny and due diligence that takes place when a chartered bank buys a company. During that grueling testing I don’t think my company would be an attractive target for a bank with a good reputation, if I made highly speculative loans with no regard for the future of the borrower.
My realtor associate had really come up with what is now an exotic and controversial theory:
Take care of the customer. Give the customer the best advice and counsel whether you get the deal or not. People that got bad advice from the 90% group of realtors are running to the 10% group of realtors today in droves.
The increase in clients for the 10% realtor group is in direct proportion to the care and concern given to their customers.