Pat Egen’s Weblog

Ramblings, chats, thoughts, ideas

Business Apathy or the “Call back later – we’re not interested” Syndrome.

with one comment

It’s been a while since I created a blog article. Part of the reason is I’ve been traveling a lot and business is very good this year. The other reason is I’ve been under the weather with this awful upper respiratory thing that is spreading across the country. I was so distraught this week over the issues I had simply trying to find a doctor to see me that I said, in a Twitter update, that I wish I could write about the apathy seen in the medical profession in my business blog.

Julie Bestry, an amazing lady and Twitter goddess (@ProfOrganizer), saw my post and responded with this: “Sure you can…how apathy in business owners sends clients to their competition…and they DO have competition. Docs still make a good starter anecdote. And good bedside manner = good customer care. You’ve got a whole metaphor!”

By George, she was right. And that’s the theme of this blog – “How do you ensure you don’t suffer from business apathy.”

Here’s what started me down this path. I don’t visit the doctor often because I usually don’t need to. That’s not a bad thing except when you really need one. Over the last five years, four doctors I have seen have either left the medical profession or moved away. Ok, that’s cool, but the offices should still have my records, right? Wrong. I spent over 5 hours calling around to various doctor offices, including, first off, the office named as my primary care physician. They couldn’t find my records. We’re sorry, they say, but since your original doctor has left, you are a new patient and we’re not scheduling new patients until May. This is March – I could be dead by May. No amount of cajoling on my part convinced the less-than-pleasant receptionists to help me out. After four phone calls with equal results, I was near tears, which is not something I normally do, and decided to visit the Urgent Care facility.

I really didn’t want to go this route. The price of medical insurance is high for a lot of reasons, but one is because they have to cover the people who have to spend more money going to emergency rooms or urgent care facilities for exactly the same reason I ended up in one.

Continuing on with this saga, I enter the Urgent Care offices and the receptionist there treated me with even more disdain than the people I chatted with earlier via phone. Is there a school for “how to be completely apathetic and non-caring in 5 easy lessons.” Is this happening because doctors feel they are indispensable and we have no choice but to take this kind of apathetic abuse.

This led me to the idea of what would happen to businesses today if they responded in kind. Take this hypothetical example. “Hello, I am a new client in the area and I’ve interested in your services. May I come in today”…. “No, we’re sorry, we are not seeing new clients for at least a month. Please call back then.” How long do you think that business would be alive and viable if that was the way they operated.

If the receptionist in your office reacts the same as the ones I dealt with today, what will the rest of the experience be with your company? Probably the same. If the bedside manner of the company – whether it’s the person greeting the clients or answering the phone or your sales team – does not reflect the true image of your company, then you are lost before you even start.

Companies spend a lot of money on sales and marketing, drip campaigns, email blitzes, etc. But, if the result of all that external work ends up at the desk of the I-don’t-care-about-you receptionist or on the phone with a sales person suffering from a similar disorder, you have just wasted a lot of money. Before investing in all that effort, you need to make sure your home front is in good working order. Are your employees motivated? Are they empowered to give quality service? Are they rewarded if they do? Do you, as the business owner, project the kind of attitude you want represented throughout your organization? Is your bedside manner equal to what you would expect from a doctor you visit? Think about it. Step outside of your space and imagine what it would be like to be sitting in front of you. Would you like what you see and hear. Try to imagine walking up to your office for the first time. Does it invite people to return? If the only way people reach you is via phone, the same thing applies. Do they get a real person or an auto caller with 15 steps before you realize you can hit zero and by-pass the “helpful” choices which in reality cause many people to hang up before even talking to a human.

Julie was right. This did turn out to be a good topic for a business blog. The message is this – make sure your company bedside manner keeps the clients returning. Then, give them a lollipop and send them on their way, happy and satisfied with the results.


Written by pregen

March 12, 2010 at 1:53 am

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. Fabulous, Pat, and I’m honored you liked the metaphor…and hope you’re feeling better.

    The watchword of too many companies, particularly when they’re flush with clients or customers, is “meh”. The problem with that is they’ll reap what they sow. If they make it clear that new clients and customers aren’t important to them when business is up, their pipelines will be hollow, echo-y and empty when business slows down.

    I have a friend who is a doctor, and her practice will “fire” patients if they repeatedly skip appointments or are otherwise actively negligent; otherwise, the practice spends time and effort seeking ways to provide necessary care and give extra value to patients. Multiple nights per week, they stay open late; they open on Saturdays, too. They find solutions for patients who are ill or injured and scared. They realize that no matter how busy they are this week or this month, if they do not provide excellent service, inertia isn’t going to keep unhappy patients from seeking care elsewhere.

    Each of us, whether big companies or solo providers needs to remember that. Apathy and boredom? Much worse if you’re unemployed because all your clients and prospects went to the nicer, more helpful people up the road!

    Perhaps the smaller companies, in particular, can’t take on a new client who needs to be seen right away; that’s when having a strong collegial relationship and making a referral to a colleague whom you know will/can help the client works. I always think of MIiracle on 34th Street, and how Kris Kringle sends the mother to Gimbel’s to find a toy Macy’s didn’t carry. At first, the manager is shocked, but eventually it’s realized that satisfying the customer, and moreover, nurturing the business-customer relationship is simply good business. And what could be healthier than that?

    Julie Bestry

    March 12, 2010 at 4:41 am

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