The cost of good will

July 25, 2015

  It’s always a shock when service businesses do not understand the concept of customer relations. Although it shouldn’t be; we’ve had enough proof of it over the past 20 years.

So here’s what happened:

We left a big, corporate vet for a smaller, holistic one we got to know when our late Little He was getting canine acupuncture. We’ve been pleased with our visits there, and it turns out, we’ve been there a lot as Riley has undergone extensive diagnostics.  On one of those visits, they did a procedure that involved putting a needle in his bladder to get urine for a test.  Needless to say, it was stressful for him. So we were very surprised that they wanted to get a blood pressure reading on him directly after.

What wasn’t surprising is that they tried three times and got exceedingly high readings.

I thought it was unwise to take his BP after a stressful procedure and once I saw the $150 line item for that, I really thought it was unwise.  Blood pressure would be an important diagnostic number for his kidney issues and no one felt we’d gotten a valid reading. Why did they even think we would after he’d been stressed out by a procedure?

vet_exam_clip_artWhen his vet (whom we like) called back with test results she mentioned that they wanted to do another BP.  I told her my feelings about how that test went down and that I would be glad to bring him in but was not willing to pay another $150 because I’d thought it was a bad call to time a BP the way they did. I figured it wouldn’t be a big deal, that they would understand.

Like most modern vet offices, this one has a “business manager” and the staff vets can not make decisions like this. It’s the business manager’s decision.  It was my first warning sign: I’d left big, corporate vet because of just such a bureaucracy (among other reasons).

A few days later our vet called to tell us the business manager’s decision. She hemmed and hawed and the message we got was that the business manager had grudgingly said we could bring Riley in as long as there weren’t anything like five to 11 tries, there was one try/one time and this was a one time offer. It was–a sour offer– and it hit me the wrong way. Five to 11 tries?? How did they come up with that number? When did a $150 procedure become such a big deal?

 “I’m shocked,” I told our vet, “at this response. We have never balked a single time at the thousands of dollars we have spent at the clinic both for Little He and now the over $2K it’s pushing for Riley’s diagnostics. It would have been a small thing, but a gracious one for her to have said ‘absolutely, bring him in.”  Our vet said she agreed with us and hadn’t wanted to deliver this message to us. I asked her to tell the business manager what we thought.

Half hour later, the business manager called. The upshot of the conversation was that she said she didn’t know WHO had “approved” the prior procedure with conditions but she wanted us to know we could bring Riley in without charge for another BP.

Wait a minute. Wasn’t she the original decision-maker? She didn’t say she wasn’t, she said “she didn’t know.”  Someone was lying. I am pretty sure it wasn’t the vet.  Then again, maybe it was. But I don’t think so.

She said we could bring him in at a time that he wasn’t stressed and that we needed to figure out what stressed him out that time.

I couldn’t help it.

dogshot1“Maybe it was the huge needle he’d just had jammed into his bladder to take a sample?”  I asked.  She played dumb. Maybe she was, I don’t know. But, just like insurance companies that make medical decisions without a medical degree, was this business manager  making a decision without understanding what had transpired? The whole reason I’d asked for another session was that I thought it was a bad decision to take a reading right after a stressful procedure. That much, I’d thought, was obvious.

I declined the appointment, since Ri was to see a specialist elsewhere who would want her own BP.  But I have to tell you that it left a bad taste in my mouth and really colored my view of this clinic, a place I’d always seen as a kinder, gentler option.

It’s a dilemma, this vet care thing. I want the best for Riley and sometimes a sole practitioner isn’t the best choice. Sometimes you really have to go a bit bigger. And this is what you get.  I just didn’t expect it from this holistic vet.

“Customer service has been declining for years,” my husband told me. “Remember full -service gas stations? Or professional clothiers at department stores who had been there for decades? Everything is more anonymous now, and meant to put distance between the customer and the provider.”

This is one of the great losses in our lifetimes–personal service that really cared about customers and their individual needs.

It would have cost that office $150 retail to have given us a BP appointment with the vet tech. Now, it has cost them so much more than that in our good will.

Ri Sage May 2015This is Riley at the specialist vet, where the entire consultation–including a review of his voluminous records, a full exam and a blood pressure cost us only $121. Total.  Her take on his health is that he’s fine. There are some things we should watch but no reason to treat anything as he had a relatively normal exam for a middle-aged dog. He is eight years old. And he wasn’t anywhere near as nervous as he looks in this photo.

What’s your take on the cost of good will?


18 comments on “The cost of good will
  1. ryder ziebarth says:

    My take on this is your take. It’s aggravating, expensive and short-sighted. I’m glad you found a specialist–maybe they have a recommendation for or a new vet. I find doctor’s offices just as stupid. Ex. -I was asked yesterday to come 15 minutes early to fill in and update a form.

    OK. I did. Busy day, but I did. The form she asked me to update had no updates…at all. I said,” it’s all the same.”
    She said,” well, we need a new one .” ( 4 pages of info).
    I said,”But its all the same!”, ”
    “Well it has an old date and you have to fill it out again.”
    ” No–just change the date and I’ll initial it.”
    ” I ‘m sorry, but the doctors wouldn’t let us do that,”
    I said, one last time, ” If you could ask the doctor, I’d appreciate it. I hate filling out these forms, my handwriting is terrible, and it’s difficult for me.”
    She LITERALLY tossed the clipboard onto the counter.
    I said thank you, and she walked away in a HUFF. Wouldn’t look at me when I left, either. WHAT THE FLYING F*UCK IS WRONG WITH THESES PEOPLE IN DOCTOR’S OFFICES? They are in a police state.

