Tuesday, September 13, 2011

people observation #20: customer service, please serve us.

I am currently sitting in the health center getting a check-up, and experiencing the inevitable frustration with the system that is the campus clinic.

Clinic: we all know the connotation associated with this word. In the same way the word moist just seethes off the tongue if you're a girl, the word clinic really makes us cringe. We could go for a more appropriately-connotated word, like "health center" to be more politically correct or we could say "infirmary" if this were Hogwarts, but regardless of what you call it, when you're at college, going to see a doctor is a nightmare to say the least. It's on my top-five places I'd least want to be in Athens (probably somewhere between the back of an OUPD squad car and the bottom of the Hocking.)

It's as if clinics were designed for inefficiency. That's another blogpost, though, for another day. I do, however, give OU props for the changes they seem to be making to their health services. (Unless it's like the Pennsylvania turnpike, of course, and it's never actually finished with construction).

I sit here and listen to the nurses and technicians discussing something to be of great importance (gossip), and from below me the sounds of hammering vaguely make out the rhythm to Katy Perry's Firework as it plays on radio 105.5. There's some Japanese kids engaging in what I think is bickering somewhere close outside.

Because the first floor is getting new carpet or something, the clinic has been "temporarily" squished onto the second floor. Sidenote: The waiting room is divided with signs separating the sick people from the healthy. Like a smoking section in a restaurant, the flu-infected runny-nosed Sophomore won't affect you because you're sitting on the far east "healthy" corner of the room. Viruses can read too, you know.

So I have just passed through level one of the appointment.
Are you a Smoker? No.
Are you allergic to anything? No.
How tall are you? 5'5'' if I'm not slouching.
Your blood pressure reading is outstanding. I'm a bad ass.

Now I am sitting in the 2nd waiting period, as if the first awkward calling of the names isn't painful enough. Alright, Erin, Phase One complete. Why am I nervous? I feel like I'm sitting outside an audition. Boy, I sure hope I made the cut!

Because they're making renovations to the main entrance, people enter through whatever sidedoors and cracks in the walls they can find. I find myself sitting on an arbitrarily-placed bench in the hallway where I'm stuck between a green-faced girl in the fetal position on my left and a desk of nurses doing paperwork on my right. After memorizing the eye chart placed on the wall in front of me, and being informed that I can do my part in preventing the flu from the hand-washing PSA next to it, my mind starts to wander, and the eavesdropping begins.

Nurses' conversation seems to be dominated by the topic of several patients' confusion as they walk in side doors and attempt to find the waiting room with few, if any signs. Being in the position of these disoriented patients earlier that hour, I found myself empathetic to their situations. A student would walk up, give some rendition of the "is this where I check in?" and the nurses would explain to them that it was further down the hall. After each student would leave, the nurses would gripe about how irritated they were at the students for not knowing where to go. I began to lose patience, pardon my pun.

I started thinking about how many times this happens to us as people. We are in a different position than others, and forget that their experiences do not mirror ours. So when a student walks in to the clinic, already in a state of feeling thrilled to be there, they aren't necessarily going to know the remodeling situation let alone where they are suppose to go, even if there's an 8.5x11 Scotch-taped up to the door.

I see a student, stomach in hands, walk up to the desk and ask a nurse with stethoscope-wearing cats on her scrubs where she can find the check-in desk. Folks, don't be fooled by the cuddly sea-foam green felines on her attire. This lady snapped back with total sarcasm and cruelty to someone who was clearly a freshman (lanyard) and clearly ill, "you're in the wrong place!" She my as well had laughed in the patient's colorlessly clammy face and called them an a hole.

What happened here was the nurse failed to recognize that although several other patients had come in and asked similar questions, this particular bewildered student did not know those other kids. The nurses could have easily fixed this problem and put a sign up that said "check-in" with an arrow on it, but instead they proceeded to get ruder and ruder with every passerby. Instead, they chose to question the college kids' intelligence.

The thing is that this happens all the time. Everywhere. When you call the gym and ask if their hours will be cut short for the national holiday coming up, you don't know the other people calling in to ask similar forms of that question. When you walk up to the host's station at Red Lobster to ask how long their Saturday night wait is, you don't know that the seventeen-year old hostess had just answered that same question for a middle-aged man holding a screaming toddler just two minutes prior. When you ask the TWA officer at DFW whether or not it's alright to bring your ak-47 on board, who were you to know that there was just a recent ban on assault rifles on airlines?

My point is, when in the shoes of the gym representative (probably sneakers) or the hostess (probably dress shoes) or the nurse (crocs?), every person that comes to ask a question does not have the knowledge that you do, hence, the whole purpose of asking questions: in hopes for an answer. In a customer service position, one is to understand that they are providing exactly this, service to their customers.

I don't care if you are seventeen or seventy. I don't care if it's just a part time job you picked up for a couple extra bones. I don't care if you're stuck working this job for the rest of your life and you're miserable.

The ability to understand things from the perspective of other people is crucial to literally everything. What I learned today in the clinic is that when people keep coming up asking some form of the same question, realize the only thing that can be done is flash that million-dollar customer-service smile and answer their questions. I also learned that washing your hands is important. Do that too.

Eventually, I made it passed the check point and into phase two of my appointment. I sat on the cold crinkly paper rolled out over the table. The doctor had me take deep breaths as she listened to my heart and lungs.

"Are you allergic to anything?" She asked.
"No," I replied, shaking my head in disappointment. Stupid doctor. Doesn't she know I already answered that to somebody else?