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Get Satisfaction: send the timewasters a message & an invoice

I took my two girls to the orthodontist the other day, malady my 9 year old, Maggie, is getting prepared for head gear and braces: happy happy joy joy.

We had an experience that day, hardly a new one for the legions of us in doctors and dentist offices everyday across North America who sit in the all too aptly named WAITING ROOM: we waited. Too long. WAAAAAY TOO LONG.

After having waited 45 minutes for an appointment that I left work early to take Maggie to, FINALLY, one of the staff came and apologetically ushered to us into a treatment room. We waited another 5 minutes and the the DR. DDS showed up, made a blustery apology and then, GET THIS, headed back out to see another patient for a further 10 min before finally returning to see my daughter for what turns out to be all of 10 minutes.

OK. Now I suspect that your reaction is either, “WOW that’s a bit extreme, but I’ve certainly had similar experiences”…or…it’s, “SHIT, I can top that story”! Either way, I’m sure you’ve been there and that at least once you’ve thought about the arrogance of the implication that you can just wait until the Dr. (or whomever) is ready to see you. After all, you should be grateful they gave you an appointment in the first place, as they are booking three months in advance, etc, etc.

I don’t want to pick on doctors (OK, maybe I do a little bit) and I don’t want to oversimplify systemic problems (which certainly exist). I do , however, want to point out that there is a human decency and social graces issue that has been falling between the crack for too long.

And then I had my epiphany, my “Eureka”of the day. I knew what to do and that I wanted to suggest it to you, too. And then I thought, “I know who has to do this”, the folks at getsatisfaction.com. “I wonder if I know anyone who works there”? I thought to myself. It turns out I do, VP of Business Development, Scott Hirsch.

Here’s the idea. I call it an “emotional invoice”. Through a simple web-based interface (iPhone app, too?) it allows anyone to quickly create an invoice for the time that has been wasted. It then offers you a mechanism that not only allows you to email the invoice to the offending doctor, dentist, lawyer or other professional waster of other people’s time, but also to post a link to a public version of the invoice to social services from Twitter to Facebook.

The key feature of the emotional invoice is that it is not a demand for financial compensation, but rather for emotional remuneration. So, for example, I might send Dr. Metaxas an invoice for 1.02 hrs of my time wasted and that I expect to be paid for this time with a smile and sincere apology to be rendered in person on my next visit to his office.

This design allows us to both vent our anger AND to affect the markets we participate in. We all know that all kinds of people end up in professional situations where they keep people waiting (can anyone say JetBlue?) due to things they can either not anticipate or control. That’s why the emotional invoice sends a message about a non-financial obligation that has not been met. We need a mechanism that allows us to say to people, “OK, I get that you can’t change the facts of the circumstance that caused me to be kept waiting, but you CAN change how I feel about it, by simply caring about me and making me feel this.”

Imagine if we had a service that could easily facilitate the sending of such messages and the emotional invoice that fits the time-waster’s crime. Imagine, among other things, if we could put something other than raw anger and rancor back into the emotional environment of our economic lives, something that allowed us to constructively get our pound of flesh and eat it too (OK,maybe that’s a metaphor gone too far, sorry).

I hope that the folks at Get Satisfaction might consider this as a “community beautification” project. Or perhaps yo might take it upon yourself. If I had the coding & design skills I would have done it the moment I got home that day.

This idea is not so much about “closing the loop” as it is about open up lines of communication, reminding those that provide good and services in the market that they serve people, that the market is people and that people feel good when they are treated well. Treating our customers and clients well is good business. Getting everyone to do this is unfinished business.

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