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Doing the Right Thing

Michael Roman - Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Frustrations for C-level executives run high when someone in their organization decides NOT TO ACT to correct a damaging situation before its effects reach the final customer. Small issues will grow proportionally larger as they travel through the supply chain – including small supply chains within small and mid-sized manufacturing organizations. The problem is a matter of empowerment and placing the mantle of responsibility for customer satisfaction on EVERYONE’s shoulder. It reminds me of my recent experience with a health care provider – a story that drives home the point.

Recently, a few of my veteran friends suggested I make the journey to the Veterans Administration to obtain medications that Vietnam Veterans are entitled to by law.  I had not done so in the past; but facing retirement age and knowing that every little bit of savings helps, I made the trek and hoped that the experience would not be as difficult as the time thirty years ago when I last visited the VA. Wrong!

After an initial three-and-a-half-hour wait, the receiving nurse finally logged my vital signs and sent me to the next available Physician’s Assistant (PA).  A discussion followed about medicines, protocol, etc., and then she arranged for a pharmacist to review the case. Twenty minutes later, the PA said that I could get one of the several meds now but the others had to wait until after my initial review by my VA doctor in three weeks. Well, my scripts were due to expire within a week, (another long story), and the prospect of waiting three more weeks without the medicines I had been taking for several years was not a welcomed suggestion.  The only other option was to pay several hundred dollars for my meds, since I had no insurance for price/copayment adjustments, having reached that magical age.  I asked if another opinion was available, and the PA said she was sorry but no. My journey to the VA, now stretching into a four-hour ordeal, had come to an abrupt end, with no satisfaction.

I vented my frustration on the young PA and said that I knew coming to the VA would be a waste of time, that it reminded me of the last time I visited the VA thirty years ago, and that too few people give a damn about the end customer. I sarcastically thanked her for seeing me and left abruptly.

I drove home contemplating why I decided to go to the VA in the first place.  As I pulled into my driveway, my cell phone rang.  It was the PA, who said that she was involving herself in this case and would shortly let me know the outcome. I was stunned. That phone call immediately changed MY attitude.  Her simple decision to do what she could to help a customer improve the situation was a bright spot not seen in the many years in which I helped both my parents and a few other veterans receive the care that they were entitled to receive.

So thank you, Miss Jasmine, PA at the Atlanta Veterans Hospital.  You have made my decade.

And here is my point to you, Mr. C-level Executive. I gave up on the VA thirty years ago because my concerns as a customer were never addressed, but the simple initiative of one PA brought me back and made me feel supported. She did the right thing by me. Occasionally, it seems, even people within the government bureaucracy can choose to do the right thing, so why not take the steps necessary to embolden the people in your company to do the right thing.

Your customers will love it. I did.

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