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January 14, 2014
Welcome to Business Leadership
“Be impeccable with your word.” Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements
Both customers and businesses could benefit from a greater emphasis on this agreement. The agreement is simple. Do what you say you will do. Unfortunately, in a round robin finger pointing cycle, businesses and customers blame each other for a lack of being impeccable. Businesses burned by less than impeccable customers institute processes and punishments. Repeated confirmation calls, texts, and emails aggravate customers who were previously impeccable. Eventually they get fed up and turn to tit for tat behavior. Herein lies madness.
Since every reader has been a patient and some of you are in healthcare, this example should be familiar to all. Signs have gone up in healthcare offices noting that patients will be charged for failing to show up for appointments. Healthcare, like all services, is time bound. When a patient misses an appointment, the provider loses a business opportunity. It’s fair that a patient’s lack of impeccability has consequences. That’s what cancellation clauses in every contract are all about.
The problem is that solution is one sided and therefore unfair. Unlike a business to business contract, the patient has no corresponding way to apply consequences to the provider when the provider misses an appointment time and the patient is left cooling their heels and being exposed to OPGs (Other People’s Germs) in the waiting room. The patient could change doctors but that is a disingenuous consequence as geography and provider networks are limiting factors.
The patient could flame out on social media but the healthcare provider will look reasonable saying, “a previous patient had a medical emergency and it was imperative it be attended to.” Yes, emergencies happen but unless the administrative assistant is by the physician’s side delivering the baby, there is no reason why the admin can’t pick up the phone and call patients to inform them that the doctor is running late—after all, the patient received calls and emails reminding them to show up on time.
While this example is from healthcare, there are numerous examples from many types of businesses, as well as examples within businesses to internal customers. The same frictions that develop between customer and business can develop internally when departments fail to deliver on their commitments to each other.
The solutions to the finger pointing cycle are straightforward. First, commit to always being impeccable to your word, regardless of the behavior of other. Always show up. Always deliver. Second, in a situation where trust has deteriorated and people are increasingly casual with their word, institute fair and reciprocal consequences. Add to that sign telling patients they will be charged for missed appoints the following words “If we are running more than 30 minutes behind and our Administrative Assistant fails to call you to provide the opportunity to reschedule, we will waive your co-pay.” Now that’s fair.
Briefly, we have all heard a number of people retort, “Life is not fair, get over it.” No, life isn’t fair, however humans have an innate motivation for fairness and equity. If you need more information to address doubters, Dr. David Rock’s work is a good start. This video illustration gets the point across. Originally a TED Talk, this is a quick and humorous illustration of the drive for fairness
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