The Source of Culture

Whenever I enagage with a new service, I can’t help but analyse how they deal with me. Having run a business for 18 years I find myself wondering what culture lies behind my customer experience.

Yesterday (Monday) I had to renew a prescription (I suffer from gout and, perhaps unsurprisingly, have had an attack just after the Christmas break. I am undertaking a review to see if I can figure out what might have brought it on…).

I called my local medical practice. I was told by the receptionist, somewhat grumpily, that this is not how they renew prescriptions any more. Procedures changed some time ago. I have to phone the pharmacist and they will fax a request. The surgery and the chemist shop are 50 yards from each other.

“Fax?” I said. “Have I travelled back in time to 1985?” I said.

No I didn’t. One doesn’t speak to a GP receptionists in that way who one day you may have to ask for an urgent appointment, a fact I suspect she is very much aware of.

I then called the pharmacist who told me I’d missed the cut off for the day and the pills would be ready by Friday. “But,” I said (I actually did this time), “I’m running out of pills and I have a gout attack at the moment.” After a pause, the pharmacist said “You might call us on Thursday to see if they are ready.”

So what sort of customer experience do I receive from my local medical centre?

  • I was basically told off by a member of staff for not knowing that they had changed their internal procedures
  • When I go to pick up the prescription from the surgery I will have to walk, with my gouty foot, in great pain, some distance from the nearest parking spaces. There are spaces much closer but I can’t use them, because they are reserved for the staff (the GPs)
  • I was given a solution which had no regard to the actual nature of the problem, which was of no interest to them (my current supply runs out on Wednesday)
  • The entire service is designed to make things easier for them, not me. They have to give me the pills, but I suspect they’d rather not

Now, I love the NHS. I have many friends and family employed by the NHS (my wife has been a cancer nurse for 20+ years) and I know many doctors who are kind and thoughtful and I have nothing but respect for the hard work medical training entails.

But I’ve also met a fair number of doctors who have a little (or a lot) of that ‘God complex’, the impression that they are the important ones in this consultation, not you. Even my doctor friends will lapse into stories about colleagues like this with just minimal prodding.

I guess the culture that spawned my experience, and one of the sources of that culture, is fairly easy to identify.

All of which leads me to question – what is the culture in our profession? And what is the source? I’d love to hear your views.


3 thoughts on “The Source of Culture

  • I hope you had some luck today with the appointment. I hear it’s not very pleasant.

    You could use my doc, Chris. They use an online portal for script requests – no fax! It could be ready next Tuesday. Just kidding, perhaps Monday.

    Maybe the two services struggle with the same problem.

    One IFA I know still uses a Dictaphone for someone to type out their meeting notes and how many expect a client to go into an office for simple reviews?

    Change is hard to accept, even if it could be more convenient. I think there’s still a lot more to embrace in technology that we continue to resist, as ‘it’s always been done this way’.

  • Hi Chris,

    When we employed a number of people we used the phrase ” proprietorial interest ” when analysing the difference in our approach to business and that of our staff.
    Sadly I have the opinion that what you describe as your medical experience is now commonplace in our industry. All too often the image individuals and firms project is one of self importance and self interest which is common in situations where ” other peoples money ” is being spent but strangely out of place in a commercial environment needing to attract other peoples money.
    I am intrigued at the response of our industry to the demise of commission especially in the change of attitude towards potential clients.
    When we were paid by providers there was never a mention of an advice gap or of our affordability. Segmentation was a process of identifying sales opportunities as we always had a product to fit any economic circumstance.
    Our own local surgery offers exactly what you describe so I guess this has been handed down as a part of the ongoing changes to the Health Service.
    We have no option but to adapt to what we are given by Government ( incl. regulators ) as we cannot take our custom elsewhere or withhold payment as these institutions already have our money through the tax process.
    I think before long our industry will have to stop being preoccupied with itself and realise that our income comes as a result of what we do and not who we think we are !

  • A sales guru once stated “Let the spotlight be on the customer” not on the salesman! Some doctors (and I have a few on my books) have forgotten or never learned this with regards to their patients. This is true throughout various bodies that we deal with all the time. People invent systems that they perceive to be operating efficiently whereas the opposite is true. Technology can help as well as hinder everyday processes. As an example, in our industry, how many IFAs would use a laptop during client meetings other than to show certain pretty pictures? Of course, now you can just scribble on the screen into One Note and sort it our later or you can use a piece of paper!

    If systems are driven by software and technology rather than the other way around then problems will follow. If a patient is better off using a portal then that is good, if only the doctor’s practice benefits at the expense of patient outcomes then that is bad. IFAs that use a single platform may be using it because they think its the best or they might be using it for their own benefit.

    The IFA culture is not based on technology, it is based on client contact and trust. With certain notable exceptions, we are a “cottage industry”. You can buy mass produced furniture made by high tech machinery or you can buy hand made furniture made by craftsman who use a combination of old skills and new innovations. There is a half way house of course and that is where IFAs should position themselves. Use technology to deliver a better service to your clients and better outcomes. It doesn’t have to be all singing, all dancing. Use back office systems as back office systems, not client facing. Use MPT tools carefully. Embrace change but don’t let change embrace you!


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