How to Make Customers Feel Valued

Beau Groover

I had occasion to go to the doctor’s office recently. It was for a basic checkup, and since I am a lean guy to my bones, I want to focus on the visit from my perspective — the customer. My appointment was for 10 a.m., and I arrived there promptly at about five minutes until 10. I signed the sign-in sheet, found a magazine and started reading. At about 10:25 (25 minutes after my appointment time), I was called back to the examination area, where the nurse told me to go in and wait. I then sat in the smaller waiting room for about 15 more minutes before the nurse came in to examine me. This was not the real exam; this was merely a preliminary exam. She took my weight and blood pressure and asked me if I had been feeling sick or otherwise had any concerns. This process of her visit with me took her about five minutes. So on the time scale, I had been in the office for 45 minutes and had human interaction for about five of those minutes.

As the nurse left, she told me to get comfortable, and the doctor would be right in. I turned on the TV in the room and was watching a cooking channel (they had only two channel choices). I sat there for another 30 minutes before the doctor casually breezed in. She didn’t apologize for my wait, nor did she greet me other than to ask, “And how are you today?” The doctor then went through her normal routine of checking a few things on me that amounted to about five more minutes of interaction. She then asked me if I had any questions, and I did not, so she left the room after scribbling some notes in my folder.

As I sat there buttoning my shirt, it occurred to me that I had been there for more than an hour and a half, and had about 10 minutes of total interaction time. For illustration purposes, let’s call the interaction time with the nurse and the doctor “value-added” time and the time where I was waiting in one room or another “non-value added” time. In lean terms, this equates to a total time of 1.5 hours, and value-added time of 10 minutes. To calculate the value-added percentage, divide 10 minutes value-added time by 90 minutes non-value-added time, which comes to about 10 to 11 percent.

Well, as a customer, I don’t want to pay for 10 percent value-added time. I want to pay for 90 percent value-added time. I don’t want to wait in this room for a while and then move to that room for a while. I want to walk in and have my appointment start when it is supposed to, and I want to flow through the process from start to finish. I should have been walking out of the doctor’s office at 10:15 having completed my visit and onto my next errand or back to work. Instead, I was walking out of there at 11:30 and not feeling very good about my supplier.

If I am the customer, and I am always right, then why am I the one stuck waiting around? Why am I paying for a very expensive service and leaving there feeling completely unappreciated? More importantly, how many times will I come back to this doctor with these feelings of under-appreciation and wasted time?

I don’t want to suppose what this particular doctor’s office was dealing with, or what their thought process might be. Frankly, I don’t care. What I do care about is that my time is valued by my vendor and my patronage is appreciated on some level. I also want to feel that I am paying for real value for the goods and services for which I pay.

Don’t all of our customers want the same thing? Whether you are making widgets, providing a service or even supporting another group inside the same company, it doesn’t matter. If you took a survey of your customers and asked them to rate your service, how would you rate? Would you be stellar at 9 out of 10, or 10 out of 10? Or, would you rank about a 3 like my doctor’s office? More importantly, if they had a choice, would they keep doing business with you? Take a minute and think about who your customers are, and ask yourself if they know you appreciate them. Do you show them that you appreciate them by trying to maximize your value to them? Do you tell them thanks for the business? If you make a mistake, do you personally reach out to them and apologize?

As the global marketplace continues to change at a frightening pace, you need to make sure that you (and your organization) cherish each customer that you have and that you share your appreciation with them. Additionally, look at your processes to see where your customers are stuck in waiting areas for you (your product) to show up. If you make them wait too long, they will go somewhere else with their business.

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