Who is my customer?

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My final job in my previous career was at a hospital. I worked there for five years in the 90s before getting my first position as a developer. While I didn’t love the career I was leaving, I did appreciate what I learned from that last job.

Part of the onboarding included a short class on customer service. Going in, I didn’t expect to learn much, but I soon found out that I hadn’t really understood customer service or who my customer was. In this case, customer service didn’t mean handling complaints, but a mindset of how to work each day. Sure, the ultimate customers at a hospital are the patients, but many hospital employees have little or no patient contact. In my case, I didn’t interact with them but what I did directly affected patients. I also needed to realize that how I worked with and treated others in the department and beyond also affected patients. The culture at this hospital was wonderful. For the most part, I saw efficiency, cooperation, communication, and respect which led to wonderful customer service.

I’ve worked at a few places that didn’t have the same culture of internal customer service. I depended on another team back when I was a DBA for things like new servers and internal IP addresses. One of the team members would never provide timely updates, sometimes not even when the task was complete. Once a server for a project was ready for a week or so without anyone letting me know it was ready. I was told that he didn’t bother communicating updates to others in IT, only to other departments. He didn’t understand (or maybe care) that not communicating about the server was stopping progress of a project that ultimately affected the company’s paying customers. After complaining about this and other similar incidents, his manager said that I shouldn’t expect to receive the same level of customer service that I provided.

I think that an essential part of customer service means treating the others that you work with the same way that you would want to be treated. I learned about customer service almost 30 years ago, and that lesson has served me well ever since.

 

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