Some days the universe just surprises you. And when it comes to customer service, you never know what you’re going to get from day to day.
Yesterday, I experienced both: the best customer service ever – and an example of some of the worse customer service ever.
The best – it was awesome. I shattered the screen of my iPhone (dropped it whilst waving at my kid – who can be mad about that?) and had to get a new one. Couldn’t get my contacts to sync and Nicki at Apple spent an hour with me on the phone fixing a problem with my laptop that was getting in the way. She was nothing short of stupendous. Oh, and then there was the follow up call after she lost me, to make sure it had all worked as it should, then there was the follow up email with her direct dial number, just in case I had any more problems. Seriously? Nicki, you rocketh.
The worst – it was so astonishing it merited this blog post.
My Friends at Romanelli Dental
Yesterday, Dr. Jeffrey N. Brown of Romanelli Dental, a Kansas City metro area dentist, confirmed that his practice is not the place for me. Or maybe it was his Treatment Coordinator who did that. In any event, here’s the story.
A few years ago, I needed a new dentist. Someone referred me to Jeffrey Brown, whose practice is in my neighborhood. I made an appointment and went. My first visit was rocky. In an effort be at my 9am appointment on time, I forsook my morning coffee and rushed the kids to school and then dashed to be on time for the appointment. The reward for being on time – they let me sit in the waiting room for 25 minutes, without ever an acknowledgement that they were running late. I was cranky. Made more so by lack of caffeine. Not a good start.
They finally saw me, and I mentioned I was cranky. When asked why, I was honest. I told them that rushing to make an appointment on time and then waiting an inordinate amount of time to be seen was not a good start to a relationship. They nodded – but no apologies were forthcoming. Hmmmm.
Nevertheless, six months later, I gave Romanelli Dental a second chance and went back for yet another appointment. It was at that visit that I realized they weren’t for me. Nothing tangible, just a feeling. You know what I’m talking about – it’s probably happened to you, too. They were nice enough, but the juju there wasn’t what I was looking for. It wasn’t a huge deal – I just wasn’t that into them.
I don’t know about you, but when I pick service providers – doctors, lawyers, accountants, dentists, etc., I’m looking for a connection. I need to feel good about them. I’m looking to feel as though they value my business, I need to like them as people, and like the way they do business and serve my needs. And I need to have a good feeling when I visit their places of business. And if I don’t, I keep looking until I do. To my way of thinking, life is too short to do business with people – especially people who provide health care – that you’re not really that into.
After that second office visit, I decided to find another Kansas City dentist that I could patronize. And I did. That was three years ago.
And Here’s The Kicker – The Very Bad Customer Service
Today, I got a letter from that dentist’s office. You’ll love this. Here’s what it said:
Dr. Jeffrey N. Brown. D.M.D.
Family & Cosmetic Dentistry
Kansas City, MO 64113
Dear Mrs. Shelley (sic) Kramer,
During a routine audit of our files, it has come to our attention that you have not been seen in our office since November of 2008. (no sh*t Sherlock). We have previously tried to contact you, with little success, regarding your inactive status.
For this reason, we are sending you this letter to notify you we are dismissing you from our practice. We believe routine cleanings and exams are important to maintaining excellent oral health and prevention of dental disease. (Really? That’s a coinky-dink, so do I!). Without your compliance, we can no longer to provide our services to you. (My ‘compliance’? Really??)
For the next 30 days, we will see you on an emergency only basis. (You guys are too good to me). After that, we will no longer be your dental provider. (shuckey darn).
If you would like to continue your relationship with our practice, please notify us at 816-363-9993 today. (What a call to action! Where’s the phone??)
Kara L. Thiele
Whaddya think? Is this an affirmation of my earlier decision that this practice wasn’t for me — or what?
Even When Ending Relationships, Customer Service Still Matters
So I’ll quit making fun for a minute and be serious. People change service providers all the time. And when someone chooses to quit working with you or patronizing your business, it’s sometimes personal – and sometimes not. In this instance, I didn’t hate Dr. Brown and his staff, but they just didn’t seem like a fit for me. So, I found another dentist that I liked – and that was that.
To receive a letter like this, three years after I made the decision to quit patronizing this dentist, seems more than a little passive aggressive. Clearly, I decided to do business elsewhere. Why in the world do you suppose that anyone felt it appropriate to send this “take your business and shove it” letter to me?
Had they not done that, I wouldn’t have ever had much negative to say about Dr. Brown and his practice. They just didn’t suit me. But now – now they are a business that I can point to as a classic example of what NOT to do when it comes to customer service and customer relations.
So here’s the lesson. When someone determines that you and your business aren’t the right fit for them, it’s not a personal affront. Be gracious. Be professional. Don’t send hate mail, snotty emails or other “I’m going to have the last word in this relationship” missives. Act like a grownup, be professional and understand that it’s not a personal insult. We can’t all be all things to all people. And not all customer relationships were meant to be.
I wish Dr. Brown and his staff had realized that three years ago. And I very much wish that they hadn’t felt it necessary to send me this letter. It has forever changed how I feel about them. And I won’t even mention how I feel about their Flash website that plays music. I’m too nice for that.
Your Brand – It’s In the Hands of Your Employees, Too
One other point, and a message to all business owners – be aware of the service delivered to your customers at the hands of your employees. It’s a stretch, but maybe, just maybe Dr. Brown didn’t know about this letter that his staffer wrote. But at the end of the day, he’s the business owner – and he’s the one who’s responsible. The buck always stops with the person whose name is one the door.
What about you? Am I being uber critical or can you see how I might be offended by receiving a note like this? I’d love to hear what you think.