Category Archives: Rant

In Praise of Lynne – An Open Letter To US Airways

Dear US Airways,

We need to talk about your customer service.

I lost something on one of your flights two weeks ago. Trying to report it, never mind find out if it was found has been a torturous process that has left me in tears no less than three times.

Your phone system repeatedly routed me the wrong way, you don’t have a ‘lost and found’ number, and you ignore emails to your customer relations box even though you promise a response in 3-4 business days.

The ‘something’ I lost is not even important, but dealing with you has made me cry tears of frustration and rage three times. And I’m a grown woman.

Today I called a central number, looking for someone to rant to.

I got Lynne in Reno, Nevada.

I don’t know who Lynne is, or what her job is in your organization. I’m guessing she’s not Head of Customer Relations or earning an executive salary. But she should be. Because Lynne made all the difference in whether or not I fly with you again, and how I talk about your organization to my friends, colleagues and clients.

I called up at the end of my tether, unable to get an answer to my question. I was mostly just frustrated and I knew I had the wrong person. She couldn’t transfer me to anyone because the corporate structure of US Airways makes sure that there is no-one whose job it is to listen to unhappy customers.

But Lynne, after telling me she couldn’t transfer me to anyone, said two words that made all the difference.

She said,

“I’ll listen.”

She didn’t even promise to help, but that simple phrase made me cry.

And then, after she had listened, she did what I had wanted someone to do all along: she looked into my problem.

She didn’t read from a script; she explained how your lost and found system works; she looked through a detailed list of things found on my flight and she gave me another number to try.

Why did it take two weeks, tears, and a call to a random number before I stumbled on someone willing and able to do these simple, human things?

Learning The Lessons Of Lynne

USAirways Executives, I beg you, If you can clone Lynn, please do. If you can reward Lynn, please do.

If you can get Lynn to talk to your management about how she does what she does, every last VP should sit cross-legged on the floor at her feet and listen to her.

Lynn makes the difference between me wanting to fly with you again, and not. Lynn knows how to deal with people.

But I’ve worked in customer service and I know how call-centers work. I know about efficiency and call times and response times and drop rates and consistency of message. But you know what you do, when you hire people for pennies and force them to go through scripts? You force them to be consistent in pissing off your customers.

Please work on empowering all your staff to be like Lynn.

I’ll wait longer on hold to talk to someone like Lynn: Employ fewer people; pay, treat and train them better; and give them the power to take the time to delight your customers.

Being listened to. Being treated with natural, human reactions. That’s all I wanted. Is that too much for your business to bear? Because if it is, you will continue to lose money and customers and you will fail.

Instead, be like Lynne.

PS And by the way, Lynne, in Reno? Give her a nice bonus, eh?

 

Health Care Reform for US – Why We Must Have It

I’m taking on one of the many, many myths about what will happen in the US if we have health care reform. Just one, but I think it’s one of the two or three most powerful and it says:

“If we change the system we’ll end up having to pay more.”

But how much do you know about how things work today?

Last month I had a sore throat. I went to my doctor. I paid my $25 co-pay. She swabbed my throat to check for strep, put the cotton swab into a little plastic dish, checked the reaction and said, nope, not strep. The sample did not go to a lab, no-one pored over it for hours analyzing it, and she told me that it often misses strep anyway, if it hasn’t developed sufficiently.

Three week later I got a notification that my insurance company was being billed over $70 for that test 1.

Luckily I have extremely generous health coverage courtesy of the Evil Big Pharma company that pays the bills around here.

But What If I Didn’t Have Good Coverage?

Back when I was first in the US, I went to a new doctor who recommended a series of tests “to establish a baseline” or something like that. I’m a good, obedient girl who assumed that doctors do what’s best for their patients, so I held out my arm and let him drain some of my blood.

Then my insurance company declined to cover the costs.

I freaked out and called the doctor’s office in a panic 2. They made sympathetic noises and sent me a revised bill for a token amount that was likely much closer to the true value of the doctor’s time and efforts. It was still an unwanted dent in the budget, but more than that, I was disturbed by the casual dishonesty of it.

If the test costs $30, why are you billing my insurance company $140?

As it turns out, this is standard practice.

The whole medical community (hospitals, specialists, general practitioners) understands that you have to get what you can out of the insurance companies when you can…and when you can’t, well, you still treat the patients who can’t afford you, using the cushion of money you built up by treating the ones who can.

You see what we’ve done here?

We’ve created a system where the only humane thing to do is commit insurance fraud.

Let’s be clear: I don’t mind subsidizing the less fortunate. I really, really don’t. I think it’s my duty and makes me more human, humane and decent. But I hate that it’s done dishonestly.

So what, if the insurance companies are getting scammed?

1, And I know I might sound hopelessly old-fashioned for saying this, but I believe this institutionalized fraud is bad for the soul, or, if you prefer, bad for the moral character of the people involved and the society as a whole. If you are training people to ignore the Jimminy Cricket voice that is chirping in their heads “You’re using someone else’s money to pay for this”, then you are training people to squash that voice in less altruistic moments too. Maybe I only use my cell phone for two business calls a month, but what the heck it’s easier just to claim the whole bill as a business expense on my taxes. It’s not that much money when you look at how much the government collects… Or, even worse: meh, everyone’s doing it.

2,  Less importantly but still significant: current practices drive up costs for everyone, making insurance more expensive for people who can afford it and inaccessible to people who don’t have a few hundred to spare for the premiums every month. Five years ago, my co-pay at the doctor’s office was $10. Last year it was $15. This year it’s $25. And my insurance company covers fewer services today than it did ten years ago.

And that’s without any reforms.

I can afford it now, but there was a time when that large a fee for every doctor’s visit (with a family of four it adds up) would have been a serious hardship.

If health care reform makes things ‘more expensive’, I say so what? It’s going to happen either way.

I’d rather it happen in a way that made health care more accessible to everyone.

I’d rather have less money to spend on plastic cr*p for my kids, and know that someone with a pre-existing condition who works two 30hr a week jobs 3 can actually go to their doctor when their condition flares up, and they won’t have to spend their off-hours researching the cheapest treatment options or the ways they can get into debt to cover the costs.

There’s a world of difference between ‘not being able to afford to go to Aspen twice this year because the government increased taxes on the fabulously wealthy to cover the health care costs of the stinkin’ poor4‘ and ‘not being able to sleep because I don’t know how I’m going to pay my child’s medical bills’.

Really.

  1. $70+ I kid you not. And it looked like one of those pee-on-a-stick pregnancy tests you can buy online for $1 a pop. I guarantee you my doctor did not pay even 50% of the bill for that test when she ordered them in bulk
  2. Being from the UK I wasn’t familiar with medical billing and the numbers boggled my mind
  3. because certain employers like to keep you below a certain number of hours so that they’re not legally obliged to pay health insurance benefits to you — ask me how I know…
  4. No-one except movie stars and sports gods will admit that they are wealthy, but I say if you’re earning over half a million a year, you’re wealthy. Get used to it!