Customer Service Lessons — From a Hospital?


Recently, my doctor advised me to go in for a minor surgery, so I had the opportunity to visit a clinical lab and stay at the hospital for three days -- an unlikely place to learn some customer service lessons. 

Before the surgery, I had to undergo blood tests. There was only one attendant at the blood collection center and a long queue. A woman at the back began complaining about the queue until a nurse came out, took that woman to a room and drew her blood sample. This upset others in line and led to more complaining. The manager came out from his office and asked people to calm down. But after time passed with the queue remaining as long and the manager offering another assurance, people became agitated again. This time, the manager told some people they were unnecessarily raising their voices while he was trying his best. This continued until another staff member (possibly late to his shift) came in.

This experience made me think: Do mere assurances work all the time? Don't we need to apologize for unfair treatment and take action to correct the wrongdoing? Perhaps our egos do not allow us to do all this. So what does it take to control our ego?

After finally getting my test, I scheduled the surgery. The hospital suggested I come in beforehand to complete the formalities of cost estimation and approval from my insurance (a procedure in India for cashless treatment at a hospital). 

When I arrived at the hospital's insurance counter, the attendant in charge took me to a room, asked me to fill out a form and told me that a few people are involved in the process, so it might take up to two hours. I filled out the form in a couple of minutes and waited for 30 minutes for a doctor to appear. He asked me a couple of questions, filled out the remaining form and gave it to the attendant. She asked me to wait for another half hour while she conducted some office formalities. Half an hour passed and I became restless. I approached the woman, and she promptly explained, "I said it would take around two hours. Hold on for some more time." After half an hour, she appeared, took my signature on a form and asked me to leave. 

My experience at the insurance desk taught me a simple lesson. If I don't set expectations (as the attendant did), a customer is free to expect anything based on his or her own experience. For better customer service and satisfaction, it is important to set expectations at the beginning and then exceed those expectations.

While these instances might not seem to hold immediate similarities to project management, there are quite a few, which I will finish discussing in my next post. What customer service lessons have you learned when you least expected it, and how have you applied them in your projects?
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