Guest Columns

Customer service at its finest?

Jean Wendland Porter
Jean Wendland Porter

I've had the privilege to speak with two different medical entities today and wanted to share the experience with my readers and colleagues. First I contacted a doctor's office to get a faxed referral for outpatient therapy. Then I contacted an insurer to get prior authorization for outpatient therapy. Different patients, similar issues.

I contacted the doctor's office twice this week. I had to call again because they “forgot” the first time. I spoke with a receptionist who told me the doctor was at a different office. I called the other office. I spoke with three different people.

Me: “Hi, this is Jean, the DOR at EXCELLENTCARE facility. I have a discharged-to-home patient who wants a referral for outpatient therapy. His name is Joseph Blow, his DOB is 1/1/0000, and his insurance is WE'REINNETWORK Insurance. My fax number is 000-000-0000.”

Receptionist: “Let me transfer you.”

“Hi, this is Jean, the DOR at EXCELLENTCARE facility. I have a discharged-to-home patient who wants a referral for outpatient therapy. His name is Joseph Blow, his DOB is 1/1/0000, and his insurance is WE'REINNETWORK Insurance. My fax number is 000-000-0000.”

Receptionist: “Have you called before?”

Me: Yes, two days ago.

Receptionist: “Who did you speak with?”

Me: "She didn't give me her name."

Receptionist: “Here, talk to Kerry*.” [insert 10 minutes on hold] “This is Kerry, can I help you?”

Me: “Hi, this is Jean, the DOR at EXCELLENTCARE facility. I have a discharged-to-home patient who wants a referral for outpatient therapy. His name is Joseph Blow, his DOB is 1/1/0000, and his insurance is WE'REINNETWORK Insurance. My fax number is 000-000-0000.”

Kerry: “This again. This is a mess. If he wants therapy, he has to come here.”

Me: "No, he doesn't." (Side note: It's illegal to say he has to go there.)

Kerry: “What's his diagnosis? All I have is edemia [sic] and hypoxemia, which I think is low calcium."

Me: (God help this patient). "He came to us with an MI, but you probably don't have that because you probably haven't seen him since he left us."

Kerry: “THEN HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO DO THIS?? THIS IS A MESS! WHY DO YOU WANT THIS? WHY DOES THIS KEEP HAPPENING?”

Me: "Can you please just fax the order, I'm sorry you're having a problem."

Kerry: “Ok, I'll fax it, but I don't like this.”

Me: "Thanks."

Kerry: “No problem.”

Really? “No problem”? The ugliness began with the first contact, and accelerated through the next three. I felt like calling the doctor (who is a personal friend) and advising him that "Kerry" (not her real name) may be alienating his colleagues and patients. I put the phone down twice during this conversation because I felt my eardrums hemorrhaging.

In contrast, I called the provider line for another patient to determine the need for prior authorization for therapy. I provided the information requested ONCE to the young lady answering the phone. I was on hold (more like pause) for about 45 seconds, and she answered my question without further inquisition or irritation. I love her and want her to be my best friend.

The moral of this story, or (as I like to call it), The Most Horrible, Irritating, No-good, Very-bad Interaction in the History of History, is that your customers are every person you come in contact with in the space of your workday.

Our customers are not only our patients, they're our doctors, family members, peers, superiors, coworkers and subordinates. Our duty to our customers is the best, most expedient use of their time and the resolution of their issues. Most of us don't yell at our customers on the phone, but many of us have difficulty addressing and solving the problem. It can be as simple as returning a phone call or faxing an order. Let's work on our “phone-side manner” and be the best question-answerers and problem-solvers we can be.

Jean Wendland Porter, PT, CCI, WCC, CKTP, is the regional director of therapy operations at Diversified Health Partners.

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