Article Date: 10/1/2011

Do More Than Make it Right
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Do More Than Make it Right

Create a service recovery plan to ensure customer satisfaction

Gary Gerber, O.D.

The mattress wasn't level. So much so that as soon as I was lying down, I felt blood rush to my head. Knowing I wouldn't be able to sleep like this, I called the front desk. I was going to do some sightseeing and was told that by the time I returned, the bed would be fixed. Two hours later, my bed still resembled those tilting wooden mazes you maneuver to prevent the marble from falling through the holes. I called the desk again and someone else was dispatched to assess the situation. That person suggested the by now obvious fix, “We'll get you another room.” I packed my things, went to the front desk, handed in my room key and told them I was headed out for dinner. I asked them to call me when my new room was ready.

Better bed but …

Another 2 hours later, without a phone call, I approached the front desk and was told my new room was ready. When I asked why I hadn't been called, the clerk replied, “I didn't want to interrupt your dinner.” At this point, the lack of a phone call was eclipsed by my desire to see if the mattress in the new room resembled the former collapsed cake.

I opened the door to the new room, tried the bed and all was fine. In fact, on the table was a tray of chocolate covered strawberries, cookies and champagne! There was also a handwritten note ... addressed to Steve and Anita. The note welcomed them to the hotel and congratulated them on their new marriage.

Not wanting Steve or Anita to be disappointed, I took the note to the front desk and explained to the clerk that I while I appreciated the gesture, I had no plans of changing my name to Steve or of marrying Anita. He graciously apologized, told me to stay in the room and enjoy the gift.

Plan for inevitable errors

When a patient's eyeglasses are the wrong color and prescription, yet still make it to the dispensing desk, what service recovery process do you have in place? Have you practiced executing it? After all, it should be an event so rare that it warrants rehearsal. While poor customer service is bad enough, a poorly executed service recovery plan is worse. Here are four things you should do to ensure that when things go wrong, as they inevitably will, you purposefully take the opportunity to turn a disgruntled patient into a loyal and enthusiastic one.

► 1. Make the solution to the problem a priority. In my case, I waited nearly 5 hours for a new room. Sure, you have other patients and things to tend to. But the situation before you should command your immediate attention. Further delays fuel the growing fires of dissatisfaction.

► 2. Instill a culture of “You're always right if you make a patient happy.” Empower your staff to fix problems immediately and without any possible negative recourse from “management.”

► 3. Practice your strategies and make sure they can be executed flawlessly and quickly. You won't be given another chance to satisfy the patient—ever.

► 4. Go beyond the expected. I obviously needed a new room. The strawberries and champagne would have been a nice extra touch—if they'd been intended for me. When a patient's eyeglasses don't arrive as ordered, (or whatever problem occurs) it's expected that you'll, at least, eventually dispense the correct ones. That alone is not enough to change the inevitable story told to friends from “My glasses came in wrong,” to “My glasses were wrong but I'm happy because the staff … ”

Be sure to turn lemons into lemonade—not more lemons. OM


Optometric Management, Issue: October 2011