Actually, they are customers

“They are my patients, not customers. We aren’t a Target store!”

I heard that comment, or some variation, hundreds of times when I was working in health care. Physicians, nurses, providers, technicians, clinic staff all went into their roles to help people and thinking of their patients as “mere” customers was hard. Yet when we actually talked to our patients and asked them what was important in their health care they highlighted issues like:

  • timeliness
  • later office hours
  • making it easier to get a hold of you
  • clear and easy to understand information
  • friendliness
  • clear billing statements

They assumed we were good medical practitioners and wanted us to be better service providers. Leaders in higher education face the same issue. Students and their families count on us to provide a high quality education but what determines their loyalty and engagement with our schools is how they are treated day-to-day in all of their interactions with us. Certainly in the classroom, but also online, on the phone, through the mail and in person at the registrar, the advising office, the dorm, the student center, the billing office, the gym, the library, and on and on. We need to show we care and understand what is important to them.

Adam Toperek, in his book Be Your Customer’s Hero, describes “Seven Service Triggers” that you can use to examine your interactions with students, or any other customers, to identify where improvements are needed.

  1. Being ignored.
  2. Being abandoned.
  3. Being hassled.
  4. Being faced with incompetence.
  5. Being shuffled.
  6. Being powerless.
  7. Being disrespected.

Making a difference with the education and the service we provide can make us all heroes!

Todd Thorsgaard

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