Major credit card companies have Loyalty Point programs, airlines have Frequent Flyer miles, and even grocery stores have Super-Saver cards for regular customers. Rewarding repeat customers has become a tradition in our consumer driven society. Whether you never leave home without it, or the more you buy, the more you fly, at least you feel like a valued customer. In reality, even though we are just account numbers to a big company, many seem to get the idea that if you appreciate your customers they will come back. So it is surprising when local services fail miserably when they actually have a personal, face-to-face opportunity to build loyalty.
A funny thing happened on the way to the doctor last week, and I don’t mean “Ha Ha” or that I hit my elbow funny…When I checked in at the front desk, the receptionist pulled out a bill. I asked if this was today’s bill, and she snippily said, “No, it is from your last visit.” I explained that this was the first time I was seeing it, whereupon she basically accused me of lying about not getting the copy that was “in the mail.” After examining the charges and corresponding insurance gibberish, I did owe a difference. But as I was pulling out my wallet something kept bothering me (you know that feeling from your gut that chants, “something’s not right, something’s not right”).
I took a second look and discovered that they were charging me as a NEW patient, when in fact I was a returning or OLD patient. I stated this fact and explained that the bill was $50- too much, and I was happy to pay the bill less the $50 NEW patient fee. Not good enough…it seems they have a policy that if you haven’t been to see the doctor in over a year, then you are a NEW patient again and they charge you an extra $50. HMMM…“So you are penalizing your returning patients for not being sick?” I asked.
After listening to a lot of empty, nonsensical explanations about their “policy,” I then learned that the doctor went out of town on a conference and wasn’t even there for my appointment. I took a deep breath, put my wallet back in my purse, got my keys out, and drove home. It is almost a week and I am still awaiting a call from the office manager to resolve this issue.
With so many choices available to consumers these days, and in this current economic slump, businesses and service professionals would do well to remember the old adage, “the customer is always right,” institute the belief, “it is easier to keep a regular customer than to get a new one,” and offer the simple phrase, “please come again.” Next time you open your wallet, treat it like a microscope and examine the quality of recognition, appreciation, and reward for your patronage.
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