  2. Carol Graham says:

    As a retailer and on the other side of this issue I could not agree with you more. You are absolutely right. We hear this all the time when customers come in, sometimes crying, to have something repaired that our competition messed up and were not willing to fix. When you care about your customers, it shows.

    On a side note: Since switching to raw food 9 years ago, none of our dogs have had to visit the vet. We have two and our daughter has 6. Their health improves with age. We rescue dogs and usually take them from poor health to optimum health in a very short period of time.

  3. The cost of good will is everything. So many business today are so short sided. I guess they haven’t ever been generous. They don’t know that if you give an inch you usually get a mile! Translation…Win over customers for life! That’s been my experience all throughout my years of owning my own business!

  4. Karla Kuhnley says:

    i agree, carol. the vet biz has become all about the money and no longer about the pets or the concerns of their human caretakers. my vet has always lacked bedside manner, he never pets the cats or talks to them, he goes about his examination methodically and without feeling, while i stand there ready to burst into tears at any moment. i don’t doubt his skills in diagnostics, but the total lack of empathy is unnerving. he also pushes services, such as vaccines (for indoor cats), and since two of the girls are seniors, he loves those senior blood tests, which are ~$250 each, but when they come back that everything is ok, seem worth it.

    now having pet rats also means vet visits as they are subject to a host of rat illnesses, and the average vet visit is $130 to walk in the door. for a rat. fortunately i did find a doctor at the same pet clinic who actually has owned ratties, and when she examines them she pets them, coddles them, and talks to them. the end result, the bill, is still the same, but i leave feeling more calm than when i went in.

  5. Good will is everything. It amazes me how many companies don’t understand that. And the medical profession especially — it would take so little to keep patients happy.

  6. Amy says:

    I agree, Carol! I’m sorry you and Riley had to go through all of that. 🙁 We’ve had a heck of a time finding a vet we really trust. I think we finally found him. Customer service seems to have fallen out of favor in the business world. A business manager making the decisions for a vet??? Come on! I love that you compared it to insurance companies playing doctor without a medical degree. How dare they decide what type of care I need. That’s up to the doctor and myself, thank you very much.

  7. Oh, I could not agree with you more. The vet I had previous to the one I “have”* now got into that corporate attitude. I took my cats to him for 4 years, and the vet was always excellent. He talked to the cats, petted them, etc. Then they got a new manager, and the entire demeanor of the office changed. They pushed expensive food every time I went in. They were more business-like and “professional.” Which, ultimately, pushed me to find a new vet. A new vet that was and remains awesome, even to my two geriatricats, on which I spent quite a chunk of change.

    * “Have” in that although I no longer have any pets, if I do get another cat, she will remain my vet. Because of that good will.

    • Oh, and I forgot to mention that they FIRED the one vet I liked at that previous vet. The one who was kind to my cats. The new person was all business. Didn’t talk to the pets or act like he even liked animals. What’s the point of becoming a vet if you don’t like animals? When I went that last time and they told me Dr. Ricky was gone, that was it for me, as well. Two other friends of mine who used the same vet on my recommendation took their business elsewhere as well.

    • I hear you on all of the above.

  8. Beth says:

    I hope your dog is alright now! Fortunately, I’ve never had an experience like that with a vet but I know people who have and to be honest it is shocking! You would think that giving good customer service would encourage people to come back but obviously the people providing this service don’t think so…

  9. Customer Service? What’s that?

  10. Ajay sharma says:

    In todays rapidly involving world the big corporates are taking over all the businesses and that personal touch the service industry used to have with thier customers is gone. Yours is a claasic example of the hollow relationships corporate maintain with their clients. Medical services and the service industry on the whole depends heavily on the personal touch and one to one understanding , which in yout case the business manager couldnt understand.

    Btw riley is very cute and hope he does well…

  11. Rachel says:

    “5-11 tries”? Just creepy! 🙁

  12. I agree, I am a small business owner and I always ride the customer is right wave… Definitely worth it to me for repeat and referral business.

  13. My father always taught (and showed) me that money should not drive you as a business person. I guess when you have someone as a business manager, who never has any direct contact with the patient or customer, their job is to attend to the business side of things. They are likely in some windowless office, scrunching numbers all day. This story is a great example of when that backfires. I am glad your puppy is okay and is lucky to have such caring owners.

  14. Jaime says:

    I used to own a small massage business and I agree, do what you need to keep your customer happy. It sucks that we’re in such a corporate society.

  15. I’ve been dealing with my own customer service issues with my webhosting. It was a mess and they were going to charge me $150 when they made the mistake and it was going to take 10 days. I don’t think so, but nobody got it. It’s amazing how dumb some people are.

  16. Mark Young says:

    I totally relate with this post. The cost of a visit to the veterinarian just keeps rising. I only keep rats now and they almost cost as much to care for as my old dearly departed dog. If prices keep rising like this I think I’m going to have to stick to fish.

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