Saturday, October 27, 2007

"Later" (a true story)

Time: 9am, yesterday
Location: on the phone

"Good afternoon, this is the dental clinic."

"Hi, I'm experiencing some tooth pain and would like an appointment."

"The next available appointment is 1200."

"Oh, I've got class at that time. Do you have an available appointment for some time after 1:00?"

"Sir, I can only offer you the next available appointment. If you want a later appointment, you will have to call back later."


"Really? But I'm on the phone with you right now."

"Yes sir, that is our policy. I can only offer you the next available appointment. You'll have to call back later if you want a later appointment."

"How do I know you'll have an opening later when I call back?"

"Oh, I'm pretty sure there will be an opening."

"Then doesn't that mean there's an opening now? Why don't you just give it to me this time, instead of later?"

"Sir, it's our policy that I can only give you the next available appointment. You will have to call back later to get a later appointment."

"Actually, I can't call back later. I'm going to be in class from 10 until 1, and this is already the second time I called to try to make this appointment. Did I mention the tooth pain?"

"Do you want to talk with a supervisor?"

"Yes please..."

(Supervisor gets on the phone - a different person than the supervisor I spoke with on Wed, who gave me the same "it's our policy" line. I re-explain the situation.)

"Sure, I can get you in at 1:40 - that's the last appointment for the day."

"That would be great. Thank you so much."

Questions for discussion
Can you imagine any reason whatsoever for the policy on appointments?
What sort of magical powers are required to become a supervisor, enabling one to disregard the reasons from the previous question?
Do you think the supervisor knows about the policy, or is the phone person just making it up?
Who is responsible for this situation: the person who makes the policy, the person who follows the policy, both, neither, or someone else (me, perhaps)?
Bonus Zen Question: If the only appointment offered is at a time the patient cannot attend, has an appointment actually been offered?

(PS - They checked me out, took some X-rays, and I'm scheduled for a 90-minute filling replacement on 7 Nov. Yippee!)


Kim said...

Arg, how frustrating. My guess is that they try to make sure that every single appointment slot is full, in order to maximize profits. If they allow you to take a later appointment then they run the "risk" of having that 12:00 slot left vacant. Did you mention the annoyance to the dentist himself?

The Dan Ward said...

It's a base clinic, so there's no profit question... but that's the explanation they gave me (not wanting to leave any slots empty). Of course, the reality is they weren't able to fill that slot with me, so I don't see how this helps them make sure appointments are filled.

Kim said...

Oh! Weird. I don't get it.

revolution said...

I wish crazy people would stop having "shoot-em ups" at schools, and start having them at doctors' offices.

The doctors are usually great, mind you. It is their admin. assistants that are horrible.

The Dan Ward said...

Whoa, easy there Rev... I'd rather not have any crazy people shooting anyone.

And sure, the person who is inflexibly enforcing an absurd policy should accept responsibility for their stupid actions, but I doubt the person behind the desk made the policy up (they don't strike me as that creative). The policy is coming from somewhere... and that's the person who deserves a firm flick-on-the-nose (or slap-on-the-forehead, your choice).

Gabe said...

I had a similar event happen with my cell phone provider recently. They will remain anonymous (SPRINT...SPRINT those bozos). I though about blogging about it, but dind't. Now I'm going too. You bring up the exact same thing I don't understand. Why don't the front line employees have the authority to "modify" the policy, on the fly, as they see fit? I realize we've been fighting this for a while, but it incenses me when it continues to happen. Its like the industry practice is 10 years behind the current thinking....and that is, trust the employees to call the shots instead of passing the authority up the chain. In addition, get feedback from the employees. The person who generatd this policy apparently hasn't seen it in action yet on the front lines and probably hasn't opened the lines of communications for the employees to give feedback. That's my experience anyway.