If you have kids, you know the nauseating feeling of one of your kids going down for the count and having to rush to the emergency room. I had that wonderful experience very recently. What I learned from that visit to the ER is businesses can make very strong statements about how little they care about their customers simply through the processes they use to run the organization.
I’m betting you have a few standard business processes that leave your customers and prospects feeling like you don’t care if they die. First let’s understand the ER story then evaluate how it might apply to your organization. Yes, I’m back on the kick of talking about how stupid policies can destroy customer relationships.
My daughter was curled up in a ball on our couch. She was grabbing her stomach and howling in pain. After a quick set of questions, I made the decision to take her to the ER. I’ve done some consulting work in health care so I understand and appreciate that the ER is also a business.
Once we arrived, she laid down on a couch howling in pain while I was subjected to a barrage of questions to get her registered. Net time: 5 minutes. We then headed to triage. That’s when it started getting stupid and infuriating.
The nurse in triage asked a few questions and pecked at her laptop. Then the laptop wasn’t working. She rebooted. Howling continued. Nurse pecking. Laptop not working. Call to Tech Support. Howling. Tech support lady arrives. Goes to swap out laptop for a new one. Howling. Reboot. 10 minutes. “Oh gee, I’ll just take notes on my notepad instead!” (Nurse = not a genius). New laptop. 5 more minutes of pecking. Wheeled off to a treatment room.
Next nurse. Temperature. BP. Pecking. Laptop version of 20 questions. Pecking. Howling. “Oh I forgot, what was your temp? Did I already take it?” Pecking. Howling.
Now here’s the part where I almost snapped. Registration lady wheels in her laptop. 20 questions for dad. Insurance company? Address? Cell phone? Howling. Employer? Mom’s occupation? Can I see your insurance card? Oh, I need you to take it out of your wallet so I can scan it. Oh, I can’t read it, can you read these numbers? Howling. I also need your driver’s license. You know we’re out of network so you’ll have a $100 copay, right? Howling. How will you be paying? Credit card? Okay. Howling. Can I have your credit card now? *swipes* Here’s your receipt. Howling. The doctor will be in in a little while.
HOLY ^%&&$&%^$@^%*&*! YOU HAVE TO BE KIDDING ME! This was an exercise in process run amok. Sure all these things have to happen. I understand having to pay and that you need all my contact info, etc. but let’s talk priorities people! You have a kid howling in pain and you’re more concerned with getting a scan of my insurance card and swiping my Visa before you call the doctor? That process flow just screams “We don’t care about your (the customer’s) problem. We just want to fill out our forms and get our required information and money.”
I know many of you are reading this and shaking your heads. You’ve probably had similar experiences in hospitals along the way. Here’s the rub – I’ll bet customers, prospects, and candidates have had similar experiences with YOUR business too. No? Answer these questions honestly then:
– When candidates apply for a job, do we ask for reams of information before we ask a single question about what they’re interested in?
– When a prospect wants to become a customer, is the first thing we shove in their face a 47 page contract or nondisclosure agreement? Do we ask them to fill out a massive credit application or to provide nauseating amounts of background information on their company?
– When a new hire joins our firm, do we spend their first full day having them fill out forms and reading bureaucratic policies?
I’ll bet you’re shaking your head again. As much as I hate being cliche, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Is the first impression your firm makes a bureaucratic, risk averse, don’t care about the other person just care about our paperwork and getting our money impression? What are you doing to demonstrate you understand the customer’s perspective and needs?
Sure process has a place. But that place should be AFTER you’ve established some rapport and relationship with the other party. AFTER you’ve tried to understand their needs and concerns. AFTER they’ve become sold on working with you. Then yes, let the paper shuffle begin. But for crying out loud, DON’T send the message that a scan of an insurance card is more important than the pain they’re in.
I’m sure you have analogs in your business. Go reevaluate the processes you use when you’re dealing with clients, prospects, new hires, and anyone else your business works with. You might be surprised by the message you’re conveying just by having your process steps out of order…
What do you think? How have you seen process take primacy over relationship? What techniques do you use to prevent this from happening?
And yes, my daughter is okay. Thank you for asking. I’m glad you care because Registration Lady clearly didn’t.