Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald: Practice Makes Perfect--July 28, 2008
Stand by your staff
The other day, a client arrived one hour before his scheduled appointment. When he was told that his doctor was finishing a procedure, the client became very agitated and belligerent. Loud and unreasonable, he berated our front desk staff and was insulting and rude to them. He was so ugly to them that one of the young women was almost to the point of tears.
Who acts like this? How has this unacceptable behavior come to be the norm for this customer? Certainly, the customer is always right, but what if the customer is a bully, or a drunk? What if they are emotionally unstable? Witnessing this exchange, I quickly asked the man into an exam room. Noticing on the jacket folder of his record where he worked, I complimented him for his company’s reputation. I told him that I had heard only wonderful things about him and said that he must be having a particularly bad day based on his exchange with our front desk staff. I told him that I liked and respected my co-workers and thanked him for now allowing me to work with them upset for the rest of the day. I told him that I would be at his place at 1 o’clock during my lunch and that I would do my best to cause a scene and make his employees cry. I told him we would see him and his animal as quickly as we could and reminded him that he did show up 60 minutes early. The man left the room, apologized to the front desk personnel, and was a model citizen after that. I think that by speaking softly, calmly, and reasonably, we often can reach the angry customer.
Stand up for your staff. The front desk has the hardest job in the hospital. Always in the public eye, they are the first and last of your staff seen by the client. Support them, protect them, and nurture them. Compliment them when you see them doing something that you like. Nothing takes the wind out of their sails faster than when they are being reasonable and doing what you have instructed them to do and you take the customer’s side, undercutting their position. There is a fine line here, but if they are right, support them in the face of the bully or the ugly-acting client. It is clear to me that the most successful hospitals have competent, talented staff members confident in the fact that their doctors respect, protect, support, and appreciate them. Every day, thank someone on your staff for the job they do. Watch the effect it has.
See you next week, Kev