The Bobble Head Quest

Last Saturday was the “Big Game” at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley.  Cal’s annual game against Stanford had been delayed for two weeks due to poor air quality resulting from the devastating fire in Butte County to the north.

I am a long time holder of six season tickets for which I pay through the nose.  In addition to the outrageous price for each ticket, I have to make a “donation” annually so I can maintain my specific seat locations.  Each game represents an expenditure of about nine hundred dollars not counting the price of luke warm hot dogs.  With seven home games this year I spent over five thousand dollars which was more than I spent in tuition for my undergraduate degree at Cal.

This year’s Big Game had an additional attraction.  Cal was giving away a bobble head to commemorate “The Play” of 1982 when Cal won the Big Game in a lateral crazy last play kick off return.  The first ten thousand attendees would receive a bobble head and since I was present in 1982 I especially wanted one.  That is ridiculous at my age but I still reserve the right to be occasionally ridiculous.

My oldest son and I showed up at the stadium an hour early so we could be sure to claim our bobble heads.  We always enter through Gate 3 which has a special entrance for season ticket holders.  It is a way to avoid the crowds although most games are not that well attended.  Gate 3 is also the entrance for high school students being recruited for various Cal sports including football.

We had our tickets scanned and seeing boxes full of bobble heads asked for two.  We were told those bobble heads were reserved for recruits only.  You would think for five thousand dollars it would be easy to get the bobble heads.  No dice.  I was told that I might be able to get bobble heads at “Customer Service” on the plaza level.

No stadium staff members on the plaza level knew where “Customer Service” was. Getting increasingly frustrated in my quest for a bobble head, I headed to the main entrance at the North end of the stadium.  Nirvana!  There were thousand of bobble heads waiting for a home.

I went up to the ticket taker and another staff member who appeared to be a supervisor, explained what had happened at Gate 3 and asked for a bobble head for me and my son.

No dice again!  It was explained to me that the policy was that you could not be given a bobble head once your ticket had been scanned and you had crossed the ticket line.  My protests were met with no sympathy.  My ridiculous quest for a bobble head appeared to be at an end.

Then I got an idea.  I had three unused tickets for the game in my pocket.  Could I go two feet outside the stadium and have my unused tickets scanned as if I was entering for the first time?  Would that get me a bobble head?  There was a brief conference between the ticket taker and the supervisor and they gave approval for this brilliant move on my part.  I had my bobble heads and it only took me thirty minutes of effort.  That’s customer service!

Actually it was poor customer service. Cal’s football stadium is directly across the street from the Haas School of Business where I earned my bachelor’s degree.  Maybe there is an expert in customer service over there who should be consulted.

This would be funny if such unthinking responses only occurred at college sporting events.  Unfortunately, it also happens more often in healthcare than it should.

Even though I am now on the beach, I frequently get approached by people asking my opinion about an experience they had in accessing healthcare.  These inquiries are not about  “quality” as defined by the experts.  The typical patient is not concerned about hospital infection rates. As they should, they don’t expect to get a hospital acquired infection.

What they expect is responsive and caring service.  Here is a recent example of the opposite of that.

A man was sitting in a crowded medical clinic waiting room holding in his lap his child who looked between one and two years old.  Suddenly the child vomited on himself and the chair his father was occupying.  The registration clerks apparently did not notice (a charitable interpretation) or chose to ignore the situation.  Instead, two women also waiting to be seen went into action.

This may not be politically correct to say but I bet both women were mothers.  One went to a nearby restroom and emerged with wet paper towels.  The other went to her car and bought back baby wipes and a clean receiving blanket.  Together, they helped the father clean his toddler as well as the chair.  There was no staff assistance.

I have been mulling over this incident and my bobble head quest as I have been making my pre-Christmas shopping rounds.  Some businesses stand out in terms of the great quality of their service.

Amazon delivers (in more ways than one) a great on-line experience.  Chick-fil-A seems to have mastered the care and feeding of harried fast food customers.  Even often maligned Comcast has provided me great service recently.   Some organizations just  seem to get it.

For healthcare providers, the subject of quality is an ever continuing debate.  There is no shortage of measures promulgated by public and private organizations.  There is no consistency of measures.  It is very possible to be highly rated for quality  by one organization and have a low rating for the same area of healthcare by another organization.  I have seen that first hand.

None of that matters if you fail the patient at the entry point of care.  Most healthcare organizations I am aware of work hard at customer service but still fall short.  Why can’t healthcare providers deliver consistently good patient experiences at all points of contact.? Those that do will be the winners in our changing healthcare system.

By the way, to make my Big Game experience complete, Cal lost to Stanford for the ninth straight year.

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