You always hope that a hospital stay is out of your future plans. My father wasn’t so lucky. What could have turned into a customer service delight turned into a customer service nightmare at Bethesda Memorial Hospital in Boynton Beach, Florida last weekend. What I learned from this nightmare is what you need to know so you can to do better in business.
Some rules are made to be broken. My dad is a very sick man. He’s been hospitalized before (at the same hospital) and we had a wonderful experience. Since he suffers from dementia and is a different person at night, he needs 24 hour care.
I stayed with him at the hospital while he recovered from a broken leg earlier this year. This time the charge nurse refused to allow either my dad’s caregiver or another family member to stay with my dad at night. Why? There’s a hospital rule. The nurse was adamant about following the rule.
I wondered why the rule was being enforced now and wasn’t before. As a result of following “the rule”, my dad’s dentures got thrown out with the bed linens by the careless staff. Requests to contact the hospital laundry were rebuffed. Then the nightmare began. Have you ever tried to work with a pin-headed bureaucrat? Here’s what happened next.
I was told by one hospital staff member that this happens all the time. Eye glasses get tossed. Bridges get lost. “Just contact the risk manager on Monday and it will get resolved quickly,” she said. If only that were true! The risk manager was a classic bureaucrat who cared nothing about patients.
In an arrogant tone, he informed me that it will take five days to look for my dad’s teeth. That’s after two weekend days when the teeth didn’t resurface. Have you ever tried eating without teeth? Your food options are extremely limited. It’s very dangerous for an 89 year old, sick man to have improper nourishment.
When I responded that it was unsatisfactory to wait 5 days, the risk manager raised his voice louder and spoke in a slower, more monotone voice. I guess he’s the type that moves to intimidation when he doesn’t get his way. I felt like I was caught in a Dilbert cartoon.
I asked who the risk manager reported to. He proudly told me that he reported to the hospital president. If the president only knew the work of this south bound end of a north bound mule!
Turns out that this president has at least four assistants who insulate him from the “real” world. His assistants promised that my calls would be returned. I got nothing. I realized, this president really doesn’t want to know what’s going on in his hospital. That’s a very bad mistake for someone in business.
Do you hear about problems with your work processes? If you manage people, do you hear about how they interact with other departments and customers? I certainly hope so. If you don’t, are you shielding yourself from learning the truth? How will you ever make changes if you don’t hear from the people who are experiencing problems?
I can promise you this, in every business there are problems. That’s a good thing. You can only fix what you know about. If you’re not hearing about problems, you may be like this hospital president and are shielding yourself from business information that you need to hear.
You may think you are successful if you don’t hear problems. You’re not. You’re living in Fantasyland.
I have found that great managers and leaders confront problems in business. They don’t waste their energy and resources and try to hide the problems they uncover. When you find problems in business, move on to solve them. That’s good use of your time and energy.
It may have been a nightmare for my family to deal with incompetent business professionals. If you pay attention to your business problems, you won’t create nightmares for your customers.
Maura Schreier-Fleming is a sales strategist and founder of Best@Selling, a sales training and consulting company. She wrote Monday Morning Sales Tips and works with sales professionals who want to sell more and close more business.