Coupon Clipped!

Standard

I am one of those people who can happily clip coupons for an hour, then leave them in my car or at home, along with my reusable grocery bags. I really would like to save money, but somehow the effort put into collecting the coupons is trumped by my haste to get the shopping finished.

So when I do remember the coupons, I find it extremely annoying that there are limitations in the fine print on said coupons. And it is almost always on the specific items I would like to purchase. The first time this happened, I intended to buy a make-up item, but naturally the brand I wanted was listed in the fine print as being among those where the discount did not apply.

The second time a nice coupon from being a member of some loyalty program came along, that same thing happened. I went to purchase the item, happy that I was getting a 50% break on the marked-up price, only to find out that said item was not included in the discount. “That just figures,” I snapped. I felt as though I had been duped again, lured into the store with what appeared to be something great, and then leaving angry.

Retailers, listen up! Either offer a coupon that applies to EVERYTHING. or do not offer one at all! Consumers join your loyalty programs left and right, only to discover that their savings are extremely limited, or their VIP coupons do not work on everything they wish to purchase. Lord knows you’ve already jacked up the prices to cover untold costs and still ensure a profit, so why limit what is supposed to be a reward? And you restaurants? Ditch the “buy one/get one half off as long as you buy two drinks” deal too! Every consumer out there knows your soda fountain syrups only cost the restaurant pennies! Why continue ensuring profits but losing customers this way?

Remember the rule: it costs you seven times more money to land a new customer than it does to keep a happy and returning customer.

Businesses simply need to stop toying with coupons and discounts to ensure they actually stay in business. And isn’t that what a business dreams of in this unstable economy? The next time you are about to offer a coupon, make sure it is genuine and all-inclusive, and then sit back and watch your customer base grow.

Courtesy in Medicine? “Inconceivable!”

Standard

So I had an accident yesterday. A fall, actually. It was my own fault; I should not have been standing on the dresser to dust the top of the mirror. My “ladder” was the footboard of the bed, and the rest is history. As you can imagine, I ended up getting pretty badly hurt. X-rays were taken of my hip and wrist, but thank goodness nothing is broken. Well, mostly my pride as I have some great scrapes on my face and a hole in my lip.

My timing was pretty good as there is a new medical office in my neighborhood and I was able to visit them two times this week. (The first time was for record-breaking hay fever.) The best part was the personal care. Really. Eye contact. Genuine concern. Giving names first. Infused “spa water” in the reception area. Even the administrative assistant pronounced my name correctly.

What I can’t express enough was the joy I was feeling, banged-up as I was, after experiencing big-box medical care for the last two years. Seriously, the giant, not-to-be-named-ever-again-in-my-presence healthcare facility felt like that scene Beetlejuice when the main character goes in to get some case-work forms filled out. Take a number, we’ll get to you, stand behind that line, take a place between the lower portion of the sawn-in-half woman and the witch-doctor.

This is what worries me: healthcare is becoming more and more complicated. There doesn’t seem to be any way to get around that. The human touch that is so important in the healing process will be lost in the parade of cases seen day in and day out. Human beings, especially Americans, are growing too adept at compartmentalizing their empathy for their fellow beings, and what happens from there is the very real tendency to overlook conditions. There have been studies done proving that doctors, when presented with a plain file on a patient, rushed and misdiagnosed described symptoms. However, when the patient’s picture was attached to the file, the amount of misdiagnoses declined.

Remember the business adage, “People will only do business with people they know, like, and trust.” Your body is your business, so you want people you know, like, and trust handling it. This is where the relationship-building all business people are taught comes in, and doctors need to pay attention. Patients are people at their most vulnerable and that trust factor has to be present. Why medical professionals, for the most part, cannot grasp this concept is beyond me. Stop being “owned” by the drug companies, and start listening more to your heart. I mean, that is why you became a doctor in the first place, right? You wanted to help people, not help patients. And the bonus is these people will be better patients if they know you truly care.

Oops! That may empty the hospitals if people start taking better care of themselves, which may lower healthcare costs, but isn’t that what we want? (For more on “Putting the ‘Human’ Back in ‘Human Resources'”(TM), go to www.courtesybootcamp.com.)

