The Healthcare Experience

Daily perspectives of a healthcare executive in pursuit of patient safety, the premier healthcare experience, an engaged & healthy workforce and life balance.

Are you trying to sign your customer service issues away?

Customer Service Signs

“Signs, signs, everywhere signs

Blocking out the scenery, breaking my mind”

(Five Man Electrical Band (1971)


A few years ago I went to my primary care office for my annual check-up. When I walked into the waiting room there was a sign on the wall that read “If you haven’t been helped within 15 minutes, please check back with the front desk.” Overall the office had always been very efficient and helpful, and I rarely waited for more than a few minutes, so I certainly don’t have any complaints. But it did make me wonder why anyone would put up a sign like that.

Like most organizations the customer experience was of utmost importance to this organization. And I am guessing that the sign was well intended to hopefully prevent someone from “being forgotten” in the waiting room. But……shouldn’t we make sure our systems work well enough we don’t have to rely on our customers to fix our issues for us? The fact that sign needed to be there indicates that there are issues in the office with patient flow. I don’t think the best solution is to put up a sign and pretend we have solved the problem. The first step should be designing a system that ensures patients don’t have to wait long, and if there is an unforeseen circumstance that we know who we need to keep informed! 

Over the years I have observed many signs. For example in a bathroom I have seen signs that read, “If anything in this bathroom needs our attention, please call xxxx.” Again I believe this is well intentioned but I think it sends the wrong message. We should have a system in place to make sure our bathrooms are clean and in working order. