Physicians and their staff need to put on a consistent show

This past summer, I had a few parents complain to me about our staff. The parents wanted to let me know that they were treated nicely by the staff, but they had noticed things from the employees that they didn’t appreciate. They mentioned that the staff seemed annoyed and irritated, even bored at times and a bit disingenuous.

I wanted to investigate the issue before I reprimanded the staff. Things sometimes aren’t always as they appear and of course, there are always two sides to every story. What I found out was that these “customer service” issues had occurred during the peak of our back-to-school-physical season. Moreover, the incidents consistently occurred during the last few visits of the day.

Towards the end of the day, the staff was tired and the employees’ negative body language was overriding their overall demeanor. And in spite of their best effort to keep a good attitude, a spot light was shining on their true feelings.

I wanted to address the issue during our next employee meeting. But I didn’t know how to address it tactfully.  On one hand, I couldn’t come down hard on them because they had been working very hard those months. But on the other, I felt we needed to find a way to resolve this issue because if parents aren’t happy, I’m not happy.

During the same time, I went to see Bon Jovi in concert. Although I’ve been a fan since I was in high school, I had never seen them live in concert.

I couldn’t help to be brought back to my teenage years while hearing the concert. Each song brought back a specific situation in my youth like hanging out with my buddies and having a good time, wishing I had been dumped by a girl friend – ‘cause that would have meant that I actually had one – and “air guitaring” the solo to Dead or Alive in my room all by myself. I remember thinking, after 25 plus years, these guys still got it. They rocked it!

Then, it clicked. How many times has Bon Jovi played Dead or Alive in their 25 plus years? Hundreds? Thousands? Who knows … between concerts, rehearsal and appearances, I’m sure it is a lot.

Even though they’ve played Dead or Alive probably 100’s of times, they didn’t disappoint. Jon, Richie and the crew rocked it just like the very first time I heard the song, and just like every single performance I’ve seen of theirs in the past on TV.

So for our next employee meeting, I brought up the customer service complaints. I talked about what the parents had said. I even admitted struggling with the issue of how to tell them. I told them about my experience at the Bon Jovi concert and how they had rocked it.

They looked at me and said,  “… Bon Jovi… who is that?”

I said (work with me here), think of a band that you’ve liked since you were, um… less young. Now imagine going to see them rock out in concert but instead, the band got up and played a half-ass show. They just went through the motion of singing the songs, smiling, but tired. And the band’s excuse? “well, c’mon fans… this is our 200th gig; give us a break.”

I asked, “would that fly with you?” Of course not. The expectation is for the band to rock out like it was their first show. You want to see them work the crowd, dance and play like you’ve never seen them before. To you, it doesn’t matter how many times they’ve played.

I said, that is what we are doing here. We are putting on a performance. Parents have options. They could have gone to any pediatrician in the area. But they chose us. Consequently, we have to put on a consistent show. Now, I’m not saying a literal song and dance show, but rather a genuine customer service performance that is consistently good throughout the day.

It is ok to be tired, bored and wanting to go home. I’m sure Bon Jovi is tired of playing Dead or Alive too. But you would never tell. And that is the lesson I took from going to a Bon Jovi concert.

Brandon Betancourt manages a pediatric practice and blogs at Pediatric Inc.

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