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Running a business: Being human part 2 - Customer care

In a world of increasing arms length activity, maintaining a human touch can be difficult. Not just because of increased interaction online, but pressure on time and resources can require the job, whatever it is, to be completed and moved on.

As mentioned previously, 16th April was the day I damaged my leg and relocated to the local casualty unit by ambulance at around 9pm. I then joined the queue to experience handover (Ambulance crew to hospital staff) and then be seen by the medical team.

I don't remember exactly how many times was moved whilst on a hospital bed. Certainly a few. The initial location was an area called ‘the hub’ and was then moved to an assessment area later, also enjoyed two trips to Imaging firstly for an X-ray and then a CT scan.

At some point the results came back to show a cast would be needed to prevent movement of the leg and this was done in the early hours of the morning in a treatment area.

So what then? An operation would be needed to repair tendon damage but when? The casualty team advised me I could go home, once they had shown me how to use some crutches. The lesson was difficult, I managed about 4 steps before dizziness set in. I had seen one of the surgeons on call that night who suggested that I could have the operation later that day. So why go home?

Fortunately a charge nurse suggested I sleep for a couple of hours before trying the crutches again. There was a certain amount of confusion as to whether i would go home and come back or just wait. By this time it was around 4am and had had nothing to eat or drink since lunchtime the previous day. Major disaster for me but not uncommon.

There was someone walking around with a clip board and I suspect they were the bed management team, responsible for keeping people moving. They mentioned on the radio this morning about a new system being used in casualty units ‘flow management’.

After a couple of hours I felt much better, but the surgical team arrived, told me I would go up to a ward and they would fix the leg as soon as possible. Also would not be going home until I was safe to do so and that would be assessed by the physios.

This very ordinary tale may not seem particularly relevant. What it does illustrate is the difference between doing the minimum, and what to do for the longer term. The casualty team did what they do best, sorting the immediate problems of broken limbs, medical emergencies and so on. Stabilise the patient before moving on. The surgical team were more focussed on correcting the problem and then organising the necessary rehabilitation.

Casualty considered they had done their bit and a taxi home was the way forward. Job done. For the surgeons, it was surgery followed by rehab and a journey home by ambulance, but later. Days not hours.

I liken this to an accountants workload, compliance is what many firms concentrate on. Tax return needs filing, done. VAT return needs calculating, done. Payroll needs processing, done.

Some look at this work as an opportunity to go further, what is often termed being proactive. Have a second look at the tax return, are there planning opportunities to follow up? Review the VAT return, how was trade activity in the month/quarter? is cash flow being maintained? any changes suggesting unexpected increase in turnover for example? Why the fluctuation?

Whilst on the ward, it was evident that team work was paramount. Not just in settling me in and helping me get to grips with a leg encased in plaster from thigh to toe, but also spotting my blood pressure was high. Tablets required for that. The physios over 3 days established the required degree of confidence, in helping me getting out of bed, in and out of a chair and up and down stairs using crutches so I could return home. This part of the process was at my pace not theirs.

I even argued with a nurse on day two, that I didn’t need breakfast. Having been told night before would be nil by mouth from 6am in anticipation of an operation, so why have breakfast at 6.15am? was this a mistake? The doctor was summoned personally to tell me that it was OK as my operation would be at the end of the day and would need some energy! That’s good customer care!

Doing the minimum is fine, but sometimes we need to go a bit further. Get to know the client or customer to make sure we aren’t just doing the obvious but apply the human touch to look beyond whats in front of us. Yes sometimes the minimum is fine because thats all the customer wants, but as we build our customer base, can be good to go that little bit further. Clients for life, not just today but for tomorrow also.

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