Some of the best PR is the kind that few executives (or the media) will ever see. It’s when the customer service rep on the other end of the telephone line (yep, people still order over the phone and of course lodge complaints, too) shares a laugh over the craziness of insurance claims or when the guy at the Apple Store actually discourages you from buying something you really don’t need. To me, these are subtle though essential forms of successful PR that, unfortunately, tend to get forgotten. That’s why I was really pleased recently when at a client meeting the new CEO talked about the importance of customer service in terms of what it can do to help improve a company’s image.
Over the weekend, I paid close attention to the customer service at the hospital where I took my son, first to the ER, and then throughout our 2 ? day stay. I wondered if the medical staff taking care of him (appendicitis and now he’s fine) had gotten word from the publicity department (or whatever they call themselves) that no amount of television coverage or editorial coverage in the local newspapers would ever, could ever, take the place of receiving good care. Talk about the power of word of mouth.
I’m thinking about a lot of people like the nurse in admissions who spoke to my son with patience and understanding. I’m remembering the admissions employee who kept pressing the button to let me back into the ER area every time I had to leave to use my cell phone. I’m silently thanking the construction guy who directed me through the maze of halls on the basement level so that I could get myself a cup of coffee early Sunday morning. And of course I can’t stop thinking about the three nurses, Debbie, Mae and Michelle, who crept into my son’s room to make sure he was getting enough pain medicine, asking him to tell them on a scale of one to ten where the pain was. Oh, and the ER nurse, Tim, with a huge tattoo on his right arm, trying so hard to get my son to down the nasty drink necessary for the CT scan to be useful.
I’ll never feel the same about this place and I will always let people know about the tremendous care my son received. Do I care what really what’s written in the newsletter sent out to the public? Not really. Am I impressed with the day-to-day patient/family contact demonstrated there? Big time.
Clearly, it is essential to put the very best spin on all the obvious communication that comes out of an organization. But it’s also the back and forth that occurs between a patient (and his/her family) and the care provider that, at the end of the day, gives an organization the biggest PR boost of all.