Doctors can be great. They help us when we’re in need of medical attention, and can truly impact our lives in incredibly positive ways. Just think about where we would be without them?
That being said….why do some of them offer such poor customer service?
Like I mentioned, some doctors can be great and have visited a few of them since childhood. Great, caring, bright people who can help you when you need their services. However I’ve visited a few others over the years who have clearly forgotten their people skills. These exceptions seem to think that they’re elite, ultra-important individuals whose time and energy are too valuable to worry about customer service.
I visited one of these physicians recently for a minor health issue, and was stunned by the level of service I received. Ok, maybe stunned isn’t the right word at all, since some (not all or even most, but some) other doctors are like this anyway. Rather, I was disappointed by the lack of attention I received as a paying patient.
There’s undoubtedly been infinitely worse customer service examples, but here’s the lowdown on my experience:
The Doctor Visit
First, I showed up to the appointment just a few minutes late. Now, I strive to be places on time but in this instance I was just a few minutes late. No big deal, right? Well, the receptionist made a big production out of it, saying that they’d let me in though if people are late past a certain amount of minutes they cancel appointments. I was within that acceptable window, but still – talk about strong-arming a patient!
Second, despite getting there within minutes of my appointment, I had to wait nearly 1 hour to see the doctor. Keep in mind this was an early morning appointment – could the doctor already be that far behind schedule? Come on.
Third, the diagnosis he offered me included no opportunity to ask questions. Just a brief statement, a comment that they’ll email the script to the pharmacy, and a brief comment to see him in 6 weeks.
The Pharmacy Visit
Then, as I went to the pharmacy to pick up the script, there were more issues. The pharmacist didn’t understand the dosing on the prescription that came through, as it was far greater than the normal dosing. He thought the doctor’s office made a mistake. Along those lines, he quite understandably wouldn’t issue the medicine to me without clarification. So, he called the office to get clarification, and was told that he’d get a call back, and it was implied that it would be the same day.
They never called him.
I followed up with my own call that same day, and they told me that the doctor was out for the weekend and actually won’t be back in until Tuesday. Thus, I would have to wait to get my prescription until the following Tuesday.
Hard to blame the pharmacist on this one. Rather, it was a continuation of a pattern seen in the doctor visit.
The doctor and his office have horrible customer service. And that’s the point which seems lost on them: customer service.
You see, in my view, a doctor is a service provider. Not necessarily any ordinary service provider, but a service provider nonetheless. Thus, customer service should be an important part of a doctor’s business.
Can you imagine if a restaurant made you wait 1 hour for a table, just because you showed up a couple of minutes late for a reservation? Or, could you imagine a car mechanic quickly telling you the problem with your car then ending conversation before you have any chance to discuss?
I wouldn’t go back to those places unless they were really, really good.
This doctor seems really good, I grudgingly admit. Very good. That’s why he can get away with this type of service for now.
Lesson: When you’re really, really good at something, you might be able to get away with more than someone who’s not as gifted.
However, you better believe that I would switch doctors immediately if I had a better one readily available.
Second Lesson: When you’re no longer the best or only option, you can’t get away with things anymore and might be “punished” by your customers through their decisions to move on.
This leaves me wondering: why don’t doctors see themselves as service providers just like anybody else? Surely, if one is bright enough to get through medical school and beyond, it should be apparent that they need to provide good service.
Sure, insurance companies play big role in determining where people go, but in many areas there are plenty of choices. Thus, the ultimate customer is still the patient.
Additionally, people can review their doctors online and share their stories much easier than in years gone by when a doctor’s reputation was based primarly on word of mouth. Now, search engines can help provide feedback on a doctor much easier. It’s tougher for bad service to hide these days.
Like I said, there are many great physicians out there. I’m not jumping on the whole profession here by any means. However, there are enough who find it perfectly acceptable to make patients wait forever and then give them scant attention when their time arrives. It just makes good business sense to treat your customers well if you want them to come back.
Let’s not forget an important word from the last sentence: business. Doctors don’t work for free, they want to be compensated for their work. If you’re compensated, you should provide service. That is, if you want your business to flourish. A physician’s practice, even if part of a large group practice, is still a business.
So, just like if we visit a restaurant, get a car fixed, get a haircut, have home repairs done, or other services – a visit to a doctor is no different. We’re paying for a service. A doctor who really treats patients like important customers can truly stand out these days.
Want any ideas on how to go the extra mile to provide great customer service? Read this story on the best customer service I’ve ever received.
Any good doctors reading this – no offense, I realize many of your are there:)
My Questions For You:
Have you ever received poor service from a doctor? What happened and how did you handle it?
Do you view this the way I do, that conceptually a doctor is a service provider just the same way a waiter, hair stylist, or plumber might be?