This is off topic (a business traveler issue) except that there are strong parallels with the important trend of wanting to make medicine more patient-centered. In my speeches I often say this isn’t very different from what other industries do – look at things from the customer’s point of view.
(In medicine a year ago this was announced (appropriately) as a big new insight by the Institute of Medicine – “a learning healthcare system is anchored on patient needs and perspectives.”)
I used to think that in the future of elder housing, Marriott might be a really good vendor someday. Not so sure, right now.
I’m staying at a Marriott, and as usual their “iBAHN(R) Wireless High-Speed Internet” sucks. (I measure speeds with the CNet bandwidth tester; this hotel’s running at 400-500, compared to for instance the Sheraton New Orleans at 2500-4,000.)
I mentioned the speed problem to the excellent woman who gave me great service at the reception desk and she said they know, they’re trying to get out of their contract with iBahn.
“But,” I said, “if Marriott knows it’s bad, why are they still charging $12.95 a day for it??”
See, if you look at anything from the customer’s point of view, you just wouldn’t do that – would not charge full price for something you know isn’t working as you advertised it. (Advertised & sold as high speed; it isn’t, and you know it.) But I’ll guarantee there’s someone at the Marriott home office who views the situation one of these ways:
- [shrug] “It’s bad, but there’s nothing we can do about it.” As I wrote in Let Patients Help, that’s a giant red flag: the person feels powerless to solve a problem.
- “Hey, it’s not our problem if the product doesn’t work as advertised – it’s the customer’s problem. If they don’t like it they don’t have to buy it.”
- “We know it’s not as advertised – we’ll take their money at full price, and give it back if they complain.”
- “Everyone knows these things aren’t as good as we advertise.”
- “So what – they don’t have any choice, right? We hope it’ll change someday, but until then, the customers don’t have any option, so we can get away with it, right?” (In past careers I’ve heard some marketing people say that, verbatim.)
Here’s the point: if you were choosing a vendor for elder housing – someone to be a partner as your abilities decline later in life (or your mother’s) – which of those explanations would you prefer from your chosen vendor? Read them again as responses to a service problem in assisted living.
Or would you say “Jeeze, I don’t want to be cared for by anyone who responds to a quality problem with any of those answers”?
It seems obvious that each those answers is looking at the situation from the company’s point of view, not the customer’s. It seems clear that they value their revenue stream more than they value their reputation.
And that’s precisely what I don’t want from a provider of medical services. Frankly, I’d rather die an honest death myself than pay a company to do a half-hearted job as long as it doesn’t hurt their bottom line.
p.s. The photo at top of this post makes a related point. I was assigned room 313. As a weary business traveler I got off the elevator, which is out of the picture to the right, and saw that I needed to turn right. I did, and after a few doors went by, realized the sign must be wrong. I went back and indeed, 313 was to the left, not the right.
Makes me wonder, is anyone paying attention there? Another great reason not to choose them for anything medical someday, IMO.
p.p.s. Later I was on the 14th floor, and again the sign was wrong, this time with room 1412, so it’s not just a “13” thing.
p.p.p.s. There’s also a card in the room with instructions for using wired (not wireless) high speed internet. There’s no cable available. I asked about that at the desk, too, and was told “Yeah, most rooms don’t have it.”
Jeeze. Way to go, guys, being conscious of the customer experience!
Good night. :)
Lisa Morrise says
I try to stay places where the Internet is free. Like hospitals. Heh.
e-Patient Dave says
Lisa, even during my hospitalizations in 2007 my hospital (Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess) had decent wifi. Now that you mention it, if the wifi had sucked, it woulda been pretty stressful.
Bart Windrum says
Well since you mentioned dying, here we go: An honest medicalized death requires the sort of transparency you decry as absent in medical pricing. There’s a fundamental dishonesty in that medicine has a “you show me yours but I won’t show you mine” mentality. In other words, slave over an advance directive that’s damn near impossible to concoct in midlife and bring that sucker in—maybe it’ll get acted on before you’re totally enmeshed in some awful scene requiring a gut-wrenching extraction to try to salvage peaceful dying.
What makes this paternalism more frightening is that it comes not only from traditional animus sources but nowadays also from medicine’s anima—the palliative and ethics realms. How can anyone die an honest death when they don’t know the type of death they’re about to buy when engaging with some institution, department, or individual doctors and nurses?
The transparency we must seek has to do with medicine declaring, in advance, menu-like, the range of dying services each entity offers. Just hang out your shingles already. Those seeking “never-ending dying” can find providers who’ll take them all the way to persistent vegetation complete with endless housing in facilities where only the vegetative lie. Those seeking aggressive palliation where a slight further depression of the plunger would result in a murder rap could go to those providers. I’ve ID’d 3 other levels of dying services along the conservative-to-liberal continuum. No shame in proclaiming one’s orientation and offerings, in fact it’s the only ethical thing to do. Plus, it’d make everybody’s lives so much easier as like could seek and serve like.
And all this, believe it or not, is the 7th fundamental obstacle to dying in peace and the first direct outgrowth of Windrum’s Matrix of Dying Terms. Who would thunk?
What if we all said “I won’t die in your place unless and until you come clean in advance and tell me what you offer? What if we all decided to plotz in the street and our dying words were “disclose your range of dying services”? Occupy Dying. That’d be a bandwidth change.
Melissa Hogan says
I stay at the Residence Inn Chapel Hill every month and have the same poor Ibahn service. Low speed, often can’t even connect if you’re sitting in the outer parts of a room, cutting out, have to reconnect constantly. Complaints result in no change, but at least it’s free there.
I am totally with you on this and as it relates to patient-centered care. This is no different that the work I’ve done on law firm strategy. Your client is the center of your business, period. Ignore it at your peril. But with respect to health care, ignore it at the patient’s peril, unfortunately.