Two-Cents Worth of Coffee Leaves a Bad Impression. How Customer Service is Won or Lost in Seconds, Pennies and Drops.

By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer


Customer Service: Good to the last drop.

Customer Service: Good to the last drop.

by Steve Smith, Healthcare Success Senior Consultant

Scholarly articles about retail customer service tell you that continuing success in business is not about making an individual sale, it’s about creating a relationship that wins a customer. It’s a principle that applies in healthcare delivery, and with every patient (the customer) interaction. And these winning or losing “relationship moments” are often measured in seconds…sometimes pennies. Here’s a real-life illustration.

I like coffee and drink at least a couple of cups a day, most of which I make at home with a standard coffee maker. With each 12-ounce bag of coffee, my brand includes a coupon for a free, small cup of coffee at any of the company’s retail shops. All I have to do is bring the empty coffee bag to the coffee shop and I get my free cup of coffee. It’s something I’ve done dozens of times.

A few days ago, I presented an empty bag along with my commuter coffee cup to a local store and requested my coffee. My own cup accommodates a few ounces of coffee more than this company’s small-size coffee. When the server handed me back my cup with the coffee, she said, “I think that’s a small size.” I saw that she had not filled the cup to the top or even close to the top. She filled it according to what she thought I was entitled to from having presented my empty coffee bag.

I said, “thank you,” and walked out. But I left wondering why she would have allowed about two-cents worth of coffee get in the way of an otherwise enjoyable experience. I know that there are some readers who will wonder why I have a beef. After all, the offer was for a certain size and that’s what she gave me, right? In the strict sense, that’s right.

But look at it from another angle: Had she filled the cup, I would be writing about how this company had exceeded my expectations. Instead, a few drops of coffee left a bad taste. They made the sale, but the customer relationship was cooled.

The customer service principle at work here is that when it comes to good service and a lasting impression, the little things mean a lot. Most of the time, they don’t even cost nickel…they cost nothing. Those little things include a smile, patience, consideration and compassion. (The ingredients of any relationship.) In retail or in healthcare, when you don’t do the little things, the relationship can be lost. Plus you lose countless opportunities to generate positive word of mouth for your facility, which is one of the most effective ways to market and grow.

By the way, I said nothing to the coffee server that day because indifferent service is rarely the fault of the person behind the counter or the desk. Poor service is usually the result of poor training and a lack of clear direction from owners, partners or managers.

When a careless interaction with a customer damages the relationship—or the opportunity to grow a relationship—the customer is lost. That’s a loss of business, future business and referral business. It quickly adds up to a lot of spilled coffee.

Healthcare Success guides large and small healthcare enterprises in creating memorable patient experiences and relationships by teaching an easy-to-remember and easy-to-execute program: Ten Seconds to Great Customer Service. For more information or to talk with us about bringing this program to your office, call today, (800) 656-0907, ext. 801, or connect with us here. Let’s talk. The coffee’s on us.

Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer at Healthcare Success
Stewart Gandolf, MBA, is Chief Executive Officer of Healthcare Success, one of the nation's leading healthcare and digital marketing agencies. Over the past 20 years, Stewart has marketed and consulted for over 1,000 healthcare clients, ranging from practices and hospitals to multi-billion dollar corporations. A frequent speaker, Stewart has shared his expertise at over 200 venues nationwide. As an author and expert resource, Stewart has also written for many leading industry publications, including the 21,000 subscriber Healthcare Success Insight blog. Stewart also co-authored, "Cash-Pay Healthcare: Start, Grow & Perfect Your Cash-Pay Healthcare Business." Stewart began his career with leading advertising agencies, including J. Walter Thompson, where he marketed Fortune 500 clients such as Wells Fargo and Bally's Total Fitness.



Your proposal will include:

Competitor Intel Icon
Competitor Intel
Recommendations Icon
Our Pricing Icon
Our Pricing

...and much more!

“Despite practicing in a hyper-competitive market, our new-patient counts are double what they were for the same time period last year. Hiring Healthcare Success was one of the best business decisions I have ever made.”

Headshot of Jonathan Calure
– Jonathan Calure, MD

List of recent conversions