Monday, December 8, 2014

Sometimes, One Act is All It Takes to Turn a Recovery Into Loyalty!

To those who enjoy my blog, I’m sorry that there’s been a long pause between posts. The company is growing and I’ve been rather busy, taking care of my clients and making positive strides that impact their growth.

Over the last year I’ve learned a lot of things, some good and some bad, but one thing I have learned is that people will remember superior service, and are loyal to-a-fault when it comes to it. Not to sound shallow, but people will pay through the nose to get great service… period!

It’s that fact that brings me to my own personal experience with customer service, and how a single comment created a cascade of recovery, the likes of which made me a loyal customer.

After a successful year of applying the principles of the “customer experience” and teaching organizations how to integrate this mindset into the operational fabric of their ambulance service, it came time to take a few days off and enjoy myself. My wife and I love to go to the casino from time-to-time, and from where we live, we have two that are close by.

I frequent Harrah’s Southern California Resort in San Diego County because I seem to win more often there.  It’s close by, and they send me promotions to try this or that at the resort. It’s always a good time when we go there, and we had recently been invited to spend 3-days in a new suite, part of a new construction project over the last year. … So, what the heck, I booked it for us and figured that this year we’d do a short “stay-cation”.

When we arrived at Harrah’s, it was late. My wife and I are typically the type that leave for vacations after a full day of work, rather than schedule our trip and leave in the morning. Needless to say, we were tired on our arrival, and wanted to get to our room and settle in.

We checked-in and were given our keys, and proceeded to our suite. When open the door, much to our surprise the room hadn’t been made up. The bed was a mess, used towels were piled by the door, and the room wasn’t a suite!! I was in total disbelief at what I was witnessing… “Strike-one”.

I set down my luggage and phoned the front desk about the mess, very politely… not losing my temper, but expressing my dissatisfaction with the accommodations. The hotel night supervisor apologized and got us another room, sending up a bellboy with the new keys.

Sure as anything, the bellboy arrived 15 minutes later with the keys, handed them to me… and left. Never offering to assist us with our bags, but at least he told us where the room was, right… “Strike-two”.

When we gathered up our luggage, we headed to the elevator and got ourselves on board, after a bellboy exited, and pushed the 2nd floor button. The doors closed… and nothing… we pushed another button and still nothing. We pushed the door open button…. And nothing. The elevator had been locked-out by the bellboy that had just exited. (My kingdom for a fire department override key!)

Once again, we exited the elevator to another one across the hall and boarded it. Got on board with our luggage in tow, and pushed the second floor button, and it wouldn’t accept it – this was odd… so I pushed the lobby button, and the doors closed and we began to move. That was a big relief, as I erased the image of my wife and I spending our first night in a stuck elevator.

When we got to the lobby, still towing our luggage, I again waited in a long line. The gal that had checked us in held up her hand and waved, acknowledging us, but not waving us up to the desk to see what if anything was the problem. (And here’s the pitch… a tip off the bat and foul ball… it’s still strike two.)

When they finally got to us a few minutes later, exhausted I explained to the gal that we couldn’t get to the second floor where we were sent because the elevator wouldn’t allow us to push that button on the elevator. With a “doe-in-the-headlights” blank look on her face she says to us, “I’ll get the supervisor.”

The supervisor was a young man in his late 20’s, attired in a suit and tie and looking very professional. I asked how we were to get to the room he assigned when the elevator wouldn’t take us there, explaining what I meant as I went. He seemed a tad disinterested in my particular problem, as he explained to me that it wasn’t the right location anyway, that we were going to be going to a different tower at the hotel. 

I inquired if the new room was a suite, and he tells me its not. I asked for an upgrade, and would be glad to pay the difference if need be. Again, he tells me that it’s not possible because they were already booked up solid. So, I took the room. Finally, I asked him if a bellman could please assist us with the luggage… And there was that look again, as if I shot him with a pistol…

“I’m sorry sir, did you want help with the bags?” he said. I looked at him with a perplexed and confounded look and said, “No, You know what, I’ll handle it from here.” So I grabbed our bags and headed toward the elevator… at this point, grumbling under my breath and now in a foul mood.

