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.