I should blog someday about my hate list. On it would be talking on the phone, overly dramatic ballads, popcorn and making health appointments for my children.
I also would put on the list bad customer service.
Last winter, I had to bring some of my kids to the new dentist. My husband had brought in the others in a blizzard. (Note to any medical receptionists out there. If you can make an effort to put all the kids on the same day, it would go a long way to make that frazzled Mama happy.) Our dentist did not get them all on the same day. It was three on one day and two on the other. If that’s the best you can do, that’s fine. All of the appointments were going well enough – in fact I was very pleased with the friendliness of the hygenist. Everything was going well until I went up to the receptionists desk to leave.
The receptionist did not look at me. She never really gave me her full attention. She said, “they’re coming back next week for the sealants.”
Sealants. I had a spotty dental history as a child and I had to think about what this was. I also realized that I would be more comfortable to do what this lady said if she would face me and ask me, not tell me. I asked her to please clarify this for me. Who needed them? Why next week? Is this standard procedure for everyone? I understand my ignorance is showing, but I am the mother, darn it, and if I’m confused, I feel like I have a right to explanations for the health of my children.
She was miffed at me and rattled off an unsatisfactory answer and then asked, “what day would be best to come in? Morning or afternoon?”
I asked her if I could speak to the dentist, assuming (wrongly, I found out later) that she would want to communicate with the mother of five, who, incidentally, have a great many teeth. The dentist came out, frowning and gave me another short, unsatisfactory answer. The jist of which was, “we already answered all of this when your husband was in the other day. Now, let’s make that appointment.”
Now, I felt my blood pressure increase at that moment. I even said that I did not feel like I was being communicated to with any satisfaction. As nicely as I could possibly say it, as far as the appointment went, I would call them.
I left very uneasy. As I drove home, I replayed the entire conversation and tried to figure out if my requests were unreasonable or if I was right in feeling like they weren’t interested in helping me or making me understand anything. My favorite Mom mantra is go with your gut. My gut said no way were we going back there – but I would run the whole thing by my husband.
He was home and I asked him if specific details about our children’s treatment had been explained to him during his visit. He warned me that I might be overblowing the situation, but the truth was neither the dentist, nor the receptionist had told him anything. Now I was mad.
Something had to be done about the follow up appointments. I insisted that my husband deal with it, not me. He is a diplomatic, understanding guy and he was willing to call them, set up the appointments and then find out the answers to my questions. He is also an expert in customer service and wanted to give the dentist and the receptionist the benefit of the doubt. After all, we have five children.
I did not overhear the phone call, but I learned it did not go well. The receptionist accused me, to my husband, of questioning the dentist’s authority. The dentist herself got on the phone and made exaggerated claims about my demands, not even trying to take the posture of remorse or humility. Both dentist and receptionist used the words,”we’ll fire you as the patient.” They were the exact opposite of what I would expect a health care professional to be. My husband was shocked at their behavior, but took the high road. He booked the follow up appointments for the next week (naturally, he would take the kids, not me) and then said we’ll make our decision about future visits another time.
The story could stop here. The lessons could be this: Just because you’re a health care professional doesn’t mean to you have to treat ignorant mothers badly. Or, My large family votes with its dollars. If we’re not happy, we’ll gladly go some place where people treat us better. Or, if I can’t trust you to answer a simple question truthfully, without condescension, then I can’t trust you to put your hands in my kids’ mouths. Or, Do you realize I have over 2300 followers on Twitter? Do you really want to make me mad? (I have not revealed their identity in any form. I can take the high road too.)
But the story doesn’t stop here. It’s not about that rude dentist and receptionist. It’s about me and facing my fear.
Months have passed by and it’s time for every one of those Grubb kids to get another cleaning and check-up. There is no way I’m going back to that dentist. But what I have to do, as the adult in this situation, is to call our health care provider (never easy) and find someone who takes our insurance. I also need to make allergist appointments for three kids and then, to top it as one would ice cream on pie, find an orthodontist for my oldest. This, of course, for someone who hates talking on the phone as much as I do, is as bad as a root canal.
These tasks glared at me from my to-do list for weeks. I thought, at first, I’d take small steps daily, and eventually get it all done. But yesterday, in a unexplained spurt of energy — I did it all. All the appointments. Five dental. Three allergy. One orthodontal. All between August 3rd and September 9th. It took me over an hour. But I did it in six calls and I am glad to say that all of the receptionists were cheerful, helpful and the dental office even put all the kids on the same day. (I may bring her some homemade bread for that move.) Another application to this little story: only see doctors in expensive neighborhoods. Because of their real estate/rent situation, they’ll be more likely to treat their customers well because they want to keep them — this gem was from my husband.
What this taught me is this: if I can plow through this unpleasantness, then I can plow through the unpleasant tasks in my writing life, like revisions. Like writing a proposal. Like querying. And if I get so far as a contract someday, there will be marketing and, sigh, more phone calls.
But I can do this. I’ve beaten a bad dental experience. I can do anything.