Whatever happened to the old meet and greet? I used to hear that phrase more often than I do of late. At business and social gatherings, it is still alive as what people call networking these days. In terms of customer service, it seems to be a dying art.
Years ago, I used to go to a restaurant by the name of Barneys Market Club in downtown Chicago. It was a popular steakhouse, and when any customer walked in the door they were greeted by the headwaiter with Yes sir, senator! and then ushered to a table by a courteous and smiling waiter. It was done in good fun and the place was always packed, especially when there was a hockey or basketball game that night. Customers loved the greeting because it made them feel important and valued even though they knew it was simply a gimmick unique to that restaurant.
In Detroit Lakes, Minn., where I have a summer home, there is an annual country music festival every year in August. All the top country stars go there. It is always a happy event and people from all over the Midwest come in their RVs and trucks to hear the music and have fun. When people arrive at the event, they are greeted by a cowboy who waves his cowboy hat with a flourish and says, Welcome and enjoy yourselves. We are happy to have you. Then, at the end of the fest, that cowboy reappears and says: Thank you for being here, and we look forward to seeing you again next year. Its a nice and simple gesture, and it makes everyone feel valued and important.
Now contrast this mode of greeting and meeting people with the way most of us as patients are treated when we go into a hospital for some procedure or another. Patients are usually at least somewhat apprehensive, and yet seldom if ever is there anyone to greet them. The reception desk is usually the first stop because you probably want directions. The people there give you directions and maybe a map and send you off to find your way. Seldom will you hear, Thank you for being here or even get a smile. Its all very businesslike and even if there is a fake waterfall in the lobby or an electric piano playing music, the whole thing comes across as artificial.
Then, when you get where you are going, especially if you are having tests done, you are challenged by someone who asks you for your birth date and proof of insurance and after satisfying those demands you are told to sit down and wait your turn. There is seldom a welcome or thank you. Most of the time you feel humiliated, nervous and frightened, but there is little comfort in a waiting room.
Most people accept this without understanding that they are the customers. They are potentially bringing thousands of dollars into the hospitals coffers by being the patientthe customer.
And when you leave the hospital, its rare to hear a thank you for choosing their hospital or Hope everything works out for you.
Sure, the clinical part is the main event; how the physician and other clinicians do their jobs is the bottom line for any patient, but wouldnt it be refreshing if someone had the brains to say thank you for being in whatever hospital we choose. It would make us feel just a little bit better to feel valued as a customer. But the hospital industry still finds it difficult to treat patients as customers. They have conveniently overlooked the basics of how to treat people as they might like to be treated themselves.
And yet, the most critical moment of truth for any healthcare facility is when a patient first arrives. That is the image that will stay with patients long after they leave.
Treating people well isnt hardit just takes some common sense and good manners.