When in a hospital we expect great care from the medical team. What about from the behind the scenes support folks who have nothing to do with drugs, surgeries, or food service? I have a story to share about how a few individuals, some subcontractors to a hospital, turned what had the making of a miserable problem into a great experience and a story I will retell many times.
This week my wife had back surgery at one of the many fine hospitals in Boston. My daughter and I checked her in at 6:00AM and stayed until about 7:30PM. Day one was all good. The next day we arrived at about 9:30AM and I decided to use the valet service, instead of trying to find a space in their crowded self-parking garage. All went well until we tried to get the car at the valet stand at 7:30PM. We found the place dark! You can imagine our mental state just due to the pre- and post-surgery unknowns, but then to find the dark valet stand was just too much for us to properly process.
We headed back to the hospital information desk but on the way, we saw a “public safety” officer in a bright yellow vest standing near the emergency room entrance. We explained the situation to him and he said “don’t worry, I will help you get home tonight with no trouble.” We started walking to the garage (a 24-hour operation) and found out his name is Maurice and he worked for the hospital for about 7 years. All the way over to the garage he explained what usually happens in cases where a valeted car is not picked up by their closing and assured us we would get our car soon.
Maurice saw Gene, the garage Night Supervisor, and called him over. He explained the situation and Gene took us into his office, dumped out a small bag of keys from other cars like ours, and said the cars were moved to his garage by the valet staff. Unfortunately, our key was not in the small pile. Gene said “don’t worry, I will call the valet supervisor and see where the key is.” This sounded fine to us. Well, as you can probably guess, the supervisor did not answer his phone. After he called others, he determined that my car was in a different lot and Gene went over to get it and drive it back to us. Maurice stayed with us the whole time and we shared stories about other places we had worked and things like that.
When Gene came back, he confirmed that our car was indeed at the other parking lot but the key was not there either. He said “take a taxi home and another one back to the hospital in the morning. We will pay the charges and not charge you for the parking.” Gene also wrote a short note on the claim ticket and signed it. Maurice then said “I’ll get you a taxi since it may be difficult at this time of night (8:30PM).” We walked to a busy street and he had no trouble flagging down a cab since he was still in his bright orange vest. We got home at around 9:30PM.
The next day we went to the hospital in our other car. We parked in the self-parking garage and walked over to the valet stand. There we met Paul, the head valet. I started to tell him the whole story and he said he knew all about it, had located the car in the lot, and knew the key was in a place only the valets know so anyone can retrieve the car. He asked about the cab fare, I gave him the receipt, and he gave me the cash. We then agreed that our car would be moved to the main garage after 4PM and we could get the key from Gene.
At about 7:30 we got our key and the missing car, as well as our other car and did not pay any parking charges for either day. Also, I failed to mention that at each interaction the people, including Maurice, were vey apologetic, displayed genuine empathy, always thanked us for our understanding (I think they were expecting us to completely lose our tempers, etc.), made commitments, and either kept them or explained why they could not and always provided the next steps.
During this whole process, we were totally comfortable with each person and step and had complete confidence that things would be fine when we headed home that evening. And things were fine. Also, my wife is now home, dealing with pain, and getting better.
The moral of the story
These people were not trained in service recovery skills – all they had was passion for their customers and pride in their employer. And they were empowered to act in the customer’s best interests at all times.
Can you say that about your employees?