Customer Service: Mexican Resort, Doctor’s Office, or Hospital—It’s All the Same

Just back from the nearly-didn’t-happen Cancun vacation (thanks so much for everyone’s well wishes and sympathies re: the passport saga). The resort was lovely and the vacation fabulous. And yet, we won’t return to that property. Why? A couple of customer service snafus that never should have happened.

This is an all-inclusive resort (read: all food, alcohol, tips and activities are included in the price). The resort has five dinner restaurants plus a large buffet and touts its “reservation-free” policy. So imagine my surprise when it announced that if you wanted to ensure seating at one of the restaurants or the “special” buffets for New Year’s Eve, you had to make a reservation, rather than the first-come-first-served policy that had been in place all week.

This wouldn’t have been a problem except that, in order to make a reservation, you had to purchase one bottle of wine for every two people from the “premier” wine list (think $75 and up). Can you say, “bait-and-switch?” Needless to say, hundreds of guests, including my family and me, were furious.

Other snafus? Tip jars in plain sight, employees soliciting tips, and horrendous, yes, bad-enough-to-make-me-walk-out, service in one of the restaurants. It wasn’t a … Continue Reading

customer service healthcare system;

What Losing My Passport Taught Me About the Goodness in People

(Disclaimer: this blog is not about the healthcare system. We will return to our regularly scheduled programming after the holiday).

My family and friends will tell you that I’m not the most, um, patient person in the world. That I can be, well, somewhat “abrupt” with people, particularly bureaucrats and customer service people. It’s something I’m trying to change, though.

I made this resolution a couple of months ago after spending several days with my friend Alisa, who has been learning about and trying to live her life according to Buddhist principles. What principles? Simple things, like: Do no harm. Listen to people. Slow down. Be in the moment. Recognize that other people’s happiness is just as important as your own. And don’t kill bugs, even when you find a large spider in your bathroom.

Many of you know the saga of the lost passport and delayed trip to Cancun, where, for the past two days, my husband, our three sons, one son’s fiancé, and one son’s girlfriend have been soaking up the rays and rum on what was supposed to be the trip to celebrate my 50th birthday.

The good news is that I got a new passport, thanks … Continue Reading

customer service Goodness of people

Preparing for a (Gulp!) Colonoscopy: What It Says About Our Healthcare System

As of November 30, I am now, as my gastroenterologist puts it, 39 + 11 years old. You know what that means! So, a couple of weeks ago I called his office to make an appointment.

I would have preferred to simply make the appointment online or even e-mailed the office, but since the practice didn’t offer this, I fought my phonaphobia and punched in the numbers. Of course, I went through five prompts before getting a live person and was put on hold for a few minutes. About 10 minutes later, I finally had my appointment.

I was told to arrive at 2:30 p.m., which I dutifully did. Then the receptionist gave me a stack of paperwork to complete. And a pen. Among the information I had to provide:

• My husband’s Social Security number, since our insurance comes courtesy of his job. Not sure why this was needed, since the receptionist made a copy of my insurance card, which has all pertinent information on it. Not to mention that in this day and age of identity theft, I don’t like giving out Social Security numbers to anyone. But the last time I refused to provide a Social Security number … Continue Reading

Affordable Care Act customer service doctor offices get better health good health health insurance healthcare costs healthcare reform healthcare system; patient-centered healthcare prevention

Patient-Centered Healthcare–NOT!

Just back from Seattle where I gave a presentation to the Northwest American Medical Writer’s Association chapter on branding and customer service. Talk about relevant! Because boy, do I have a healthcare-related customer service story to tell here.

Remember the tooth saga? About a month ago I requested that all test results from the ER and hospitalization related to that fun time be put into my electronic medical record. Why I had to request them I have no idea; they are, after all, my results, right?

In reviewing them, I noticed that three fasting blood sugars–one in the ER and two in the hospital–were very high. I’m talking diabetes high. I figured it was likely due to the infection, but I followed up with my doctor, who brought me in for a visit. He agreed they were high and ordered blood work. Then, when I reminded him that my father had died  young from pancreatic cancer, suggesting a family history, and that new-onset diabetes in someone with no risk factors could be an early sign of pancreatic cancer, and that I’d recently and unintentionally lost 25 pounds (yay!), he ordered an abdominal ultrasound.

Blood sugar came back fine. I had … Continue Reading

customer service patient-centered healthcare

A Tale of Lost Luggage–and Its Implications for Health Care

One of the hot phrases in health care these days is “patient-centered,” as in “patient-centered hospitals,” “patient-centered practices,” and “patient-centered medicine.” For all of you out there working on creating such “patient-centered” systems, let me provide a bit of advice based on a recent experience my family and I had with Delta Airlines. For if you substitute the word “customer” for “patient,” you get what every business, whether in health care or not, should be focused on — the person receiving, nay, purchasing, their services. The ones you hope will return, again and again.

I’m actually writing this as I sit in the lobby of a hotel in Park City, Utah. It is a gorgeous day outside, crisp and cold, just perfect for the skiing my family had in mind when we booked this trip; it’s a short trip– just 3 days on the slopes before we head home — so every minute counts. Unfortunately, despite plenty of time sitting in airports yesterday (i.e., no tight connection), only 2 out of our 6 pieces of luggage made it here. Fortunately, one of those was the suitcase filled with skiing togs. Unfortunately, one of the missing pieces was my son’s new … Continue Reading

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I’m Hosting Grand Rounds!

Just what every non-MD fantasizes about: hosting a Grand Rounds! Ok, ok, it’s not the kind of grand rounds in a hospital where I get to impart my vast medical knowledge to other healthcare professionals (a good thing, too, given that the initials after my name are MS [master of science in biomedical writing] not MD). Instead, it’s the Grand Rounds for GetBetterHealth, a blog site for all things medical/health related. Grand Rounds is a weekly summary of the best health blog posts on the Internet.

What this means is that I will post a blog here (that will be carried on Get Better Health and other sites), aggregating the best blog postings in the health/medical field that week. For my Grand Rounds–which will appear Tuesday, June 22, 2010–-I’d like to focus on a subject near and dear to my heart: customer service in healthcare (you can read a post on the topic here).

So if you’re interested in having your blog on this topic promoted (or you write an awesome health/medical-related blog and want me to feature it), email me directly at Put Grand Roundsin the subject line and give me a one-paragraph description of your blog. You’ll … Continue Reading

customer service doctor offices get better health Grand Rounds

Customer Service in Healthcare

Just read an article about a new web-based service called MedWaitTime that allows patients to check if their doctor is running late before heading to the office for their appointment, kind of like you can check to see if your flight is late before heading to the airport.


Nothing peeves me more than sitting in a doctor’s office reading 4-month-old tattered magazines on topics I care nothing (Saltwater Fishing? Seriously?) not because the doctor had an emergency (when is the last time a dermatologist had to run out to save someone) but because the office staff routinely double books. I can’t count the number of times I walked out (my limit is 30 minutes unless I’m in agony) after giving the front office a targeted piece of my mind.

Since we’re on the topic of customer service as it applies to medicine, here are few other areas in which medical offices and their staffs could improve when it comes to customer service:

Get a web site and put the paperwork you need from us online. Filling out forms with a pen is so 1990s. In fact, how about letting us book appointments online? My mammography center does this and … Continue Reading

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