Friday, August 24, 2007

I Love Crappy Service

I recently had the chance to observe operations at a local fast-food outlet. I stood unacknowledged at the counter while three clerks went about their business. One fellow was working hard, putting together four sundaes for a drive-through order. A girl stood at the sink, haphazardly rinsing off the milkshake equipment. The other young woman wandered back and forth behind the counter sipping on a soft drink, studiously looking away when we came close to making eye contact. When the first girl finally finished at the sink, she stepped over to the counter and stood silently at the cash register. I finally asked her if she was ready to take my order. It was atrocious customer service.

I loved every minute of it.

I used to (and occasionally still do) get upset at bad customer service. Now, I relish it by playing a little mental game similar to Switch! I spot the poor performance and try to relate it to ways I could improve my own work. I was annoyed when the restaurant staff didn't acknowledge me at the counter. Is every patient coming to my office greeted as soon as they arrive? The clerk was cleaning equipment while customers were waiting.  Am I putting patients first by not keeping them waiting while I finish paperwork or review lab tests?

When I saw the girl carelessly cleaning the milkshake equipment, I thought "What else is being done sloppily around here? Are the cooks washing their hands properly?"  One bad impression was enough to give me a pervasive negative feeling about the place. If I habitually keep people waiting, does this affect their overall impression of my ability to practice medicine in an organized and reliable way?

Embrace crappy service for the lessons it teaches us.


  1. Originally posted by Nadine Glenn 8/27/2007 10:30 AM

    The "I Love Crappy Service" blog entry that I read right on the mark. Thanks for the reminder to me that I can learn as much from a bad example as a good one.

  2. Originally posted by Cathy Lovatt 8/27/2007 1:10 PM

    Could I ever relate to your story about crappy service....unfortunately this was not at a fast food restaurant or the grocery store, this was at a health clinic! The health professional (physiotherapist) was fabulous, but the front line staff at the desk was much like your experience. I waited patiently ten minutes for my bill, was not acknowledged that I was waiting, and finally when asked if I could pay and leave, I was overcharged! No apologies or any concerns, that "what do I care?” attitude. I am a health professional and perhaps I should have complained to the management. Just one more call to do during my work hours and would it make a difference?

  3. Originally posted by Jacqueline Rainsbury (nee Dutchak; The Nuffield Trust, London, England) 8/30/2007 8:45 AM

    I used to work at HSURC, the predecessor of HQC, and am thus aware of your work. Just wanted to say how much I enjoy reading the blog and how heartening it is to see someone making such an effort to improve the system. Will definitely be passing the link on to my UK colleagues. Well done!