One Customer Experience Story That Speaks Volumes

The experience a customer has with any service provider is integrally connected with who that person is. It’s unique, individual, and shaped by their expectations and sometimes their financial situation.

When service providers forget this and treat customers like objects on a conveyer belt — like the candy in the classic I Love Lucy episode — the experience is disastrous and unfortunately no fun for the customer.

Here’s one customer experience story that speaks volumes about listening and flexibility for super customer experience.

One Customer Experience That Speaks Volumes About Flexibility Image by:SusieFoodie

The Story

    A middle aged woman living on fixed disability income goes to her doctor’s appointment. She manages her money very carefully and takes a $50 bill to the appointment to pay the $30 co-pay. The appointment is in the late afternoon and she arrives a few minutes early. She has been to this office before and has interacted with the uncaring front desk staff.
    During this visit when she attempts to pay the co-pay, the front desk staff tells her they don’t have any change. The clerk insists on taking the $50 bill and crediting her account $20 for the next visit.
    The patient explains that she cannot afford to give them $20 to hold for next time. She needs it to buy groceries. She doesn’t have a debit card and asks the clerk to either bill her or go get change for the $50 bill.
    As the clerk’s attitude worsened, the patient finally said “What kind of service attitude is this? I have explained my situation, I’m not yelling, and you treat me badly.” The clerk sarcastically quipped, “Thanks for questioning my work ethic.”

This Speaks Volumes About Customer Experience

  1. Money matters are sensitive spots. If a business accepts cash, then it is obligated to make change within reason. Twenty dollars back from $50, in an office accepting cash co-pays, is a reasonable customer expectation. A business doesn’t get to demand an interest free loan from a customer — by cleverly calling it a customer credit — even if it’s only $20. If you don’t have change, take steps to get some. If you can’t, then billing the customer is another reasonable option.
  2. Customers expect individualized service. This is completely normal. The fact that companies want to routinize everything to make it easier on themselves, doesn’t change the customers’ expectations. I haven’t met anyone who wants or loves to be treated like an object on a conveyor belt. Have you?
  3. Delivering individualized service doesn’t have to be costly. Listening and showing empathy are no cost customer service skills. They work their influence through the information they gather and the individualized care they show. The belief that all personalized service is expensive is either a convenient excuse for generic service or an ill-conceived myth.
  4. Technology can facilitate or threaten customer experience. Many agree that online options, self-service portals, and information access have helped customers in many ways. Yet assuming all customers use the latest technology is a customer experience killer.

    Not everyone pays with a debit card, checks in with a mobile device, has a GPS in their car, reviews products and services online prior to calling, or wants to buy an electronic gift card.

  5. Setting and situation impact customers’ expectations. Patients are customers with high hopes for care because it affects their lives and they are often in pain. The sting of ruthless attitudes, robotic actions, and flippant responses magnifies the fear or pain they already feel. Moreover, when healthcare providers use high demand and costs as a reason for poor interactions with patients, they lose the customers’ trust and respect.
  6. The right default is critical to superior customer experience. When customers’ expectations don’t fit your predictions, do your teams default to policy enforcement or to using care for a positive resolution?

    Your reps can more easily close the gap between your policies and the customers needs through care based negotiation than through issuing orders, sarcastic barbs, or repeating themselves like a broken record.

    Discussions, training, and role-playing with your staff on how to close the gap with customers is one of the easiest steps to ensure superior customer experience.

Customers can see leaders’ beliefs through the treatment they receive from staff. Shall customers place their trust, money, health, and happiness in leaders whose beliefs speak volumes through their staffs’ uncaring behavior? Would you?

It is my personal mission and professional life goal to assist you and your teams in delivering the ultimate customer experience — even in the toughest times. Let’s talk soon.

From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™

Related Post: Has Technology Removed Our Reason to Care?

©2012 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. If you want to re-post or republish this post, please email Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.

Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on leading change, employee engagement, teamwork, and delivering the ultimate customer service. She turns interaction obstacles into interpersonal success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results.

7 Responses to “One Customer Experience Story That Speaks Volumes”

  1. Louise says:

    Hi Kate, what a great article! Thank tou for bringing lights to such sad situations. So sad but certainly very true. In Canada, Heath care is administered by government (financed through 50%+ income taxes). So, the Doctors, nurses, etc. are government employees that feels (more often of the times) that they are doing you a favor just speaking to you! I have just had to spend a full day at a medical clinic and emergency at the hospital that made me feel even more sick! I believe people have to learn how to better communicate and most importantly when they are younger, older, sick and vulnerable!

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Thank you Louise. When the patient told me the story, I was outraged at the lack of basic human respect.

      I like your point that they make you feel like they are doing you a favor. It’s interesting that in many medical offices here in America it feels just the same as in Canada — even though we don’t have government administered healthcare.

      It will be my undying goal to influence healthcare community to move from the obey us mode to the we care so let’s work together approach.

      Thanks for your insight today.
      Warmest regards,

  2. This is a really interesting post for someone in the UK to read as most of us use the NHS where you don’t pay at point of service, unless it is for a prescription to see a dentist. However, what I think is universal are the difficulties of challenging people in the healthcare system – how many of us have been told something by a doctor only to nod and say we understand and then leave the consultation and think of a hundred questions we wanted to ask. The case study you’ve written about is not only poor customer service but highly unprofessional – that $20 belongs to the patient!

    • Kate Nasser says:

      It’s interesting to me Emily that even across thousands of miles of ocean and culture, the same inherent human needs rings out — respect, care, and consideration.

      Many thanks for taking time for this post. The “patient” in this case reads this blog and I believe she will be comforted by so many supportive thoughts.

      Warmest regards and thanks,

  3. This story makes my heart ache, Kate. Through my lens, “customer” and “patient” are just other words for Visitor, Guest, Client. Contrast how this woman was treated by the doctor’s office with how a similar situation might play out at the front desk of merely a “good” hotel. Patients may believe they don’t have a choice – I have to go to “my” doctor – but they do have a choice. With healthcare reform, government reimbursements are going to be based on patient experience surveys. 75% on clinical elements and 25% on customer experience. And the providers will be graded on a bell curve which means that if your quality doesn’t improve and your competitors does improve, you get pushed down the wrong side of that curve and receive less reimbursement.

    Hey, I’m a process guy from way back. I’ve always got one eye on the process and the other on the experience. However, I always believe a great experience can be achieved through very basic elements and without a lot of complexity. All organizations need process (say, for petty cash on hand for example)! But the process should be designed with the Visitor – Guest – Customer at the center. Thanks, Kate.

    P.S. I like your reminder about technology. “Everybody ain’t on Twitter.” Nor will they ever be.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Thank you Bill. Love your “keep it simple” message for focusing on the customer. Process leads to that or it leads nowhere.

      Always happy to read your insight for it broadens and strengthens any discussion about customer experience.

      Have a super weekend.

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