Last week my husband had outpatient surgery. All I can say is; Wow! The whole thing went so well. I felt like I was dealing with the poster children for customer service. And if anyone is wondering, they had no idea who I am, or what I do. My husband and I have different last names. The registration, the delivery of information, and the personal attention were stellar. The nurses and physicians were so engaged, professional, and personable, that we both felt at ease throughout the experience. We got his discharge instructions and on the way out the door, they handed us a patient satisfaction survey. I’m not typically a fan of this methodology due to the fact that it can be easy to “forget” to give a survey to someone who has voiced a complaint. That way staff can control who gets the survey. But in this case, it didn’t matter. The whole experience was straight A.
The first night after his surgery, I handed the survey to my husband and he set it aside because he was too tired and medicated to give it much thought but just said, “They were fantastic. I can’t say enough about them.”
On his second post op day, we were to go to the clinic for his follow up appointment. Because the surgeon practices out of two locations, we made sure to double check the discharge documents. A 45 minute drive landed us exactly where the discharge instructions indicated, only to be greeted with a blank stare and then a terse statement, “She’s not even here today. You must have mixed up.” She literally waved us off saying, “Go on upstairs and talk to them. They may know something.”
There were so many service mistakes here. 1) Don’t lay it on the customer, even if it is his fault, which in this case, it was not. 2) Don’t send a man on crutches on a relay race to find information when you can pick up the phone. It’s just inexcusable. 3) Take ownership and action on behalf of the organization.
Once we got to the second desk, the attendant was more helpful, but of course by then, both of us were irritated. We just wanted to be seen by his surgeon so she could review her work and give us the next steps. We were offered an appointment a week out. No way. That is how patients end up with post op complications. A scheduler has no medical knowledge to be making that type of decision for a surgeon. Insisting that he be seen today, meant that we had to race across town to another location. We were more than willing to do that, but time was limited as the surgeon was scheduled back in the OR.
When we got to the surgeons office, they were waiting for us and fit us right in. We got the dressing change and instructions that we needed and headed on our way.
Now when he fills out his satisfaction survey, my husband will have had this second, less than desirable, experience that could influence his ratings. Whether it’s a follow up appointment, or a confusing bill, patient experiences are the sum of all interactions, not just the first chapter in the story. Each encounter must represent the brand in the best possible light. Every person in every department should ask themselves, “What if this was this patient’s last impression. What would he leave with?”
Remember, last impressions are lasting impressions. Make them count.