Don't Bother Us: How Canadian Hospitals Could Use Some Good Old Fashioned Customer Service Lessons

You've probably seen messages at court offices and in hospitals that have signs saying 'We will not tolerate rude behavior' or 'Don't ask us about wait times.' Or whatever.

Obviously, plenty of people have voiced or shown their frustration and displeasure at being treated poorly by government administrators or else those signs wouldn't go up.

Can you image Wal-Mart or Amazon or any other store putting up such signs? Amazon is a luxury Cadillac-Bentley-Maserati-Mercedes dream compared to the Lada-Skoda-Pinto-Micron services of public institutions in Canada.

It's enough to wonder if the government lives in a parallel Bizarro world universe independent from the rest of us rude, uncouth beggar-proles.

I mean to ask about wait times! How dare us!

Yet, rather than put up some counter-productive signs that help no one (except to induce mutterings under our collective breaths) there are simple steps and measures they can adopt and implement to keep people calm.

It's called communication. As in keeping people informed. I know. Rad idea, eh? When something is delayed all I want is an explanation. Even if it's a bad one (can't ask for too much) I don't care, as long as it's something. People just want to feel there's transparency. The second you meet their anxiety with a disapproving look or tone you threaten to escalate the issue needlessly. I get this at my daughter's school. Apparently, even school secretaries are in on the act.

It's not like public workers have never sat around talking as if you're not there sipping their crappy diarrhea they call Tim''s coffee while you stand at the wicket like a shlepp waiting for Doreen to finish her piece of shit story, right?

Everyone is too cool for the public.

It's basic fricken common sense. An axiom really.  Treat people as you would want to be treated.

I can't tell you how often I have to proceed and act gingerly in front of precious administrators just to get basic information - information we're entitled to by the way - from them. I'm not asking you to read Tolstoy or Lee Iacocca or an essay on 'Why good customer service is the bed rock of civilization' or pinpoint how long the wait will be (heaven forbid we demand excellence from our bureaucracies) but to merely ball park it. Not even that they're willing to give.

Much easier to be surly and put up signs.

No, that they're under pressure or stress is not an excuse. We all face similar circumstances. It's how you deal with it that distinguishes the winners from the losers.

This is clearly a result of lack of leadership and communication among public sector staff probably exacerbated by the fact there is no incentive to improve the patient experience in hospitals or other institutions since, well, why?

What are the consequences exactly?

Canada is all about the cost-centric. Not patient or customer centric.

Until that mind set changes, it's who we are.

Second rate and you can expect more indignant signage designed to keep you, the taxpayer, in your place.

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