Respecting Our Customers

I had an 8:15am appointment with a specialist referred by my primary care physician (nothing serious). I arrived a few minutes early, filled out the paperwork and had a seat in the waiting room.

At precisely 8:15, a nurse entered the room and called my name. “Wow!” I thought, “Right on time. Impressive!” Unfortunately, the nurse also called the names of two other patients and escorted us to our respective examining rooms.

I know that physician’s offices schedule appointments so that the doctor has approximately fifteen-minutes with each patient. So, I knew that one of us would be lucky enough to see him at the appointed time, one of us would see him at least fifteen-minutes late, and one of us at least thirty-minutes late. I was wrong on all counts.

Sitting in the exam room, without a magazine in sight, I could hear the doctor and office staff in conversation. Were they discussing the patients and their charts? No. Their animated discussion was about a trivia game show one of them had viewed the night before and he was challenging the doctor and the other staff members with trivia questions about music and movies. Although the door to my exam room was closed, I could clearly hear every word and could tell how engrossed they all were in the contest.

After about fifteen-minutes of this (one patient’s worth of time!) I should’ve interrupted them with my own trivia question – “Guess how long your patients have been ignored by this entire office team?”

But, I’m a nice guy and thought I’d give it a few minutes more. Just then, the physician entered my room and, I must say, did an outstanding job in his examination and in presenting his recommendations. He really did. But he was starting out from a negative position. What could’ve been an overall positive experience, was mediocre at best because of the initial disrespect for patients shown at the beginning of the relationship.

I’m just glad I didn’t have an afternoon appointment, because with the very first appointments starting late, I can only imagine how the rest of the day spiraled down from there.

Was the staff’s disrespect for their patients malicious? I would like to think not; I’d prefer to think of it as unintentional. But intent doesn’t matter. The fact remains that three patients sat waiting while the physician and his team played a trivia game, and that kind of disrespect fosters negative feelings regardless of intent.

I believe that demonstrating respect for customers is one of the keys to generating intense loyalty. When customers feel genuinely respected, genuinely cared for, they reward that respect with their loyalty – and their money.

Think about the interactions customers have with your organization. How can you demonstrate respect for customers in a way that will make them feel valued and welcome? A good way to start is by answering the following:

How can our organization demonstrate, through our behaviors, that we respect…

  •        every customer’s time?
  •        every customer’s dignity?
  •        every customer’s unique situation/predicament/emotional state?
  •        every customer’s knowledge and experience?
  •        every customer’s culture or uniqueness?

Just answering those questions can help an organization reevaluate the way customers are treated, and connect (or reconnect) all team members to the primary purpose of the organization, which is to create customer value,

Simply demonstrating sincere respect for your customers will differentiate your organization from the majority of companies your customers merely tolerate in their day to day lives. And it’s really not that hard to do.

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