It seems when we relate to one another as nonhuman, put some label on them, that’s when the problems occur. The incidents of malpractice, the school shootings, the road rage, the crimes against innocent people just going about their business. Apathy for our fellow man has grown exponentially as we withdraw into our own selves to avoid getting too involved with each other. But ironically we check in on Facebook and 90 times today to see what other people are doing. Studies prove, though, that we do this to compare our lives to theirs, and then start feeling bad about ourselves for not living as excitingly as other people do. (As if everything that can be read online is true.)

There is good news, and that is that we were all born with empathy. We just lose it somewhere along the way in the name of being “professional”. The prescription then is to start practicing it more. Wave to people. Look each other in the eyes. Acknowledge that person on the sidewalk approaching you. Pick up litter that is blowing around just to feel better about yourself. There is a reason that good news websites are so appealing; people are looking for the good in the world, and there is nothing, absolutely nothing, stopping you from being it.

Now according to doctor’s orders, and because I like her and want to be a good patient, I have to get back to icing my bumps and bruises.

 

Customer Service? How About “Customer DIS-Service”?

Standard

I have had some really interesting customer service interactions as of late. Really, what they were would better be likened to “Customer DIS-Service”. My biggest fear that this kind of incident when out in the marketplace is going to become the norm seems to be in the process of becoming real. If it declines any more, I am not sure what is going to become of us.

The first incident involved my name. The name given to me at birth, and that I will take with me to the grave. I can’t recall who said it, but the sound of a person’s own name is the most beautiful sound they ever hear. So to have it butchered is quite painful. Granted my name is difficult, but with a little more attention to detail, most people get it right. There are a few out there that no matter how many times I correct them, they simply cannot make their mouths form the correct sounds, I guess. My dealings with them, needless to say, are a little more “arm’s length” as it is apparent that they cannot be bothered with this little detail. But I digress.

The incident was a lazy salesperson at a golf store. When he went to put down my name for a salesperson to follow up on, he made a mistake as I was spelling it for him, crossed it out, and began to write again, making yet another mistake. He said, “How about we just call you ‘Ann’?” I said, “No, because that is NOT my name.” I am not about to be sorry that my name caused him some discomfort in his efforts. Ultimately, his laziness at his attempts to get something to the customer’s satisfaction caused me negative feelings about the store in general. Pay attention when getting someone’s name!

The second incident was also oddly at a golf store. Two employees there were vying for the opportunity to assist my husband and me, and it was getting ugly. It felt more like a territorial dog peeing contest as to which one was going to give the correct advice. I can only guess that commission-based salaries or bonuses were in play here. One would leave for a few minutes and the other would swoop in to counter previous advice, and back and forth. It was getting almost comical were I not feeling more like a fire hydrant instead of a customer. Again, another lost sale.

The last incident involved a restaurant. We were seated, and a friendly waiter appeared, told us he would be right back, and then disappeared for 20 minutes. Finally we contacted the hostess, who interestingly looked toward the parking lot instead of back toward the kitchen when we told her our waiter was missing. I could only conclude this wasn’t his first vanishing act. Another came and took good care of us, but then we were subject to the awkward situation where the previous employee was being scolded by the manager out on the floor in front of diners.To make things even more awkward, this first waiter came over later to apologize and mention he was giving his two-week notice right then and there. It felt like we were in the middle of a family squabble rather than one of Denver’s finer dining establishments. Needless to say, I am going to conclude that with this kind of drama on the floor, and another successful tavern already drawing customers a few doors down, this restaurant may be headed for its demise. And of course the second waiter got the fat tip for jumping in.

Service-people are human, I get that. but leaving personal dramas or lack of attention to detail at home is always one’s best bet. Customer service should not be “the new luxury” as someone once told me. A business that is going to succeed will live by the motto “Customer is King”, and train its employees that there is a degree of professionalism they are expected to maintain at all times. A customer who has such an awkward experience, as I have given three examples of above, isn’t likely to return. And you customers need to do your part and let management know when these kinds of things happen so the business can make improvements.

Once we start stating and modeling the kinds of behaviors we expect, the more likely we are to get them.