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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Do Unto Others As . . .

To regular readers who have noted my absence – apologies. My mother suffered a fall on Jan. 29 and has been hospitalized since then. She was moved to a rehab facility Friday, and we hope she will regain enough strength and mobility to return to her assisted living residence. I’ve been spending all my time with her until cutting back a bit with her move to rehab.

Spending so much time on the receiving end of medical services, reminds us that patients are completely at the mercy of hospital and rehabilitation center staff. When a person’s world has narrowed to the size of a hospital bed and that bed is filled with pain and fear, human kindness is greatly needed and tenderly appreciated.

I give much credit to the hospital where mother spent a week – Baptist DeSoto here in Southaven. A staff member told me that a portion of every employee’s orientation focuses on customer service. And it shows. Almost every employee we encountered from housekeeping to nursing staff went out of their way to be pleasant and offer assistance. Nursing staff and aides sought ways to make mother’s stay as comfortable as possible despite the medical issues. They nurtured her spirit as well as her body.

There were two exceptions to the “happy list,” and they were appropriately reported. Some folks just need to be stocking shelves at Kroger instead of interacting with real people.

It seems to me that customer service is all about point of view – good old POV. If you, for example, believe that your job is to deliver meal trays to patients, then you’re going to plop a tray on a table and leave. If you believe that your job is to enable patients to have a meal, then you’re going to make sure that the patient is in a physical position to eat and that the tray is located within the patient’s reach. Sounds so simple.

I walked into mother’s room the other day after trays had been delivered. She was scrunched down in the bed, and the meal tray had been slid over the bedrail so that it was at her eye level rather than lap level. It would have been impossible for her to eat in that position. The situation was rectified with some teeth gnashing on my part.

It’s all about POV. Nordstrom gets the award for its customer service philosophy and employee training. Although it’s a department store, the lesson is one that can be applied to any field or endeavor. With Nordstrom, it’s about making customers for life – not just the immediate sale.

It worked with me. This is my Nordstrom moment that knocked me out of my little high heels and gave me a shining example to aspire to.

My Nordstrom Moment

Many years ago, I was working in SoCal and had a busy day with several functions out of the office, including a large dinner meeting to attend. Before the day was half over, something had dropped on the skirt of my pale blue suit and had left a horrible smudge. I went to one function holding my purse in front of me the entire time.

I lived too far away to run home and change, but I knew the solution. I’d leave work a little early, dash up the street to Nordstrom, make a beeline for suits, buy something else to wear, then zoom to the dinner meeting.

A saleswoman spotted my panic as I entered the suit section. I quickly explained my dilemma, and she shocked me with these words: “First, let’s get you into a dressing room and out of that skirt so I can see if my people can remove the stain. There’s no point in your having to make a purchase if we can fix this quickly.”

I was stunned.

I had never heard a salesperson try to keep me from buying an item. Remarkable.

Ultimately, the stain did not come out, and I quickly bought an outfit and dumped the ruined suit in a shopping bag. When I commented as the bill was totaled that the new suit neckline could use a necklace, the sales clerk advised me that jewelry was on the first floor. She said that I could make a selection down there and, if I decided the next day that it didn’t suit me, I could return it. She was basically telling me to borrow a necklace from the department store. I didn’t have time to accept the offer, but I was in awe of her customer service orientation.

Amazing. Customer for life.

The benefit arises from the change in POV from “me” to “you.”

It’s the rehab employee who doesn’t throw down dinner trays in speed time to get a coffee break, but who looks at the human being in the bed to see that the patient is able to have the meal. It’s the schoolteacher who will stay late for a conference because the parents work. Or maybe a tax office that will open early for you.

Customer service is about problem solving. It requires us to determine what’s needed to solve the customer’s problem and then provide what's needed whether it's a skirt cleaning or a comforting touch. It’s all about getting out of our own way and changing the POV.

1 comment:

Jenni said...

Wow, when you say it like that, especially with the nursing home incident, it puts things into perspective.