Once more, I placed my key in the door to open the room. Again, it was not what was either promised or expected, but my wife was so tired by then that she went straight to bed. (Strike Three)

That night, I sent an email to John Payne, CEO of Caesars Entertainment, the parent company for Harrah’s, and explained the events that had taken place as briefly as possible. Not necessarily to create a problem but to make him aware of how the staff had completely failed at meeting my wife and my expectations for our short stay at Harrah’s Southern California, and then hit the sheets.

The very next morning, I was awaken to the ringing phone and was greeted by a cheery voice who explained to me that there was a mistake in the reservations system and that they had received a call from their general manager who wanted to move us to a suite, in the building that we were suppose to be in originally. Needless to say, the service from that point moving forward was top tier.

We were even given a food credit for our stay, the bellman took our luggage, the elevator worked, and everything was great. Heck, I even walked out with $600 of their money. My wife and I had a great time, and it was a memorable time for us.  What a GREAT recovery!
Now, I know that the story was very long and detailed. But, this is exactly what is missing in our industry and has been for quite sometime. It’s also what I have been keeping myself busy teaching many agencies how to do. But it is the road to success for anyone wanting to stay in the industry in any capacity, positive patient experiences.

Lets look at Disneyland as an example. Disneyland is a place that we all pay a huge fee (About $100) for a single ticket to enter the park. Seems crazy, but when we buy that ticket, it doesn’t. We just hand over the money like we had millions to spare.

But why?

Because, they offer us something of value to us in the form of fantastic service, and everlasting memories with our children or families, they take us away from our cares and worries. And, while we could get a better value going down the road to a number of other amusement parks, we always return to Disneyland because of the value they provide to each of us on a personal level.

Like I said at the beginning of the piece, people will pay through the nose for great service, and a memorable experience. It’s been my pleasure to observe this, first hand in the ambulance industry. A few years ago the company I worked for was trying to win a large chunk of business from a local hospital, but were meeting with some resistance from many that worked at the hospital. Change is sometimes a difficult thing for people to embrace.

One day however, our company received a call from a case manager at the facility, to move a bariatric patient back to his home from the hospital. Not only was the gentleman a larger man, but he also had an electric wheelchair to get around in that was at the hospital too. This fact alone hadn’t been brought to our attention at the time the call was taken, otherwise a second ambulance would have been sent to assist the first crew.

Without being asked, the ambulance crew went to the patient’s bed, and moved him to the gurney, and parked the motorized chair in a secure location, and took the patient to his home. In the mean time, the case manager saw the wheelchair, and began to get upset, believing that my crew had dropped the ball and didn’t feel like taking the 200 lb. device.

She was about to call someone to remedy the situation, when the same crew arrived and without a word, folded up the device, took the gurney in the back and secured it to the squad bench, and loaded the chair. They closed the doors of the ambulance and took the chair to the patient’s home where had been taken earlier by that same crew. When they arrived, they unloaded the wheelchair and set it back up for the patient and placed it within his reach in the event he wanted to get out of bed.

This single act, without being asked to do so… and the positive praise we received from the patient and his family, gave us that hospital’s business without the need of a contract. No discount swapping arrangements, no written contracts or quid-pro-quo… nothing other than great “go-the-extra-mile” service. That’s all.

Today, that company still enjoys the benefits of that one crew, and one call, and how it really impressed that case manager.

Truth be told, anyone in the industry can do just this sort of thing and experience explosive growth in service utilization from some of the most unlikely places. If you know how to tap into that powerful source for call referrals, you’ll be able to take the next step, and you’ll never have to worry about looking backwards as you company grows and moves forward.

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