What Does The Lost Baggage Counter And Your Medical Office Have in Common?

I think businesses like restaurants or retail stores have a huge advantage when trying to make a customer feel comfortable at their location or making customers’ experience exceptional. And the reason for their advantage is because customers actually want to be there.

We go to a restaurant because we’ve heard it was good, we’re hungry, it’s convenient, cheap, offers great service or hundreds of other reasons. Bottom line, we decided to go there, thus our expectations are different than if we were there because we had to go.

Same goes for retail stores. We visit a store because we are looking for something to buy. And for the most part, our expectations have already been set. For example, when we go to buy clothes at Target, we have different expectations as when we go buy something at Nordstrom’s.  Customers know what to expect.

Medical field is different

Photo credit: John and Keturah

In the medical field, we don’t have that same benefit. If you think about it, nobody, and I mean nobody really wants to be at the doctor’s office.

It is like working at the lost baggage desk at the airport. Every customer that approaches your desk has a problem. And a large percentage (if not all) are already annoyed and mad that their luggage was lost. Nobody is there to thank the representative. Nobody is there because they want to. So offering an exceptional experience is an even harder challenge because the customer’s state of mind is in a negative state.

In the medical field, the challenges are worst because people have more negative and preconceived notions such as apprehension, fear, concerns, angst, worry, uneasiness, anxiety, discomfort, and who knows what else. Even if they are coming in for a physical, which in theory is a good thing, they are still poked, touched, questioned and lectured about keeping a healthy lifestyle.

On top of that, here we come in asking people to fill out long forms, asking patients/parents questions about insurance, money they owe, things we can’t do for them and making them wait ungodly hours to be seen. Only to be barely engaged during the visit and then sending them off with little or no explanation and most often feeling exactly the way they felt before they walked in, if not 10x worse; which leads to confusion.

So what do we do?

We have to work harder on making people feel comfortable. We have to work harder at managing people’s expectations. We have to work harder in explaining, educating, and advising. We have to work harder to understand patients rather be doing a million other things than to be at the doctor’s office.

But that is why you became a doctor, wouldn’t you say? That is why you are a nurse, right? That is why you wanted to work as a receptionist at a doctor’s office, isn’t that so?

What are your thoughts? I’d love to read them.


  1. Good post. There is a lot of truth to your description. And the comparison is apt. Patients have lost their health. They’ve come to the doctor’s office to find it again.

    On the other hand, what you describe is not that much different than a retail environment. Retail customers, b2b or b2c…people, have discovered a problem for which they need a solution. Everyone is harried. Bosses are demanding. Their business is demanding. No one has time to shop for wants. They only have time to shop for needs. And they need it now. And that need is for a solution to the most recent problem. And this assignment, to find a solution to this recent need is another assignment on top of their already overworked day.

    There are nuances, variations, and shades of grey that each customer-facing organization says makes theirs tougher. But ultimately, serving customers/patients is a tough, challenging, aggravating and sometimes rewarding business delivered under ever more stressful conditions.

    I’m thinking though it must be frustrating for doctors who want to serve, who want to fulfill their higher purpose, to be forced into operating as a retail store. Though, when they are successful in fulfilling their purpose, it must be very gratifying.


    • Zane,

      I understand what you are saying. We live in a world where the only thing we want is to not be inconvenienced in the slightest, where everything has to be tailored to one’s needs, and we don’t tolerate anything that falls outside of our expectations.

      With regards to your comments about doctors and their struggles, challenges and rewards, I think that if you ask doctors about these things, most of them will tell you they love practicing medicine, having a relationship with their patients, curing people and doing all the other great things doctors like to do. But the only thing they hate, is the system itself.

      Unfortunately, right now, the system is winning.

      Thanks for taking the time to write a comment.

      Brandon (aka @PediatricInc)



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