Doctors are Like Any Other Service Providers

by TTMK on September 20, 2012 · 10 comments

When a business has you as a customer – or potential customer – it will often do what it takes to make sure you’re happy. Within reason of course, as there is such a thing as a bad customer. But realistically, good customer service is a hallmark of many successful business.

Besides, being courteous is simply the right thing to do, one would think 🙂

With that being said, it seems like these general principles don’t seem to apply to all businesses universally.  Specifically, it seems as though some doctors don’t really operate as though they are service providers like everybody else.

Now, over the years I have gone to some very good doctors, and in most cases have received good enough customer service. However, some doctors have provided a very poor experience.  They have acted as though they are above normal rules of service, just because they’re doctors.

A very recent experience provides a great example of this.  I had an appointment with a doctor who I have gone to for a fair amount of time.  I happened to be running late, and saw that I simply wasn’t going to be able to get to the appointment right on time.  I estimated that I would get there about 15 minutes late.

So, I thought I would be courteous and call them to let them know that I would be there about 15 minutes late.  I didn’t think twice about it, and didn’t think it was a big deal.  I thought that the office would say something along the lines of “no problem, thanks for letting us know!”.

Instead, the response involved asking me to hold so that she could ask the doctor about it. Then, I was told (paraphrased): “the doctor said that if it’s no more than 15 minutes, it’s okay”.

Uh, okay. If not, then I would be turned away? I mean, I was driving 30 minutes one way via busy highway traffic in order to get to this appointment. And you’re going to turn me away if I’m any more than 15 minutes late? Despite this drive? Despite me being a patient there for a few years?

Come on.

The thing is, I have been made to wait more than 15 minutes at this office before.  Easily more than that.  Was that okay? What was the recourse of the customer then?

That’s the issue – patients aren’t always seen as customers, as they would be with many other businesses.  At other doctor offices over the years – particularly when younger – I recall having to wait as much as one hour for after I arrived on time for an appointment.  I’m not even sure that they were apologetic.

I tend to think that if my business is going to a doctor, then it’s no different from my business going to a dry cleaner, plumber, restaurant server, hair stylist, or any other service provider.  Courtesy goes both ways of course, between customer and service provider. That being said, if they want your business, they will be reasonable with you.

What did I do? Well, I was stunned, but hustled to get the doctor’s office and made it 14 minutes late.  They took me, and the doctor was friendly as if nothing happened.  Thinking about it after the fact, I should have explained to them that I was driving a good distance, have been a regular patient customer, and have been made to wait before.  So, they would be told that they need to be more reasonable in order to keep my business.

There is always next time 🙂

My Questions for You

Do you think that there should be a double standard with doctors, where they can keep you waiting but you can’t keep them waiting?

Do you view doctors like any other service providers, where good customer service is pretty much required?

How would you handle a similar situation?

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Emily @ evolvingPF September 20, 2012 at 7:07 am

I’m a bit surprised you were told to be not more than 15 minutes late. I figure they would just move on to the next patient and fit you in as soon as possible after you arrived. It’s not like you even see the MD when your appointment starts, though – you have to go through a whole process with the nurses, etc., so the timing really is difficult to get right.

I don’t know if I view physicians the same as other service providers, but as I’ve watched my friend graduate from med school I definitely have been feeling less reverential/deferential toward MDs.

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TTMK September 20, 2012 at 8:56 pm

Emily – I know what you mean, when you know people in the field, others in it just seem to be regular people – not people to be put on a pedestal. Good point on how they don’t have you see the physician right away anyway.

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MoneyAfterGrad September 20, 2012 at 8:19 am

There is a DEFINITE double standard. In general for any appointment you make, if you show up late they may someone before you but you wait for an hour in the waiting room and they don’t even apologize for the wait !! I understand that they have to move on with appointments, but it just seems pretty unfair to the individual, especially when you pay for service.

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TTMK September 20, 2012 at 9:22 pm

MoneyAfterGrad – I totally agree. That double standard is ridiculous.

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Paul @ The Frugal Toad September 20, 2012 at 8:21 am

Some Physicians are better at customer service than others. Having said that, I can’t see why your Doctor would not be able to fit you in when you arrived.

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TTMK September 20, 2012 at 9:23 pm

Paul – very true, some are better than others. As for my appointment, it all worked out, though I had to really hustle to get there.

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femmefrugality September 20, 2012 at 5:08 pm

I don’t really see them the same way. If he had a booked schedule the rest of the day and everyone else showed on time it wouldn’t be fair to make them wait. But if that was the case it would have been proper to explain that to you fully. I don’t like the waiting double standard, but accept it.

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TTMK September 20, 2012 at 9:26 pm

femmefrugality – the thing is, that would be fair IF the customer had similar influence on the business. Many times, doctors offices don’t treat patients as customers, but rather as people for whom they are doing a favor. The double standard is there, and many times we just have to deal with it. But where there are choices, we don’t have to put up with it!

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Kathleen @ Frugal Portland September 24, 2012 at 11:49 am

HA, welp, lesson learned, amiright? Don’t call!

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TTMK September 27, 2012 at 8:44 pm

Kathleen – LOL, punished for being courteous!

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