Thursday, November 24, 2011
How are you talking to your clients? Not when you’re vying for work from them, not when you’re in meetings, not at fancy dinners with wine flowing, but when you have to do the mundane, ickier tasks involved with keeping a business viable ... like billing, or reminders of invoices unpaid, or notices of fee hikes or deadlines missed. The small, possibly petty stuff we all hate but which falls into all our lives regardless.
I ask because I was prompted to ask myself the same question the other day, when a letter arrived in the mail from my doctor. I am notorious for missing appointments ... I seem to have too many online calendars with bits recorded here and there—plus I never seem to check them—and I had missed one with this doctor. Instead of the usual “You are a moral degenerate and we will make you pay” letter I could have been sent, I received something quite different.
“Dear Ms. Turner,
We notice you missed your appointment on November 3, 2012. We hope that you are well and that nothing unfortunate occurred that caused you to miss the date. We look forward to rescheduling with you, but we must also advise you that in the future, we will have to charge you for the appointment unless your absence is a result of an emergency. We hope you understand and sincerely hope everything is okay. Please call us with any questions or to let us know of any changes in your health.”
I almost called just to find out who wrote the letter to let him or her know how excellent it was. It wasn’t my doctor, but the effect of the letter was to make me like him more. And to vow never to be late for an appointment again, let alone miss one without explanation.
How’s that for effectiveness? I was thoroughly chastened, yet grateful for it. My doctor now has a less problematic patient, and his operations will run more smoothly. The letter made me realize how random (and rare) courtesy and humanity are undervalued business advantages that we could all afford to think of as much as possible in our own practice.