Fish Lips Versus Customer Experience

Television commercial: “I’m not a bank guard, I’m just a bank monitor.”

Seattle fact: “I’m not a suspect, I’m a community member.”

One news story this morning got my attention in spades.  It confirmed for me that the PC police have absolutely lost their collective minds. Being politically correct has become politically incorrect.  In wan announced yesterday that Seattle’s Chief of Police decided that it would be more politically correct to no longer use the term suspects.  From now on his officers will refer to suspects as community members.  For example, in the process of robbing the bank, a community member took nine people (other community members?) hostage and wounded two officers during a shootout. The police cornered an armed community member and released him.  When a local television reporter asked the police officer why he did not arrest the bloodied man holding the pistol, the officer replied, “because he is not a suspect.”

All the current talk about Russia makes me nostalgic for the days when the USSR—that’s pre-and post-Russia for those of you who weren’t alive when people had to walk to their televisions to change the channel, invaded countries each time there was a full moon.

For the theologians among us, a popular question is, why do bad things happen to good people?

That question is as unanswerable as the question, why don’t fish have lips?

The same question applies to healthcare customer experience.  Not the fish-lip question.  The bad things.  To be frank, I am rarely asked to sit at the big people’s table.

When I ask this question of people who think who think they can answer it I go into full Yosemite Sam mode. They look at me like they just spotted a flying saucer out the room’s window.  I tell them I would have flown in but my cape is at the dry cleaners.

“What are you, a male witch?” They asked. “There are no male witches.  If you ever watched the television show Bewitched you would know that the correct term is a warlock.” I gave them an eye role that would have scored a ten at the Olympics.

A lot of my meetings make me feel like I am trying to reason with the tinfoil hat crowd. They want to take me down the rabbit hole while they cozy up to the Queen of Hearts.  I was never very good at playing hearts.  If there’s an elephant in the room, you don’t need to look around trying to figure out who brought it in.  I did.

So, why do bad things happen to patients and customers who are simply trying to manage their care and wellness?

Health systems, like other industries, are good at creating advisory committees.  Buy donuts and coffee and ponder the fish lips question.  Study the question like an anthropologist on Easter Island.  Advisory committees, rarely come up with actionable advice.  If Columbus had an advisory committee, he would still be at the dock.

I’ve tried to reason with those committees but it’s like trying to turn the Titanic in a narrow stream.  The only way to turn it around, I tell them, is to cut off the head of the boat.  I may be able to help them change directions, but only after­ they hit the iceberg.

Most health system websites have what looks like a friendly box for visitors to contact us.  The friendly box replies to the user’s input that someone will reply to them within two to three days.  In two to three days, that user could have had a stent inserted and been discharged, delivered a baby and been discharged, recovered from Ebola, founded a multibillion-dollar tech firm, solved the question about fish lips, and been elected president of the U.S.

Doing anything in two to three days, while it may seem user-friendly to whomever in marketing or IT designed it, is a user disaster.  A lot can happen in two to three days.  But none of it will happen in your health system.

2 thoughts on “Fish Lips Versus Customer Experience

  1. Love your blog – fun and insightful. I’ve worked in healthcare finance for years and, seeing it from that perspective, totally agree with your assessments of the customer experience.

    IMHO, it may take a cataclysmic event for industry change. Think SF Yellow Cab before Uber: all the “customer experience” you’re describing. Why would they change? Monopoly, limited supply, treat the customers like cattle. Wow – that change was a long time coming and it sure tipped their world over fast.

    A similar event could happen in healthcare starting with the introduction of blockchain technology into the finance-side of the business/insurance markets.

    What are your thoughts about steps the industry can take – hospitals and doctors – to prepare for the consumer-centric future?


    • Debra, thank you for reading and for your comments. I think they are spot on. Unfortunately, I think healthcare is keen to discuss consumerism and lax at doing anything about it. The best providers are no better than half as good as the best firms in other industries


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