Oil or Rust?

hello hello a person finally
ask a question
get an answer that is no answer
leads to questions why the language
so confusing obfuscation is the nation
pastime making simple things so difficult
and mama always said you catch more flies
with honey but the money is what talks today
and even that is not enough
to make a person care to share
the knowledge that they hoard as though
their very life depends on keeping little piles
of facts so deeply buried harried then the conversation
takes a turn on contemplation seems to me
that spelling out the answer would save time
the goal the whole thing reeks
I do not seek to make you less to make you
miss the most important part to hide
if service is what you provide then
I propose machine is broken just a token
of the way things should be done
it grinds to dust instead of oil
you turn to rust

We all sell customer service, no matter what our job title. Whether we know it or not. From the customer side of things, if you make my life easier, you get my business. If I call you, frustrated and confused, and you give me a simple answer, I sigh with relief and sing your praises to everyone I know. If I approach you with a problem, fearful that it will be difficult or expensive to solve and you respond with a calm answer and do not make me feel ignorant or needy for asking, my entire mood changes and I respond in kind.

If I take my car to the mechanic, I am afraid it will be something difficult and expensive to fix. When he smiles and tells me it is just that little thingamabob that needs adjusting or a simple twenty dollar part, I am happy, relieved, and more likely to take the car back to him when the big stuff goes wrong. I will also pass his name out to friends.

I find this in my own job all the time. I fix computer problems. If someone has a question or a problem with their computer and I show them how to easily rectify the issue so that they can avoid the problem in the future, in a nice way that allows for them being intelligent human beings, just not possessing the particular piece of information they need in the situation, they remember not just that I fixed their problem, but that I was nice. I have a rep. I LIKE having that rep. I like being known for being nice. I like sharing information with others. I like oiling the machinery of every day life.

It seems to me that some folks take pleasure in being rust. The old saying “the buck stops here” meant being accountable, being responsible, being the solution. The present meaning for that saying is more like end of the road honey. No answers here.

Unless you get mean or shout or threaten or make yourself such a nuisance that the person finally, slowly, painfully, drags out the one little piece of information that is needed to remedy the situation and make the customer go away.

I have had to deal with Workers Comp for the last three months. I should not complain because this injury has rasped up some expensive bills that I fortunately have not had to be responsible for and I am truly grateful. really I am.

However…it has been such an ordeal to get information. Nearly every single time. I end up with the frustration coming through in my voice. I end the call angry and often more confused that when I began.

The only time I have gotten clear and fast results was when I got ugly.

For example…After the second surgery on my foot to remove the metal that was placed there to begin with and deal with the infection that had set in, I was, for the weekend at least, the only patient at the surgery center. The surgery took place on a Friday with the understanding that I would probably stay over night. I stayed the weekend with the understanding that I would be going home on Monday. I sent the husband home. No need for him to sit around while I napped and read and watched HGTV. He drove the ninety miles back on Monday and sat there all day ready to drive me home. There was a problem. I finally told him to go home and I would call him when they were actually sure I was being discharged. Tuesday rolled around. I sat. I waited. I think the nurse finally hated to come to my room because even if I didn’t ask out loud my face showed my frustration.

Finally, I got on my knee scooter and went down the hall searching for a decent signal on my cell phone. I found one on a bench in front of the cafeteria. I called my Workers Comp case worker. He was not in. I explained in detail what my problem was.

I am sitting on a bench in front of the cafeteria so I can have a phone signal. My post op foot is hanging out for any opportunistic bacteria that might wander by to jump on board. My hair and clothes are dirty because I thought I would be home by now. The hospital wants to send me home. I want to go home. The problem seems to be you. This is a very nice hospital. Very expensive. If you wish to continue to foot the bill for me to stay in what is the equivalent of a four star hotel where they will bring me Rosa’s Migas and French Vanilla coffee in the morning, then so be it.

A moment later I was speaking to a supervisor. Evidently the person at the hospital had submitted paperwork for pre-authorization. This supervisor had initialed it and sent it back saying she did not think it required pre-authorization. Her tone suggested that these people did not know what they were doing. I could have asked why she did not note along with her initials that rather than contact the pre-authorization company that she needed to contact Risk Management. I could have asked why there seem to be separate entities for each step of this process and that why none of them seem to be aware of what the other is doing. I could have. I didn’t. I simply asked her if I could have her name and told her I would go back to the desk and ask that the appropriate person contact her so we could resolve this. She seemed reluctant but gave me her name and twenty minutes later I was calling my husband to tell him to come get me.

Two days of me sitting there and Workers Comp paying and all it took was me calling and fussing.

Why was that necessary?

I have had a knee scooter nearly the whole time. It has been a life saver. I seriously think that if I had to manage crutches in the middle of the night, half asleep and in the dark, just to get to the bathroom, I would have been in a lot more serious trouble.

I asked the doc for a prescription for the knee scooter because that was what my case worker told me I needed. The doc’s office person ace me a pamphlet for a place in Dallas.  I went to a place here near home and rented one for a week myself, just to see if I could manage it. When I found that I really did need the thing, I called the place I rented it and said I need to keep this, and it is workers comp. The person I talked to said they had never billed this as a workers comp item. (Keep in mind that they do crutches and other durable medical items so it would be the same process).

I spoke to someone in town who understands workers comp and verified that it would be the same. Now I am getting bills from them. I called my caseworker. After ten minutes of my asking for clarification it turns out that my only recourse at this point is to pay for the thing outright, obtain the needed prescription from the doc and a receipt from the medical supply provider, and hope  workers comp will reimburse me.

At the very start I needed information that I received too late for it to be of any help. I needed things to happen in a certain order. I needed steps.

I SHOULD have had that information two and a half months ago. I did not because I was being nice and trying not to be a bother which is what I have felt like every time I have had to call.

