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Fine Is a Four-letter Word

Posted by Kristin Baird on February 6th, 2012 • No Comments »

I was recently dining with friends at a restaurant after having just completed a workshop on service recovery. During my workshop, I had talked about the typical restaurant experience where the wait staff asks how everything is, and, regardless of what you really think about the food, you say, “fine.” I find that about 98 percent of my workshop participants report that they say “fine” in many less-than-satisfactory situations just to avoid confrontation.

It’s interesting that both the asker (in this case the wait staff) and the responder (in this case the customer) practice avoidance behaviors. What I’ve also noticed is that the wait staff often avoids issue by doing a “drive-by.” Without stopping to really listen, she asks how everything is but keeps walking knowing that the customer is probably going to say, “Fine.” The ugly truth is that a fine response is not a vote of confidence, nor is it a top rating. Fine can be anything from “It’s awful, but I don’t want to get into it with you” to “It’s just okay.” In either case, you won’t know what they really think until you get the survey results, and then you are shocked and disappointed.

What can healthcare leaders take away from the restaurant experience? That when making rounds on patients, remember “fine” is often a signal the patient could be avoiding confrontation. Be an astute observer during rounds and always seek suggestions for improvement. Don’t do drive-bys so that you can say you’ve made your rounds and check it off of your to-do list.

Engage and listen to your patients. Their opinions are rich with opportunity. And one more thing…practice being the type of consumer you’d like your patients to be. When things are less than expected at a restaurant, speak up and tell the waitress what you’d really like. Once you start to make these changes, you’ll be better at spotting opportunities with your patients.

For more information about better rounding practices and opportunities from the Baird Group, follow this video link.

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Baird Consulting


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