By Mark Wright, OD, FCOVD,
and Carole Burns, OD, FCOVD
August 28, 2019
Would your patient come away from their experience in your office feeling well cared for, and that your office’s processes are efficient and pleasant?
Recently we were flying at 8 a.m. from Buffalo, N.Y., to Columbus, Ohio, with a change of planes in Chicago at O’Hare International Airport. Our flight was delayed due to a large storm which was moving through Chicago.
I approached four American Airlines employees in the Buffalo airport, who were standing around laughing and talking with each other at gate 2A, and asked for help. I was informed that they were too busy to help. I immediately called the American Airlines Admirals Club reservation helpline and talked to an employee who forgot that Phoenix, Ariz. (where he was located) was in a different time zone than Buffalo, N.Y. The flight he was trying to put me on, because he thought we had two hours to board, was taxiing to the runway as we were talking.
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Because of the delay in Buffalo, we arrived too late and missed our connection in Chicago. This storm caused the cancellation of several hundred flights and, being experienced flyers, we realized the probability of getting home on the same day was dropping rapidly.
My plea was simple: if you can’t get us to Columbus, then get us to any city close. I would have settled for Dayton, Akron, Cincinnati or Cleveland. As it turned out, we had to rent a hotel room in Chicago and fly out the next morning to Akron and have our son pick us up and drive us home.
What’s the point of the story? Not one of the American Airlines employees that I interacted with made me feel that they were doing their best to help me get home. Some were not competent. Most of the employees gave answers to my questions that were technically accurate, but limited to the specific question I asked. No one became my champion and said, “I understand what you’re trying to do. If we can’t get you to Columbus, then let’s see how close we can get you to Columbus today.”
How often do our patients feel we are not giving them our best? How often do we or our staff answer the patient’s question with technical accuracy, but do not become the patient’s champion searching for a solution that may be an acceptable compromise? How often do patients come away from an encounter with us or our staff feeling disappointed, feeling that we didn’t try our best to solve their problem?
Have you ever found staff talking to each other about non-work topics, perhaps even laughing and joking, while ignoring the patient who approached them for help? How does the patient feel at that moment? Disney solved this by creating an internal training program called “On Stage, Off Stage.” We need to train our staff and doctors that when we are “On Stage” we are 100 percent in character.
We are there to help our patients and solve their problems and never should make patients wait until we finish the story about what we did this past weekend or the great movie that we just saw.
Trying to address this problem would make a great office meeting. Identify real situations that have occurred in the office when patients left unhappy. Then, brainstorm solutions and work out the verbiage so that the next time this situation occurs in the office we have a better handle on what to say and do.
As a Platinum level American Airlines flyer, clearly, I am a loyal customer. In our practices we don’t want just want satisfied patients, we want loyal patients. As a result of my recent encounter with American Airlines employees, this loyal customer is seriously considering changing airlines. Think of the impact of a Platinum level customer changing airlines.
They will lose not only me, but also lose my wife and my kids. Now, think of the impact of losing a patient. We don’t just lose that patient, but we lose the circle of people around them. That should be powerful enough motivation to prioritize resolving these situations in our practices by making our patients feel that we are always doing our best to help them, even in the times when we need to make a compromise.