Customer centricity: a tale of two clinics

Yesterday I turned up promptly for my 4:45 appointment at the Ascot Chiropractic Clinic as I had been in pain for several days and needed work done on my neck and back.  Upon arriving at the clinic and giving my name I was told by the receptionist that my chiropractor was running very late: she had to finish with her current patient and then see another two before she would get round to me.  I told the receptionist that I was not in a position to wait, she apologised and I left the clinic highly dissatisfied.

Up to that point I had been delighted with the Ascot Chiropractic Clinic; I have been a customer for about a year.  It is on my way to work – so it is convenient.  I like the receptionists – they are friendly.  I like my chiropractor – she is friendly and professional.  And it is relatively easy to get appointments within a day or so – in case of emergencies. So I was able to justify the relatively high price and the fact that I get charged if I do not give 24 hours notice when I wish or need to cancel an appointment.

Before becoming a patient of the Ascot Chiropractic Clinic I was a customer of  the Harrison Clinic. Whilst it was a pain to go there as it is 30 minutes drive the wrong way from work, I continued to be a customer for some four months.  This was because the receptionists were friendly, the osteopaths friendly and professional, when I needed an emergency appointment I was able to get one on the same day.  So in many ways the Ascot Chiropractic Clinic and the Harrison Clinic are similar if not identical.

Yet there is one huge difference that I have experienced:  the Harrison Clinic is customer centred and the Ascot Chiropractic Clinic is not.  Allow me to illustrate.

It was about 8am in the morning and I was getting ready to go to the Harrison Clinic for an 8:45 appointment.  Just then the phone rang, the person identified herself as Melina Harrison – I later found out that she is the owner.  She told me  that my osteopath had phoned in sick and so my appointment had to be cancelled.   She apologised, she sympathised with my disappointment and the inconvenience .  She went on to say that my next consultation would be free of charge.  I was double delighted.

The first delight was that I was saved from wasting an hour travelling to the clinic and back, not to mention the frustration and resentment that goes with wasted effort.  The second delight was that the next consultation would be free.  Yet, I remember thinking that the free consultation was not necessary.

When I did turn up for my next appointment, several days later, the receptionist identified me and told me that the consultation was free.  So the people in the organisation talked to each other:  I did not even have to recount my telephone conversation to get the free consultation.  Incidentally, at that point I was not thinking of asking for the free consultation as I felt that the Harrison Clinic had done right by me by alerting me promptly and thus saving me a wasted visit.

This behaviour reminded me of an earlier time when I had to cancel an appointment at the last moment: I was not able to drive to the Harrison Clinic as my muscles had seized up.  When I phoned the clinic and explained the osteopath had waived the fee even though he did not have to do that.  I got that the osteopath and the clinic had treated me well – trusted that I was telling the truth and waived a fee to build goodwill, cultivate a relationship with me.

Now why did no-one from the Ascot Chiropractic Clinic phone me and let me know that my chiropractor was running late and give me the choice of turning up later or rearranging the appointment to another date/time?  After all both the clinics have all of my contact details.  Both are in the same line of business.  And both are about the same size.  The simple answer is simply that the Harrison Clinic is centred around customers – customers as people.  And the Ascot Chiropractic Clinic is not customer centred, it is likely to be profession centred, work centred or revenue and profit centred.

Finding organisations that are customer centred is an exercise of finding a needle in a haystack.  So I have a feeling that I am highly likely to go back to the Harrison Clinic and just put up with the long drive there and back.

Author: Maz Iqbal

Experienced management consultant working at the intersection of strategy, customer, and technology. Combine a tendency to think strategically with a penchant for getting my hands dirty at the coalface of implementation.

2 thoughts on “Customer centricity: a tale of two clinics”

  1. ..and of two service heroes…

    Hi Maz As I write this we have just had bad experiences with John Lewis and First Direct . Both employ nice people to deal with but JL delivered either the wrong or damaged product three times; FD has a good balance transfer offer for new CC applicants but an appallingly costly equivalent for current CC customers.
    These are regarded as among the more customer sensitive companies – were we unlucky or is there evidence that this type of failure part of a trend – say, towards measuring the wrong things – under supposed economic pressure?

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  2. Hello Richard
    Thanks for writing and sharing your story – good to hear your voice once again.

    Would it not be great if each company had its service delivery figures – what we promised, what we delivered – published on a real time basis on their website. And if these figures were audited by an independent body – say monthly or quarterly. Then we would have some data to determine if you are unlucky or whether John Lewis is on the slide.

    As for First Direct we both totally get what they are doing milking their existing customers because they can. Furthermore, charging more to your existing profitable customers is a fundamental part of customer theory. The only problem is that the theory is misguided. Whilst it sounds good and helps get the Tops (the people at the top of the organisation) to fund CRM initiatives, the fact is that this practice violates a fundamental principal of human cognition and behaviour: the law of reciprocity. I will be writing a post on this soon: my RAC experience.

    I look forward to your voice on this blog and to crossing paths with you soon old friend.

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