The Plumber Says Thanks: Customer Service Lessons From Unlikely Sources


steve smith

by Steve Smith, Healthcare Success Senior Consultant

Those of us in healthcare often suffer from diminished peripheral vision. We tend to believe that we work in a vacuum, and that despite whatever else is happening in other professions or businesses, healthcare is governed by a separate, special set of rules.

In many ways, of course, that’s true. Healthcare delivery is unique from many perspectives. But healthcare marketing and customer service—be it a solo practice, medical group, clinic, hospital, health system or other healthcare organization—has much in common with non-health enterprises. In fact, some measures of success in healthcare are the same business principles that apply to a restaurant or tire store, to name just two examples.

Chief among all of these is the principle of providing excellent customer service.

When YOU are the customer, you recognize exceptional customer service when you see it or experience it. The “business” is different in restaurants or tire shops, but we can learn a thing or two about customer service from them…and even plumbers.

Yes, plumbers. Here’s a quick illustration. Our home is 50 years old and while it is in good shape, we have a periodic challenge in the pipes that requires an industrial strength snaking once a year.

A couple of months ago, I called a new company because “Rick” (the regular plumber/snake guy) was busy and could not see us for at least another 24 hours. The new plumber was on time, courteous and clean–he even cleaned part of the bathroom that was not affected by his work.

But the biggest service impact came several days later.

Opening the mail that day, I found a “thank you” note from the new plumber. Not only did he thank me for my business, he wrote that if I was happy with his service he would appreciate a referral to a friend or family member who may need him for similar services in the future.

The point isn’t that you should be sending out thank you notes, although that’s good. Or that the new plumber won a new customer. Or that the Thank You included a referral request (smart marketing touch).

The big idea is to be aware of good service experiences wherever you find them, not just within the world of healthcare. When you notice something that makes an impression with you, or makes you feel good about the service, consider how to put the same idea (and good feeling) to work in what you do in healthcare.

The rewards are all on the up-side: Repeat business, referrals, a high Return on Investment, and a positive and pleasant experience on both ends of the healthcare delivery process.

It’s an easy-to-implement concept. If you need help, check out our Ten Seconds to Great Customer Service program for large and small healthcare enterprises. (Sorry, no plumbers.) There’s more information on our website, or call us today at (800) 656-0907.

Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer & Creative Director at Healthcare Success
Over the years Stewart has personally marketed and consulted for over 1,457 healthcare clients, ranging from private practices to multi-billion dollar corporations. Additionally, he has marketed a variety of America’s leading companies, including Citicorp, J. Walter Thompson, Grubb & Ellis, Bally Total Fitness, Wells Fargo and Chase Manhattan. Stewart co-founded our company, and today acts as Chief Executive Officer and Creative Director. He is also a frequent author and speaker on the topic of healthcare marketing. His personal accomplishments are supported by a loving wife and two beautiful daughters.



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