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Why Poor Customer Service Continues in Medical Practices


Despite training and numerous resources on good customer service, the opposite occurs regularly in medical practices. Here’s my theory why.

I walked upstairs and entered the office for my second medical appointment of the day. When I walked up to the receptionist desk, a young man with a headset on, who had been looking at a computer monitor in front of him waited, then looked up at me and said, "Name"? No smile, no facial expression. I got the feeling I had interrupted something. Still upset from my previous appointment I said to him, "Well hello to you too." in my most sarcastic voice. If he got my message he did not show it. I gave him my name and he told me to have a seat in the waiting room.

I only had to wait maybe 10 minutes when the physician I had come to see arrived and we went to his office. He was very friendly and is always a pleasure to talk with. My visit went smoothly.

Afterward, I went back to the first clinic I had visited and it was closed (after telling me to return).

So let’s talk about why people act the way they do in customer service positions; why some people just perform badly. Is it from a lack of knowledge? Perhaps. However, I know that most human resources departments and training staff no matter the company cover good customer service techniques during orientation. I know as a professional who studies and writes about these types of subjects that there is no lack of information on the Web and in print about what good customer service is. Everyone must be a little bit familiar with the subject. So why?

I believe it has to do with some social, socio-economic, and cultural issues. It seems to me that:

1. People are more selfish and self-centric these days, in general;

2. The workplace has become more and more competitive and winning has become everything; and

3. Some individuals sometimes use customer service positions to show that they now are in power and can be in charge, even if it is in just a small function such as controlling the front office.

You really have to think of these things when interviewing candidates for patient service and patient care positions. In general, you must know the type of person you are managing to be able to communicate with them and manage them effectively.

After leaving the Navy some years ago. I had to take a job in the hospitality industry. It soon became very apparent to me that people were very competitive in the workplace and that you could not trust many people. I had people sabotage my efforts, left and right, and who worked behind my back to try and make themselves look better. This took some getting used to. I had gotten used to the team environment I had been in during my 13 years in the Navy and did not expect this.

I also believe that people have become desensitized to bad manners and bad customer service. We experience it daily; over and over again. The threshold just keeps rising. I mean how many people can you correct? How many people can you tell off? And why should you do some managers job? You don’t get paid for it. And it takes time to do, right? And don’t even get me started on the managers because a lot of times you ask for a manager and get the same bad treatment, if not worse, than that for which you called him to complain about.

So I still believe the keys to changing the damaging effects of personnel who do not display a happy, helpful, caring attitude are the things that I have already talked about. Namely:

• Hire the right people.

• Inform employees from the start what you expect from them and reinforce it routinely.

• Train, train, train.

• Monitor your employees performance.

• Hold them accountable.

• Reward superior performance.

• Monitor your patients; treat the whole person.

Next week, I will discuss the techniques you and your staff must use when dealing with an angry and upset patient.

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