I try to talk to clients about the new reality in business. Customers have more power than ever before.
You used to be able to treat your customers with disdain and it wasn’t really a big deal, because you had all the power. Now, the dynamic has switched 180 degrees.
When Finnegan was born we looked around for a pediatrician and settled on Schmidt & Catchings Family Practice in Cary, NC. The first appointment we had there went pretty well. Then each appointment got longer and longer. Finally we were waiting an hour before we would finally be seen. As bad as that is normally, with a squirmy 1 year old it should actually be criminal.
So finally we decided to leave the practice because of the horrendous waits and also the poor office staff in general. We had actually liked the woman who saw our baby, but the aggravation outweighed that.
So how did the business try to keep us as patients? They didn’t.
Did they ask how they could have done better? No.
What they did do, is tell us that before they could release our records to the new doctor, they would have to make photo copies of everything and mail it over (even though he is in the same medical complex). I was a little surprised since the doctor always had a laptop, and everything was stored electronically, but I figured they had their reasons.
A few weeks later we received a bill for $28.25 for photo copies.
The pediatrician was taking the opportunity of us leaving to stick us with one final bill. My wife thought $28.25 seemed a bit excessive for making some photo copies and sent them a long letter explaining that this was the type of crap that finally pushed us to find a new practice, and sent them a check for $10.
In another gigantic show of ignorance and hubris, they sent us another bill with the $10 credited. No letter in response, no call, no nothing.
Schmidt & Catchings has driven me to writing blog posts on how to screw up with a customer, and then keep screwing up even after they are no longer your customer! I thought this only happened with cell phone companies.
So what is Schmidt and Catchings getting out of this?
- They have alienated a former customer, who used to be mostly neutral about their practice, and made me speak out as an opponent.
- I have filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau
- I have gone online and posted my story in dozens of forums where people ask for recommendations for pediatricians
- I have told dozens of people this story, many of them with small children as well.
- I have written a blog posting that will now live forever on the web
- They may someday get an additional $18 from us.
So what Schmidt and Catchings has done is stopped thinking and fallen back to “this is how we always do it”.
When any business stops seeing it’s customers as people, they get in trouble, and I think that’s what happened in this case.
I just checked their website to get their email address, I wanted to let them know that I had posted this. I guess I shouldn’t really be surprised that they don’t have anyway to contact the office via email – sheesh.
I received their response to my complaint to the BBB, which included this piece of superb customer service…
The complaint about the fee for processing medical records. Mr. Buckley signed the request form, and just below his signature, very clearly, it states our policy and charges for processing medical records. This is a practice that is very common and not done only at Schmidt and Catchings.
First off, “very clearly” may be a bit of a stretch, but even better is the “everyone does it” defense!