Elaine Fogel

Has Consistently Bad Service Ever Made You Scream?

Have you ever experienced such consistently bad service from the same organization that you feel compelled to scream? Now, I don’t mean a simple shout of frustration. I mean a scream like a B actress in a horror movie!

(Listen here.)

This week, I had one of those moments.

About two years ago, the privately run medical office where my doctor worked was bought out by a local health network that operates “six acute care hospitals, two emergency centers, two urgent care centers, a physician medical group with 13 offices, two health plans, and several service-specific institutes and centers.”

It went downhill thereafter.

The transition happened gradually, but with every change, one could tell that decisions came from “corporate.” To me, that meant that efficiency, compliance, legal, and operating needs came first - NOT patients (i.e. customers).

I can’t tell you how many times my husband and I received calls from billing staff claiming that our account was in arrears. Of course, we had paid our bills, but their system was so disorganized that each time this occurred, we had to go through a payment dance. Sometimes, it took months and up to a year to get things resolved.

It Happened Again

This week was another example. Shawna called me to advise that our outstanding bill was going to collections. She had spoken to my husband last month about it and he told her that he had mailed in the statement with a credit card number. But, like the many previous times, the credit didn’t show up on their system.

If Shawna and management took a look at our history, they would have seen the previous fiascoes that had transpired… BEFORE they threatened to send our account out for collection!!

And, let’s face it. In the good old USA, the last thing you want is for the credit bureaus to get a whiff of your “unpaid” bills. Even when it isn’t your fault, try to rectify your credit score after it was dinged in error. I watched the “60 Minutes” exposé on American credit bureaus. It’s frightening.

After dropping everything and digging up proof of our payment, I called Shawna back at the number she gave me.

The recording begins with a thank you for calling. Next is advice to dial 911 if this is “a true medical emergency.” Complete location info and the fax number followed. I guess they assume we already know the telephone number. 🙁

Now comes the menu:

Press 1 to schedule an appointment.

Press 2 if this is a referral.

Press 3 for medical records.

Press 4 for billing.

Press 5 if you need to refill a prescription.

Press 6 if this is a physician. (I suspect that doctors’ offices get right through.)

Now, which number would you press? Four for billing, right?

The woman who answered the telephone has obviously never had customer service training because she sounds as interested in helping me as a eunuch is in sex. I asked for Shawna.

What? there’s no Shawna at this number? But, she gave me this number!

Then, I realized that pressing 4 took me to the health network’s central billing office. So, I called back and went through the recording… again.

This time I pressed 1 to make an appointment. When I asked for Shawna, the woman asked for my birth-date.  “But, all I want is to talk to Shawna. She called me a half hour ago,” I said.

“Sorry, that’s the way our system works,” she answered. Great, another barrier.

Shawna answered and I told her that I have a copy of my VISA statement that shows our payment made on November 5.

“Would you like me to e-mail it to you?” I questioned.

“No, we don’t have our own e-mail addresses. Can you send it through your patient portal,” she asked.

“No,” I replied. (I abhor using that stupid system. Sure, it’s secure, but it’s a pain in the butt.)

I ended up faxing it to her. Talk about old technology.

What do you think? Will Shawna call me to apologize for her employer’s error?

I doubt it. One thing is for sure. It’s enough. We’re changing healthcare providers.


Put customers at the center of every action and crap like this won’t happen - no matter how small or large your business or organization is.

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