Harbor of Learning

October 28th, 2009 | Tags: , ,

Working here at the Small Town Hospital, like many other hospitals, the staff have to take these little quizzes to make sure we remember and know about things like airborne or bloodborne icky goo stuff, how to handle fires (electrical and chemical), and a handful of other things. Since I am not part of the licensed/Doctorly/patient-take-carey staff, my quizzes consist of only a handful.

It’s lucrative business. I’m not sure how the whole thing works, or even how well it actually gauges knowledge of anything, but it’s really rather silly. Each employee has to take them yearly.

I can honestly say that I don’t even think they change any of the questions. You have to pass each quiz (which is anywhere between 5 and 8 questions) with an 80% or higher to move onto the next one. At the end of each quiz it tells you which answers you got correct and which you got incorrect. Jot these down, cause you’ll use them later. Now comes the tricky part. Take the quiz again and change the wrong answers (usually they’re True/False questions) and resubmit.

Again I say, I don’t know how accurate it is at actually gauging anyone’s knowledge or understanding of the material. I personally don’t even believe that the questions change over the years.

There is one question, though, that I get wrong every time. Not because I’m an idiot, but because it is genuinely wrong. Taking into consideration that the quizzes and the questions were created many many years ago. And the questions have been slightly modified to reflect the current standards of the healthcare world, some need to be updated.

The question is a True/False. It simply says: The customer is always right. I answer false. False. False. False. Every time. False. The answer to get 100% on the quiz is True. But alas, that is not, realistically, the correct answer.

Working in retail and food service, I remember this mantra being pounded into my head from long ago. As time passed and lawsuits increased, this mentality has changed. The customer is NOT always right. A lot of times they’re not even close to being right. They’re in the “wrong” ballpark and they’re batting a 1000.

All of my schooling has taught me a lot because the field of Psychology is ever changing. It’s so hard to point your finger and say “yes” and be absolutely positive that that is the answer. There’s this grey area. Especially because the majority of Psychology involves the ever-flawed human. Things change within a person and their thought processes daily, hourly, etc. Let alone attempting to take into consideration the vast differences between each of us. We can find like-minded people to befriend, but there is no other person who thinks and feels exactly the same as I do. Or you.

So the “customer is always right” is inherently flawed in it’s very nature.

Consider each person’s level of knowledge. We can all have gone to the same schools, got the same grades and been taught all of the same information, but each of us will remember and retain different bits and parts. Nothing wrong with that. Until it comes down to who is “right” and who is “wrong”. Especially if those are the ONLY two choices. When you put something as black and white as right and wrong into the mix, you throw the proverbial monkey wrench into the mix.

Customer is complaining that they were treated unfairly by staff. Okay. That is their perception. If looking at exactly what Staff Person did, and how they talked and treated the Customer nothing on paper is wrong, does that mean that Customer was truly wronged? Yes, but only in that it is their perception and who are we to judge and decide how a person thinks and feels outside of ourselves. If, however, Customer said, “Staff Person called me an asshole” is Customer then right? If legitimately Staff Person did not call Customer an asshole, this mantra and belief that ‘the customer is always right’ puts Staff Person at fault 100% of the time. Without question. Without investigation. Without fail.

Let’s say for arguments sake that Staff Person did call Customer an asshole. Does it immediately put Staff Person at fault and should then be punished? No. There is always a story. There are also always 2 sides to a story such as this one. What if Customer called Staff Person’s mom a whore? What if Customer threw something at Staff Person’s head while they were trying to walk away from the otherwise heated situation? What if Staff Person had just had enough with Customer’s bad attitude and it was just bad timing? What if Staff Person has now worked two doubles (being on the floor doing patient care for a total of 24-hours) and snapped at a normally regular situation? Staff Person is still human, after all.

As human’s we’re expected to act professional at all times, especially in a service industry such as medical care. The problem is, the customer is not always right. Over the years I have had to curb and tone down my initial instinct to fly off the handle, declare unfailing stupidity, and scream my fool head off. I still have little to no patience for stupidity, but I also have to keep myself in check with regard to these declarations.

And when I am the customer wanting my wrong to be righted, I will gladly accept that I am not entirely right and often working on limited knowledge of what I’m wanting fixed. This does not make me infallible. Nor does it make any of you.

4 Responses to “Harbor of Learning”

  1. rob on October 28, 2009 4:38 pm

    The customer is always right? The phrase doesn’t work when you are talking about individual customers. For me it only really works when you are talking about “the customers” as a collective entity. In the end they are always right, they vote with their dollars and if they decide to cast their vote with someone else, pretty soon you no longer have a business. So you do need to always consider the customer’s view and realize sometimes they (as a group) are gonna be right even when they are wrong.

    On the other hand, individual customers are frequently wrong. Anyone that has ever worked in any kind of customer service position is well aware of this. I’ve deal with my share of them both as an employee and a manager.

  2. Deinera on October 30, 2009 12:26 pm

    Alas, I’m going to have to disagree with you with regard to the “collective whole” as well. Mostly because bad information spreads like wildfire, especially when it comes to medical information. Example: H1N1 vaccine can cause Autism. Uh, False. If 400 people walked in and refused the H1N1 shot because of this, it still makes each and every one of them wrong.

    I’m willing to accept that I need to be empathetic and sympathetic to their view, but that does not automatically make anyone or “the customer” right. Ever.
    Just because “the customer” has more voting power, or larger numbers does not automatically give them the “right” alignment. It never will in my book. You have to earn that. Individually and collectively.

  3. Dave on November 2, 2009 12:39 pm

    You are missing the point here. “The customer is always right” is about business. If you treat the customer AS THOUGH they are always right, you tend to keep them as a customer. Just ONE time of explaining to them how wrong they are, and they are gone.

    It’s not about you. It’s about your employer trying to run a business. That keeps you employed. Get your priorities straight.

  4. Deinera on November 3, 2009 3:04 pm

    I think you’re missing my point. Treating a customer AS THOUGH they were right is different than a blanket statement of “The customer is always right.” The customer is NOT always right. They can’t be. No one can be ALWAYS right in their lives. Now if the statement on the quiz had said, “You should always treat the customer as though they were right” then without hesitation I would have answered yes. You’re right.

    This isn’t about priorities. It’s not even necessarily about grammatical inconsistencies. It’s about the fact that a statement like that is archaic and old fashioned. Word the statement in a way that reflects the views you want your employees to have and they will act in a way that is a reflection of those ideals.

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