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There’s Nothing Pretty About Bad Service February 6, 2008

I was reminded of the value of compassion and genuine customer service this weekend after an accident put my boyfriend and I in a vulnerable position.

Anyone who lives in GA knows that it was beautiful weather on Sat- 60 degrees with blue skies and a cloudless sky above. People swarmed outside, ready to soak up the sun after months of hibernating. My boyfriend, Matt, and I decided to take advantage of the spring-like temps and packed the car up with our bikes and our dog, Sadie. With Sadie on a leash running along next to him and me following behind, we enjoyed a bike ride around the quaint little neighborhood of Oakhurst. About a block away from the car, the pleasant Saturday afternoon ride went wrong. In the blink of an eye, Sadie jerked back to check and see where I was, Matt let go of her leash and it looped around his handlebars and took the bike down, slamming him elbow-first into the concrete.

His pain was moderate at first, but after a night of trying to home remedy with ace bandages and a CVS sling, we realized that it was too intense for him to wait to see the Dr. on Monday. To further complicate the situation, Matt’s insurance at his new job doesn’t kick in until mid-month, so from a financial standpoint things were looking ominous. We opted to take him to an urgent care clinic in hopes of avoiding the imminent wallet draining that accompanies a visit to the ER.

The urgent care clinic left something to be desired aesthetically. It was small and a little rough around the edges, but I can’t say enough about the service that we received there. A Physicians Assistant was on duty, but after observing the extent of pain that Matt was in, she called the Dr. at home and asked him to come in to take a look at him. Keep in mind- this was a beautiful Sunday afternoon, and not just any Sunday- SUPER BOWL SUNDAY. If the Dr. was unhappy about having to make an unexpected trip to the clinic, he sure disguised it well. He immediately set Matt at ease by telling him he had been in his shoes years ago after suffering the exact same type of injury to his arm in an accident. He gave Matt the pain meds that he needed to curb his suffering a little, but more importantly he empathized with him by telling him he understood what he was going through. He knew Matt was dreading the movement required to take x-rays, so he proactively engaged him in conversation about his line of work to distract him long enough to get the x-rays done. He took the time to listen to our worries about the financial impact of going to the ER without insurance. Then, he cared enough to reach out to his associates who were orthopedic doctors and asked them to meet us at the clinic to take a look at Matt’s injury. Despite his tireless efforts, he could not coax anyone into making a last-minute trip for a consultation on Super Bowl Sunday. But the point is- he did everything he possibly could to help us. And he even made Matt, who was in excruciating pain, smile a few times in the process. Now, that’s understanding your customer.

We did end up having to go to the ER that night, where Matt was given stronger pain control meds and a sturdy brace, and we were told we would have to go see a specialist in the morning. Oh, joy! Three doctor visits and no insurance in sight. Just as a point of contrast, I’ll tell you quickly about our visit to the orthopedist the next day. Aesthetically speaking, the orthopedist office was the Ritz Carlton and the urgent care clinic was a Super 8 Motel. Glossy hardwoods, Starbucks-style, blown glass lighting fixtures and high-dollar paintings greeted us as we walked in the waiting room. Easy to see how they purchase all the fancy trimmings when the snippy girl at the front desk told us $500 was due up-front for the appointment and any further service charges would be due before we leave. Um, is the Dr. going to follow us home and cook us dinner and do our laundry for the next month? Because, if not, that seems a little steep. Already baffled and agitated at the money spilling down the drain, we sat back down and waited for Matt’s name to be called. I know it’s typical for doctors to take their sweet time, but considering the situation our frustrations mounted as we waited and waited and waited some more. Finally, we were put in a fancy little room with another high-dollar painting where, just for good measure, we waited even longer. At long last, the orthopedist came breezing in and, without eye contact, snottily asked, “What happened?”. He then spent about 30 seconds eyeballing the x-rays that we brought in with us and belted out the profound comment of, “Yep, it’s fractured and it’s gonna take a while to heal. We’ll wrap you back up in the brace and sling you came in and book you for another appointment for more x-rays in a month.” Excuse me? If nothing else, I expected him to sit down and feign interest in the injury and pretend to care for at least 5 minutes. Matt asked him how long it would take and he responded, “for what?”. For world peace to be achieved, ya idiot-how long until he will heal, of course! As he walked out the door, he told us over his shoulder that it would be 6-8 weeks before Matt’s arm was back to full functionality. Thanks, Doc. Guess we don’t have any more questions.

I could continue to rant and rave, but by now I am sure you get the moral of the story. Your company can have all of the fancy trimmings; i.e. pretty website, glossy packaging and modern, high-tech offices, but if you fail to connect with your customers and empathize with them on a genuine level, they won’t stick around for long. After all, relationships are built between people; not expensive furnishings.