Designing with patients in mind

A physiotherapy clinic that I use recently changed its policy. It used to be that you could call up individual therapists and get appointments directly from them. A couple of weeks ago, the clinic’s think-tank decided that they wanted all appointments to be given out by the receptionists at their central office location.

The first time I had to get an appointment, it was phone hell. I dialled the number only to receive a message telling me that the phone was busy. Again and again. It took dogged determination over a couple of hours to get an appointment.

Later, I spoke to my therapist about why they did this. He told me that individual therapists were slacking off and giving appointments only when convenient (rather than during their work times) and the situation was getting tough for the clinic.

It was hugely convenient for me to call up the therapist and get an appointment. Now, calling up the centre means that I waste time because sometimes I don’t get through on the first attempt. Plus, they don’t have voice mail or any way to leave messages, so I’m stuck and have to try again. The alternative method of getting appointments, via the website, does not work because the contact form is broken.

As a customer, I am not bothered about the internal problems that the clinic faces. If it was a problem of keeping tabs on therapists, they could’ve asked therapists to call the central location and fill in the appointment sheets the day before. Or use any other method that didn’t affect the client so much.

By changing their process, they’ve made it inconvenient for me and their other clients. Even if they had a process in place where clients could leave messages, it would’ve been a workaround I would’ve been happy with. Now, I’m uncertain about how much time it’ll take me to get an appointment.

It seems like some companies make decisions without considering the impact those decisions could have on their customers. When you’re running a business, alienating your customers is not a smart thing to do. I’m not saying that no changes should be made, just that the changes should consider the impact on all the stakeholders. It’s customer service, not rocket science.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have call the clinic and get an appointment.

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