Customer service 101

A feeling of dread came over me as I read the letter. Surely not, I thought. It can’t have been that long.

It had. The letter was from my family doctor, telling me it had been more than four years and was time for another colonoscopy. I was to call his nurse to get it scheduled.
After putting it off several weeks, I made the call.
“Did you want to have it done in Tupelo or New Albany?” the nurse asked. She said some people prefer to go to the Center for something-or-other (I can’t remember now) in Tupelo.
Golly, I thought. Driving to Tupelo for an outpatient procedure instead of five blocks to the local hospital makes about as much sense as going to Tupelo to make a bank deposit.
She gave me the names of two local surgeons, and I called one of them to make an appointment.
Walking into Dr. Guy Farmer’s office began an experience that was handled so punctually and professionally that I wondered why I dreaded it. (Well, that’s not true. I remember clearly why I dreaded it: the prep day. You know what I mean.)
But, back to my story. I had barely opened a magazine in the waiting room when the nurse appeared to take me into one of Dr. Farmer’s exam rooms. In a couple of minutes, he came in and checked me over. Soon I was on the way to the hospital to fill out pre-admission paperwork. That took only a few minutes and then I went back to work.
Last Wednesday, my experience at Baptist Memorial Hospital was just as good. I showed up at 6:30 a.m. and was on my way to Wendy’s for a burger by 10:30. In between, I met several nice nurses on the outpatient surgery floor, an anesthetist and nurses in the holding room, and nurses and technicians in the operating room.
It was customer service at its best. I was reminded of that on Friday when my wife asked me to call and get her an appointment with the family doctor after work. She had been to the doctor earlier for her raspy throat and laryngitis, but it had gotten progressively worse. She was miserable.
No appointments were available, I was told, but if Jenny could get to the clinic before 4 p.m., she would be able to see the doctor as a walk-in. The receptionist emphasized that they locked the door at precisely 4 o’clock. She could not be late.
I sent the information in an e-mail to Jenny in Oxford, where she is a fourth-grade teacher. She left school early, arrived at the clinic at 3:45 and was turned away. They had decided some time during the day not to take any patients after 3:30, the receptionist said.
Jenny was sick and in tears. Fortunately, a friend got her in within a few minutes at the New Albany Medical Group. She filled out paperwork, got a shot, a prescription and was told they would set her up to see an ear, nose, and throat specialist. She was home within an hour.
On Saturday, I got a thank-you note in the mail from Baptist Hospital. It was signed by Dr. Farmer and eight nurses and technicians at the hospital.
Um. I wonder if the Baptist hospital system offers customer-service training to other clinics?

T. Wayne Mitchell, publisher of the Gazette, can be reached by phone at 662-534-6321 or by e-mail at