Day Three: But who will save the angry birds??

The wait at the physical therapy office I attend can be quite cumbersome. I’m aware of this. I’ve been there more than once, so I come prepared. I load up my best friend (A.K.A. iPad) with something interesting to read and try to count myself lucky that this is guilt-free time to do nothing but read.

This evening, I was a little surprised when another seasoned therapy-goer snapped at the youthful receptionist and threatened to walk out on her appointment. (Great, just makes the wait shorter for me, woman.) The receptionist apologized profusely and fumbled through the appointment book to find another open slot. Grumpy sighed and passive aggressively answered, “I guess so,” to the new appointment time, before sweeping out the door.

During this exchange, I just so happened to be reading a passage focused on crisis management in a digital world. I couldn’t help but connect the two. Did the receptionist provide the correct response? What kind of, “Complainer,” was this lady?  I.E. Does she pretty much hate the world, or is she a loyal customer having a bad experience? Would this lady go outside and tweet her outrage, burning her contempt into would-be patients? Probably not. This is a tiny office, in a tiny town.

However, it got me thinking about who in this world really handles the most crisis-management. I remember asking a college professor how one got into, “Crisis Response,” in the world of PR, as I had an interest in it. I was informed that you could only get there by being a seasoned vet, and very few had the skills for it.

I can’t help but laugh at that. I know fewer experienced managers handling customer crises on a daily basis than I do 20-somethings. It’s those wet-behind-the-ears youngsters. They have the most face to face interaction with consumers, and the best understanding of their experience/disappointment/outrage. Also, chances are it’s not even the first time they’ve heard the complaint. (Obviously here we’re discussing day to day crises, not Exxon-Valdez.)

The higher up you go in management, the LESS likely you are to find someone who wants to deal with a problem. Passing a customer to a superior is tantamount to admitting you’ve failed. You’ve messed up, and need saving. Later, you’re going to be dressed down on how it, “should have been handled.”

Thinking back on the beleagured physical therapy receptionist, I wonder if any one ever discussed crisis management with her. In fact, why is any entry level employee expected to know the, “correct,” response to a problem? Teach them. Imagine if every angry customer was greeted with a well-versed team member who didn’t need to contact the boss because they already knew what the boss would say?

Now let’s bring it full circle! The article I was reading discussed who should be involved in digital crisis communications. If I’m ever constructing a Public Relations team, the first person I’m adding is a receptionist. He/she would already know the customers, understand where there are hiccups in their experience, and will probably be the person who is asked to answer for them.

And if you find yourself with a long wait and an iPad, I highly suggest a combination of Angry Birds and Spotify.

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