Thursday, June 02, 2005

You're Fired!

This is from the Professional Marketing Magazine, Summer 2004.

"You're Fired!"
By Thom Singer

My wife, Sara, took our five-year-old daughter to the ear doctor. They patiently sat in the doctor’s office. They waited. And waited. After 45 minutes she inquired of the receptionist, who said that the doctor was running behind and would see them any moment. At each of the previous visits, she had also been forced to wait a minimum of 30 minutes.

After another 15 minutes, Sara calmly asked the receptionist for our daughter’s chart. Puzzled, the receptionist asked, “but why will you need it?" As politely as possible, my wife said that she was going to find a new doctor. The receptionist still did not understand. “But you have surgery scheduled in two weeks." “Not any more,” replied my wife, “You have disrespected my schedule every time I have been in this office. YOU’RE FIRED!"

In moments the doctor herself was in the waiting room trying to explain that there were other patients who had more pressing issues, but that she could now see them immediately. “No, thank you," Sara said. "There are plenty of other doctors. You are fired." With that she took the chart and left.

Most surprising to me was that we never heard from the doctor or her staff again. Ever. Having a background in business development and client relations, I was positive that they would call to apologize and reschedule the surgery. They obviously did not care.


Everyone seems to have a story about a doctor who made them wait and then was arrogant about it. However it makes me wonder about our own client services in professional firms.

1. Always be responsive. One of the most common complaints about professionals is that they do not return phone calls in a timely manner. It is not enough to hide behind the fa├žade that you have a hectic schedule. To tell a client that you are too busy is sending a message that you view your own time as more important than theirs. Worse is to tell them that you could not get back to them because you are so busy working for other clients. It actually tells the client that they do not “make the cut” of what is truly important.

Make it a point to always check your messages or have your assistant monitor your voicemail and email. When you are truly swamped, have your assistant or another professional return the call and inquire what is needed. If possible, they can immediately take care of the situation. If the client really needs to speak to you directly, you will know in advance what will be discussed and how much time the call will take.

2. Do not let yourself get into the situation of not being responsive. The doctor in the story was always running late. You do not want this as your reputation. Everyone will have occasions when they are over worked and fall behind, but do not let this be your routine. Schedule fewer things during your day, and plan for breaks in between conference calls and meetings. If your early meeting runs long, you have a time cushion. Time is a limited resource, treat it as such.

3. When you have made a mistake, apologize. If you have made someone wait, or failed to return a call, own up to the mistake. Apologize. Tell your client that you understand that their time is even more important than your own, and that you will not let it happen again. Then, don’t let it happen again.

All professionals need to remember that they are always being judged by co-workers, clients and vendors. Everyone faces the same time constraints. Do not get so caught up your own busy schedule that you disrespect those around you, or you might just hear the words “You’re fired!”

Have a Great Day

Thom Singer