Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Dislocated Finger and a Busted iPhone: Two CR Successes

If you are going to injury yourself, a dislocated finger delivers quite a bit of return. On Wednesday night, playing pick-up softball with co-workers, I tripped over a bat after hitting a weak fly ball to center. I stood up to find the top portion of my left index finger pointing in a direction it shouldn't. It was one of those "look-away" moments, when you want to show everyone your injury but the recoil from the sight is aggressive.

Except the injured finger really didn't hurt that much, and it led to one of the most pleasant ER experiences of my life. Five minutes down the road I checked in at the Newton Wellesley hospital emergency room. I was managed by a very capable ER technician, radiology technician, and even a volunteer or two. It proved to me one of the most understated ways to save money in our healthcare system---better communications skills.

In general, customer relations (or the acronym CR I use in the title of this post) is an oft overlooked area for saving money. Customers can cost individual vendors a lot of money if they keep calling or visiting help desks. In a hospital setting, the equivalent of customers-- patients-- can be overwhelmingly expensive.

Doctors are stereotypically bad communicators. They speak in short sentences, use doctor-speak even though regular English is available, and have completely illegible handwriting. The problem with this is fairly self-apparent. Patients don't understand their doctors, and when something happens next, they panic and go to the emergency room. And ER visits are expensive.

My experience at Newton Wellesley was remarkable because those who treated me were remarkable communicators. They carefully explained to me each procedure, spoke in plain english (a contusion is just a bruise, for heaven's sake), and they related to me on a personal level (I was wearing a UCONN basketball t-shirt). The head of the ER was the attending doctor, and even he was pleasant.

I also learned that the sympathy-to-pain quotient is exceptionally in the patent's favor in the case of a dislocated digit. My finger didn't really hurt, and my prognosis since stepping in the ER was good. But the finger, even I admit, looked really bad.

While sapping up the oohs and ahhs from co-workers the day after my rather ignominious injury on the baseball diamond, my iPhone started acting up. When I placed a call, I couldn't hear anything. I have had other random issues with the phone since I got it in June (replacing my old iPhone). But not being able to place phone calls... well, that's kind of fundamental.

The iPhone saga is not a long one; in fact, not even a saga. I took the iPhone to the Apple Store in Burlington, and the techs there gave me a new phone. No questions asked. That's the type of customer service that earns ridiculous loyalty for Apple, and has made them the largest tech company in the world.

Sometimes we all overlook good customer service when it happens. We should expect it, but we should also hold up examples for others to emulate.

While I am at it, kudos to JetBlue. I sent a tweet two weeks ago saying I was boarding a JetBlue flight to Vegas from Boston. JetBlue tweeted me back, wishing me a pleasant flight. That's cool.

No comments: