Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Customer Service

I guess this would be more aptly entitled "Patient Service".

You know, I think there may be no place where customer service skills are more important than in the medical field. Whether you are the receptionist, the biller, the doctor, or the nurse - when a person or their family member is in need of medical attention, quite frankly the last thing they need is some jerk-wad to deal with.

And yes, I have worked there. I worked in medical offices for over four years, in administrative positions. I know how stressful it is. In fact, those were the two most stressful jobs I've ever had, for various reasons. I'm not saying I handled every situation perfectly, but 99.9% of the time, when dealing with patients, I had my game face on. For their sake. Whether I liked them or not. Whether I thought they were being reasonable or not. Whether I was tired or not. Whether they were idiots or not. It's part of the customer service game, people. It's what you do.

This also means that when I call a doctors' office, I know the lingo. I know what to ask, how to ask it, what info should be important to them, what isn't. I tend to give the staff the benefit of the doubt, even when FireMan tells me I should say something I tend to stay quiet, assuming maybe someone's just having a bad day.

I can handle the occasional mis-step from the staff, because I empathize with them. I remember what it was like to have hundreds of patients calling on you, asking you to bend to their needs (or wants), disrespecting you and demanding to speak to the nurse / doctor / office manager over the littlest thing, and even (the hardest one for me to deal with when I worked there) telling you that if they die their blood is on your hands. You'd be surprised how many times I heard that one. As a receptionist. I cried the first time. Maybe the second.

But when someone repeatedly, consistently, behaves with anything but grace, with a complete lack of any customer service skills at all - I really have no sympathy, and quickly lose patience.

There is a member of the office staff at FireGirl's pediatrician who is severely lacking in customer service skills. If you ask her a question, anything, she takes on an extremely irritated tone of voice.

She has rolled her eyes at me because I asked her to make sure they had our new insurance on file.

I've called for something urgent, and she acts like I'm asking the world because my child is sick.

've called for non-urgent appointments, and she gets frustrated because I won't leave work and show up in 30 minutes, as she is apparently doing me a huge favor by offering me the opening, and to look ahead three weeks (God forbid a parent plan ahead for their child's checkups) is apparently a huge inconvenience to her.

And then there is the lab results desk (pretty sure it's two women) at my doctor's office. I had my ultrasound on a Thursday, and was told that my doctor should be calling me by Friday afternoon. Well, they didn't. But it was a holiday weekend (Independence Day), so I cut them some slack. Monday was the holiday. By the end of Tuesday... still nothing.

In the meantime, my symptoms are not only persisting, but seem to be getting worse.

By Wednesday noon, nothing. So I call around 2pm. The phone rings & rings & rings until it rolls to the receptionist. She says she doesn't know why they don't answer, and patches me back to them. Except this time it goes to voicemail after one ring.

By 5pm, no phone call. By Thursday noon, still nothing. So I call back at 1:30pm. I explain that I had the ultrasound done a week ago, and had been told I would have the results the next day, but didn't. That I had given it a couple extra days due to the holiday weekend, but now it's been a week, and I just wanted to see what my results were. All very nice & polite, I assure you, just explaining why I was calling back again. She takes down my information. I tell them to call my work number if it's before 5pm, and give them the number.

At 4:30pm, I get a call. On my cell phone. So much for listening to directions.

She explains that my ultrasound was completely normal.

I ask if the doctor left any note or instructions as to what I should do next, as he had alluded in my appointment that he really thought the ultrasound would show the problem, and on the off-chance it didn't, he would most likely refer me to a specialist.

She sighed, and her nice voice immediately changed to irritated voice.

"Well, if you're still having symptoms, then I suggest you make another appointment to see the doctor. Okay? Thank you." Click.

Really? I mean: REALLY?!?

I was more than accomodating, waiting far past the expected time for my results. I was polite the entire time, all three calls, had my nice-phone-voice going, asked a very reasonable & routine question and even explained why I was asking.

And you're irritated, blowing me off, and hanging up on me WHY?!?

The proper response should have gone something like this: "You know, there's no note on here about that. Why don't I check with him and have someone give you a call back?", said in a happy, nice voice. And then
actually doing it.

By they way - I called back the next day & left a message for the doctor. As expected, he referred me to a specialist without seeing me again. Had I listened to the bad-attitude-lady I would have wasted valuable time, delayed my specialist appointment, wasted the doctor's time, and paid an extra co-pay... all because of poor customer service skills. Sad. Makes you wonder how many times that happens.

I realize this is just a vent, and I know people have bad days, but seriously, if you are working in any customer service field, but particularly in a medical service field (let's face it, if you're in the medical field, your job is to serve the patient), if you can't handle putting your game face on and being nice and polite to patients & their families, then get a new job. Seriously. Just get a new job.

You know, before my patience wears out and I actually file a complaint with your office manager & our doctor. Because eventually, my patience will wear out, and just like I tell them when a nurse / receptionist / clerk / whatever goes out of their way to help, I have no problem telling them about your little attitude problem.

Seriously. Get a new job.

'until the next time I take FireGirl to the doctor

1 comment:

Cyndy Bush said...

I think you should go ahead and file a complaint. With both offices (yours & the peds). That is unacceptable. I'm stickler for good customer service, and I have provided it myself for many years. I worked in an ICU for over 4 years and I totally agree with you that its more important in the health care field than anywhere else (both treating people respectfully and being competent!).

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