Written by John Willman
During a routine doctor’s visit, I was alerted to an insurance issue with my policy. I was being advised that although my physician was an “in-network” provider according to my insurance, the clinic where I had my exams was considered “out of network”. As a result, I would now have to pay $250 upfront on any future appointments. I learned this at about 8:30 AM before a 9:00 AM appointment.
I have been a patient there for about 3 years, and this has never been a requirement before that day. The receptionist responded, “Well, this has always been hospital policy. It’s just that we are now being asked to be more diligent in enforcing it.” At this point, I was left with an ultimatum, either pay the $250 or refuse payment altogether and have my appointment canceled as a result!
The decision was an obvious (similar to receiving a speeding ticket) one, and I handed her my credit card. Not happy, I proceeded with the exam and spoke to my doctor about it. She was tremendous (typical of her) and expressed her disappointment as well. She said she would see what could be done to help me with future appointments. Over the course of the next hour, I rebounded emotionally and started feeling better about my predicament. The exam concluded with my doctor asking me to come back in 6 weeks for a follow-up appointment.
When I approached the receptionist, the same one that had registered me earlier, again, she advised as follows,
“Unfortunately, I cannot schedule your follow-up visit at this time. We are asking our ‘out of network’ patients to call in for scheduling. Otherwise, you will be asked to pay $250 again.”
I was incredulous and beyond upset at this point! All I could muster was a sarcastic “thanks” to her, and I walked out the door.
As I was driving the 3 hours to return home (I live in Indy, and the hospital is in downtown Chicago), the recurring thought was, How did this entire series of events make me feel? Some of these emotions came to my mind.
As I considered these feelings, I started thinking about this hospital, whose primary function is to make people feel better about their health and well-being. While I was sitting in the exam room, I noted a poster showcasing this hospital at #4 in the country regarding their approach to treatment. In my case, however, the exact opposite had happened. I felt worse!
I started to think about my overall experience in terms of being a customer. To no one’s surprise, they had failed miserably in my mind. I then transferred those feelings to my own company specifically. In what ways are we considered “world-class” or highly lauded for our customer service and continuous improvement initiatives? How often do we “win” for our customers from a service standpoint, ultimately enabling them to “win” as well?
How do customers ‘feel’ after having worked with us?” If they took their analytical hats off momentarily and asked that question of pure emotion, what would they say?
I thought about all of the possible variables that contribute to a customer’s “feel”. Some of these criteria:
- Customer service team personnel and procedures
- Customer advocacy
- Onboarding process and contracting
- Shipment recovery process
- Quality and timeliness of our pricing proposals
- Claims process and resolution time
- Invoicing accuracy
This list in no way captures all variables as different users value different service offerings. What one person deems critical and has a definitive emotional response can be entirely different from someone else. But even an overly awful experience in any one of these areas can lead to dissatisfaction and possibly terminate the relationship if not appropriately addressed.
I had a long day, in more ways than one, as a result of these developments. I would hope that if we ever were to evoke an emotional reaction due to our efforts, it would be one of satisfaction and delight. We all impact customers or potential partners whether we realize it or not, and the impacts of how they “feel” are often more impactful than how they “think”. It is exceptionally critical then that we are sensitive to these dynamics at all times of our approach and attitude toward our customers and prospects.