What is more pervasive these days than bad customer service?
It is practically a given that if you are having a problem with something it is only going to get worse when you pick up the phone to get some help with that problem.
You are thinking of a bad customer service story right now, aren't you?
Let me guess: you called some number and got an automated telephone menu. The menu item that pertained to your issue was the very last one. When you pressed the number, as directed, all customer service personnel were busy assisting other customers. You waited on hold until you hated the company you were calling. Someone finally came on the line claiming to be "Jason" and pretending to be from the home office in Iowa City. But you could tell from his impossible-to-understand accent that he was actually located in some country halfway around the world. He was of absolutely no help in solving your problem.
That's the way it goes with almost everything these days.
So, when I recently needed assistance with what amounts to the ultimate human problem, end of life health care for my aunt (about whom you may have read in this space last week), I approached the challenge with low expectations. I knew I would not be able to talk to the people I needed to talk to and that whoever I got instead would just give me the runaround.
I am pleased and gratified to report that the exact opposite was true.
For instance, my aunt paid a couple of visits to vascular surgeon Dr. Jeffrey Buehrer of Sandusky. Naturally, Dr. Buehrer earns his living mostly by performing surgical procedures. But he was in no hurry to do so with my aunt. In fact, he went out of his way to make the options perfectly clear to us, calling me at home and giving me his personal cell phone number in case I needed additional consultations. Is that not the dream of everyone in need of health carethat they will be served by a doctor who wants to communicate with them?
My problem was that the information Dr. Buehrer provided required choosing among a couple of very serious options. And I wanted help with those choices.
First, I called Dr. Christina Canfield. She is not my doctor and, at the time, was no longer my aunt's doctor. But I know her to be a fine human being who might help in my time of need. So I left key information in a message at her office and hoped for the best when I called again the next day.
I phoned during my lunch hour expecting to go through the whole story in my inadequate layman's language. But instead, Dr. Canfield, who was obviously concerned about my aunt's plight, had already called Dr. Buehrer and gotten the complete and accurate details from him.
She then spent several very helpful and comforting minutes with me on the phone. I told you she is a fine human being.
The conclusion was that nursing home care would be needed. More difficult stuff.
I recalled the matter-of-fact assistance provided by Terri Durkin Williams in her role as administrator of The Carriage House where my aunt had lived for two years. So I called her with our latest issues. She was in the middle of budget workconsuming and frustrating under the best of circumstancesbut returned my call in the early evening, long after she could have been home at dinner. She patiently talked me through what proved to be the exact scenario for my aunt's final days in Norwalk Memorial Home.
It is truly comforting when these experienced professionals can empathize and assist with these ultimate decisions.
But when it comes to Stein Hospice, which we all knew it would, words are not adequate. From the moment we encountered the individuals who introduced us to the hospice concept, I was humbled by their compassion and understanding. Eager to help; professional in personnel and facilities; and ever-vigilant at the bedside of the patient breathing her last, the staff and volunteers of this community treasure caused me to marvel at their dedication and the remarkable service they provide.
I'm afraid we are always going to have customer service issues with the faceless employees of the international corporations.
But I am thrilled and humbled that we can get such extraordinary assistance with the most challenging problems right here in our wonderful community.