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Monday, June 06, 2011

"You Shouldn't Call Here", Or, How To Lose A Customer

Just had another experience that reminded me of the importance of putting ourselves in our patron's shoes and making life as easy as possible, even if your university or library policies are a bit convoluted.


I called a medical specialist's office to see why I still did not have an appointment, five weeks after my doctor faxed my records and called to make the appointment. The conversation went something like this:


Me: "Hi! I'm just calling to follow up and see what I can do to expedite getting an appointment. I know you likely don't have anything open for months, I just want to get on your calendar. My doctor's office faxed my information and called five weeks ago, but I haven't heard anything back."
Receptionist: "Your doc office has to call and set it up."
Me: "They did. You said you were swamped and would get back to them. Your office hasn't."
Receptionist: "No, we always make the appointment when they call."
Me: "They've called your office weekly for 5 weeks to no avail. My nurse calls me to give me a report."
Receptionist: "That's not true, because it's not our policy."
Me: "Okay, I'm not sure where things went wrong. You have my file. My doc's office has called. Can you just give me a time slot?"
Receptionist: "No, your doc office has to call, and we give it to them, and they give it to you. You shouldn't call here; we can't help you."

She never even took my name.


I hung up frustrated and annoyed that my care has been delayed because of someone's failure to play ring-around-the-rosie phone tag. So, my doctor's office has to call you, and then they have to call me, even though you already have my file, know I'm a valid patient, and I'm already on the phone with you.


Frustration. Right now, I see this in academic library terms as "Well, you see, the copiers in the library aren't really the Library's; they belong to the Copy Office. And the Copy Office is actually located across campus. And you have to deliver them a paper form to get a $.10 refund for the copy that the machine mangled. And then you will be able to print the one page memo that is due in fifteen minutes. Here, let me get you a map so you know where to go, because we can't help you."


This is not good customer service. It is an explanation, and perhaps a helpful one in case this occurs again. But in the moment that the student needs one single copy/printout/whatever, does it really hurt us so much to make the damned copy ourselves? It costs us a piece of paper, a little ink, some extra flexing of decision-making muscle, and earns our user's gratitude and goodwill in return.


Telling me not to call the specialist's office, and that they can't help me...well, I'll tell you this: if you can't help me with what should be the easy part of just getting on the calendar, how the hell am I going to trust you with my medical care and records? Could you imagine if "You shouldn't call here; we can't help you" was standard customer service fare?


Had the receptionist sympathized with me, but noted the call-circle requirements were somehow medically necessary, I would have been *ecstatic* had she taken the initiative to call my doc's office, straighten whatever it is out and get me on the calendar. Instead, I was left with the feeling that the office was unhelpful at best, and rude at worst. Given that I run what is essentially a customer service department, I was affronted. I'll guiltily admit had a typical patron-who-had-a-bad-experience response: I wrote negative reviews of my experience and posted them wherever Google was collecting and publishing reviews of local doctor's offices. Turns out I'm not the only one who had this experience.


I called the only other specialist in the field in town, and had an extremely pleasant encounter with a receptionist that gave me a step-by-step explanation of how to get my doctor's office to get me in as quickly as possible. She took my name and said when the call came in, she would put me on the cancellation list immediately to get me in sooner. She invited me to call again if I had any other questions. I get the feeling this office will be a much better fit for me. I hope the doctor is as helpful as his office staff. I hope he appreciates the letter I've drafted commending him for hiring such warm, friendly, and helpful staff.

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