I also was told that I could call the Workers Comp commission and ask questions at any time. I am thinking that is another piece of information I should have had several months ago.

I am not sure I would have known what questions to ask. That is a problem I often see in my own job. I get an email where someone is having a problem. Experience has taught me that often what they are asking is not what they need to ask. My process is to either read between the lines and answer what I believe they actually mean, or ask more questions if I am unsure.

At no time in this process have I had anyone tell me I was asking the wrong questions, nor has anyone asked me questions to determine what I really needed to know.

The general feeling has always seemed like the person at the other end of the line was trying to give the shortest answers or least amount of information needed to get me off the line. Period. Somewhere there may be a training manual that teaches how to handle as many calls as possible in as short a time as possible. It does not seem to focus on solving problems, quality rather than quantity.

We are sacrificing quality for quantity and we are all paying the price, from the client who either does not get what they need unless they are angry and determined enough to fight for it, to the provider who will never go home at the end of the day with a feeling of satisfaction from a job well done, knowing they have solved problems and made people’s lives easier.

We have become a society that no longer oils the machinery to keep things running. We are getting rusty.

6 thoughts on “Oil or Rust?

  1. anno

    You have all my sympathies — I mean it… ALL of them. Sometimes it can seem as if the purpose of these agencies is to simply run people down and wear them out. You are in my heart and prayers; wishing you all the best.

    1. Dee Post author

      Thank you Anne. I truly am doing fine. This experience has been such an eye opener. I am blessed. I have someone to help me with the physical aspects. Workers comp takes care of the bills. I have had good doctors and a very clean and up-to-date facility for medical care.

      Throughout, I have repeatedly thought, “What if??” What if I was alone. How would I get the shower chair into the tub. I can shower myself but getting that chair into the tub by myself would have been impossible.

      What if there was no one here to help me shop? I am not sure I could get myself around a store on crutches. I have a knee scooter but at the beginning, how would I have gotten the thing in and out of the trunk? What if I were not physically able to lift it myself?

      What if I were on a fixed income and this was not workers comp? The mistake that causes me to have to pay out of pocket for the knee scooter will not kill me but what if paying for that meant not being able to buy my prescriptions..or groceries..or pay my electric bill?

      What if I were a bit older and could not afford a good standard of medical care? (And I am nearing retirement age so all of these questions really hit home. I am on the edge of all of this) I had a friend who was in her 80s but fairly healthy and very active. She fell and broke her hip and two years, several surgeries later she was dead. She was never able to return to her home. I now wonder if there could have been a different outcome.

      There are so many pitfalls and so many could be avoided by the correct information being given freely, at the correct time. We all live just a few mistakes from the edge. We just don’t realize it until something catastrophic happens to us. (Not that a broken foot is catastrophic except that it has meant not working, being dependent on others, and being at the mercy of bureaucracy.)

      Customer service. It is so very important. From the barista who smiles and asks how I am doing which causes me to smile back and just maybe changes that grumpy morning mood I carried in the door with me, to the Physician’s office manager who stopped answering the phone and frowning long enough to think for a moment and stop me before I went out the door saying “Wait, I think you need to know (insert important information here)”. It all oils the machinery of our world or causes everything to grind to a halt. We really do create ripples through not just what we do, but HOW we do it. There has to be a balance between efficiency related to the speed with which a task is completed and long term outcome. I’m sure some expert somewhere has if nailed down in a spreadsheet. If you do this many tasks in this amount of time then the percentage of good outcomes will be this number. I’m equally certain that if the balance tips too far the other way – if we are so focused on being nice that we complete only a tiny percentage of what needs to be done, then again.…that screeching halt thing.

      I am one little cog in a huge wheel.

      1. anno

        Sometimes I think that people think they’re getting some kind of job security by holding tight to information. Means there’s a good chance you’ll be back: proof that they need a job. Now, the fact that you’re not happy to be back…. that’s another story, but not one they are particularly worried about.

        As in all things, I guess we can only remember who WE are, and act in ways that support our values: we can choose to enrich and ennoble our communities, or we can weaken and bruise them. (And, it seems to me that it really doesn’t take more time or effort to be pleasant or helpful than it does to be rude or obstructive. It does take some thought, though… and a little empathy.)

        I’m very glad that things are working out for you — have missed your presence on the internets this summer — and it’s a relief to hear of the support you have found. The questions you raise, though, are very real. I kind of wonder how they can be resolved.

        1. Dee Post author

          Being the little cog in the big wheel, the only resolution I know is to continue to as you say, remember who I am and act accordingly, hoping that my own ripples will go out and be fruitful. I think it actually takes less effort to be pleasant and there are all kinds of paybacks. It builds relationships, it colors perspective for both parties involved – in a good way! It builds street cred – if someone is helpful and pleasant and knowledgeable I am going to recommend them to others. For myself, it allows me to enjoy my day. I often joke at work, when I have solved someones problem I say I have made one person happy and that was my goal for the day. My day is made then. If I make anyone else happy, it’s gravy. When I am not frustrated and stifling the urge to yell at someone over the phone, I actually feel a bit sorry for them. How miserable a job would be if I spent the day having everyone angry with me.

  2. Jae Rose

    Do you know healthcare is the worst for customer service…if you treated people like they do in a supermarket you’d be fired…and i’ve worked on both sides…as to your poem…finely tuned as ever..life feels like that a lot of the time hello hello anybody out there…more to the point anybody listening..hope your leg is a little better xo

    1. Dee Post author

      I agree Jae. My foot is better and I am just having to wait now for the antibiotics to do their job. I am so confused as to how someone can go into the healthcare profession – emphasis on c a r e…and be so completely UNcaring! The only thing I can think is that they are so overwhelmed that they become oblivious.

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