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Customer Service - A Little Means A Lot

Laurie Weiss

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I lost my composure during a phone call.

It was 2:30 on a Friday afternoon. Six hours after I left a message at my Doctors office I called again. Since I had not received a call back and the pharmacist had not received my prescription, I was afraid the matter wouldn't be handled before they closed for they weekend.

The on-call doctor had prescribed painkillers and an MRI for my injured back. His last communication had been to tell me to call a neurologist for an immediate appointment. I was able to schedule an appointment for 6 days later - a special accommodation.

I was in pain and knew the meds would not last me 6 days - or even through the weekend. The on-call doctor left early and his nurse told me to call my own doctor first thing in the morning to get the prescription I needed. I called, as instructed, at 8:30 Friday morning.

Okay, sometimes things take longer than I want them to. But I didn't think I was committing a transgression by calling again 6 hours later. The telephone receptionist let me know how wrong I was! She immediately informed me that the nurse was busy and did not have time to return my call.

Message I heard: “You are not important. "

When I (in pain) tried to explain the problem, she cut me off and told me how busy the office was. She implied that I was being completely unreasonable by asking her to do anything to make sure the nurse had received my message.

Message I heard: “You are stupid for thinking you deserve any help. "

Then she informed me that by law they had 48 hours to respond to a request for medication (not true, I learned later). She then told me (sternly) to stop blaming her; she couldn't do anything to solve the problem.

Message I heard: “I (telephone voice) am right and you are wrong. There is something wrong with you for wanting a narcotic. "

That's when I lost it. In tears, I said, “You could at least be nice about it, " and hung up the phone.

I left another message for the nurse who called back immediately and helped me solve the prescription problem.

I told the nurse about the discourtesy and she told me that the telephone receptionist had just complained to her about me! (The nurse also told me that the 48-hour law was nonsense. )

Wouldn't it have been a lot easier for the telephone receptionist to simply say, “I'm sorry for the delay; I'll ask the nurse to call you?"

Message I would have heard but didn't: “I care and I will do my best to help you. "

A tiny bit of empathy would have gone a long way.

I called later and left a message about the discourtesy for the office manager. The person I spoke with at the business office was polite, professional and helpful.

I have consulted with many professional offices and I know how hard they usually work to maintain good client relations - and how a single employee can ruin a company's reputation. I'll also send the office manager a copy of this article.

Perhaps someone you know should read it also. . . Please pass it on.

Communicate skillfully about sensitive subjects in business situations. Have the challenging conversations that lead to cooperation and success.
Laurie Weiss, Ph. D. is a Master Certified Coach and communication expert. Dr. Weiss has spent 35 years helping clients resolve conflict in business and personal relationships. Email


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