I was at a new diagnostic center for some blood work and witnessed an interesting exchange. Unfortunately, an exchange all too common. On the other hand, these things can be easily handled — and even turned into a huge positive — if company leadership is aware of it. And, not just aware but willing to make a priority of equipping their patient-contact employees with the correct skills and attitudes.
Sitting near the nurse’s window, I saw an elderly, and somewhat perturbed-looking woman approach. The nurse asked how she could help. The woman, attempting to be cordial but assertive, said she was there “to take another test as your company lost the first one. I can’t believe I had to drive all the way back again because of a mistake like that.”
The nurse politely, but without any semblance of feeling or empathy, said, “Please fill out this form.”
The woman, unacknowledged and dissatisfied, continued, with what was obviously defensive laughter, “I tell you, if it happens again, I’m through with this place. Imagine that happening — losing someone’s information like that.”
The nurse, politely, but without any semblance of feeling or empathy, said, “Have a seat. Someone will be with you soon.”
The woman sat down, obviously frustrated, more angry than before, and looking about ready to explode.
Why had her anger grown? Was she still mad about the lost test results? Probably, but that wasn’t the reason for her present frustration. Perhaps because she had to take time out of her day to come back in? Oh, sure, that didn’t help, but I don’t believe that was it, either.
I truly believe the frustration, anger and yes, escalating rage she was now fighting to control was the very same thing that gave me wonder as to why “people skills” are not consistently taught to customer, guest and patient contact personnel.
Allow me to explain. In fact, please pardon me for a moment while I imitate the late comedian, Sam Kinison in order to make the point. Here it is…SHE WANTED TO BE ACKNOWLEDGED!!!!! She was saying, “ACKNOWLEDGE ME!!…UNDERSTAND MY FEELINGS!!…THAT’S ALL I WANT FROM YOU!!!!!”
She wanted the nurse not just to know what had happened, but to also “understand” how she “felt” about the situation. She wanted the nurse to say, “Oh dear, I’m so sorry that happened. You must be terribly upset. Well, I’ll tell you what — I will personally make sure everyone here on staff is aware of it and it won’t happen again. I’m so sorry.”
I can practically guarantee you that, had the nurse said that (regardless of what had actually happened), the woman would’ve become a big fan and huge promoter of the company.
Instead, only a polite, by-the-numbers, impersonal response, ignoring the woman’s feelings; ignoring her…humanity.
One might say, “But Bob, the patient didn’t exactly use Winning Without Intimidation methods in her dealing with the nurse.” I agree. And, the fact is, most people don’t know about these principles. I witness that practically everywhere I go. I believe, however, that in the above situation, the onus is on the business personnel to understand this and take the lead.
Sure, they have to deal with patients all day long — of course, that “is” their job — many of whom can surely be above and beyond difficult. And, while no one should ever be expected to take abuse from those they are in business to serve, incidents such as these can be so easily handled it seems like a waste of kindness (not to mention “really effective marketing”) not to do so correctly.
So, let’s ask ourselves; when someone voices a complaint regarding something we or anyone within our company has allegedly done…or not done, do we — regardless of the facts — at least let them know we understand they are upset? Do we communicate that a remedial action will be taken? And, do we — to the degree we have the power to do so…do so?
How do you rate yourself in that regard? Any thoughts you’d like to share?