I have an obsession with being on time. The idea of being late causes me an unnatural, and likely unhealthy, amount of anxiety. This trait is regularly exacerbated by the reality of living with a wife and 3 daughters. Let’s just say they are not as focused on punctuality as I am, and truthfully, it makes me feel like my head might burst into flames. In times like these one of my daughters always seems to lovingly mention “Dad, your nostrils are flared.” What can I say? Those flames on my head need oxygen.
Obviously, it isn’t often that I am comfortable with being late or having my schedule disrupted. One of those rare situations occurred just the other day. I was scheduled for a doctor appointment at 3:30pm and I had arranged my work schedule to make sure I could be there on time (which, for me, is 10-15 minutes early). As I was getting in my car to drive to the clinic my phone rang. It was Brianna from the clinic. She said “Hi” and asked me how I was doing. She seemed authentically happy. Brianna proceeded to apologize about interrupting my day and apologized again that she was calling to let me know that the clinic had been running behind and my appointment would either have to be moved back a half-hour or rescheduled. Again she was really sorry and realized my time is valuable and she didn’t want me to have extended time in the waiting room. “You can only read those magazines for so long.” She said.
At the beginning of the call I could feel my jaw tighten. I was starting to get anxious about my schedule not going as planned as I guessed the purpose of the call. Brianna, even with no knowledge of my punctuality issues and their resulting irrational angst, was successful in calming me down. Whether it was conscious for her or not, it was skillful. I was unconsciously “primed” by her happy disposition. Each apology built on the other—the interruption, the acknowledgement of the value of my time, the sincere desire to save me from extended waiting room agony. Then as if all that wasn’t enough, she made me laugh! It was a masterful performance.
This type of routine call takes place many times every day in a medical office. A medical administrative assistant can choose to make the call bland and depressing or a positive experience for the patient. This is the heart of good customer service, and it definitely applies in the healthcare field. This is a skill that can be learned and practiced—an extremely valuable asset in any office. Brianna made my day by taking me from a state of agitation to a calm smile and a chuckle. It really is amazing how one skillful phone call can make the difference between a laugh and flames and flared nostrils.