Do You Want To Be Right Or Do You Want To Be Helpful?

added on: May 31, 2017

In the recent months, I’ve been on the receiving end of some pretty terrible customer and patient service experiences. Oddly enough, in each case, the person providing the service genuinely thought they were being helpful.

First, several weeks ago, I found myself tackling a tricky painting project. Through some research and advice from some of my craftier friends, I determined I needed a specific type of primer. So, off to the paint store I went. Upon arrival, I said hello and asked where I could find this specific type and brand of primer. The “friendly” paint store associate promptly went about telling me about ALL the ways I was wrong for choosing that particular product. While he had the knowledge base to know what I needed, his delivery was incredibly off-putting.

Then, last week I had a cable and phone installation scheduled for my office. The technician entered the office and the first words out of his mouth were, “I don’t want to work this hard on a Monday!” It was an attempt to joke, but it missed.   Big time. At this point, I have no prior relationship or encounters with this person. My very first impression is of him telling me he doesn’t really feel like doing the job he was hired to do for me. He is “joking”, but only sort of. This is only the beginning of a lengthy, uncomfortable appointment. He proceeds to bash the company he works for at least a half a dozen times before he leaves, even goes so far as to try to find out who I was working with to address their incompetency. Mind you, at this point, my ONLY beef was with this guy’s attitude and my experience with HIM. He goes on to tell me how the router I’ve purchased is WAY more powerful than I need, and to chuckle out loud at my not knowing what type of IP address I’d be using. In attempting to let me know how smart and competent he is, he’s doing his best to let me know how incompetent I am.

Most recently, I accompanied a family member to the local Emergency Room following an accident. I had searched for a nearby Urgent Care and this facility came up. When I mention this to the gentleman at the desk, his entire focus shifts from helping the patient to proving I am wrong, and that their facility is NOT an Urgent Care. He even insists on seeing the website on my phone. Dumbfounded, I comply. He takes a look and then explains to me how “the internet” has gone ahead and combined them with other clinics…yada yada yada. Seriously? I DO NOT care. I am here to get medical attention for my loved one. If you cannot treat her here, I will take her somewhere else. He then proceeds to tell me that yes, they CAN treat her, but he just wants to keep making me aware of how wrong I am. At this point, a SECOND gentleman approaches to make sure we’re aware of the ER fee since this is NOT an Urgent Care. We could not feel LESS wanted in this facility at this point.

So the common theme? The need to show how “right” and “smart” you are.

Your customers or patients, do not need to know how much smarter than them you are. They don’t care how much more you know about insurance or bonding agents. They do not care that you are an expert at cable installation. Display your competency, certainly. But what will stick with people is how you made them FEEL.   They’ll remember the fact that you were kind, and helpful, empathetic and made a connection with you.

If Mr. Paint Store had said, “I can definitely help you. Tell me a little about the project you’re working on…” and then taken the time to make a connection with me, and then suggested a product he might choose, it would have been a wholly different experience. I wouldn’t have left feeling condescended to and attacked for my idiot choice of primer.

If Mr. Cable had a friendly greeting and helpful attitude that didn’t include belittling his company and coworkers to let me know how smart he was, I might not have been so turned off by his presence. If I had felt like he was genuinely trying to help me understand the difference between a dynamic and static IP address and not just marveling at my ignorance on the topic, I might not have been counting down the minutes until he left.

And if Mr. NOT an Urgent Care could have focused on how he could HELP the patient, not on being right and proving me wrong, maybe we’d consider ever going back there. As it stands, we will not.

So there you have it. Your people on the front lines, especially those with the chance of making that first impression have a huge responsibility. Their interactions with your patients can literally make or break your practice.

My examples are extreme, but if you listen long enough in your office, what will you hear? Do you ever hear “actually…”? (This is usually the start of a team member explaining how wrong your patient is.) Does your team correct your patients? Lecture them? Over-explain details of insurance billing or complicated procedures? Even in an attempt to be helpful, they could be turning patients off.

If you have any concerns about the message your patients and potential patients may be receiving at your office, click here for a complimentary call with Genevieve.


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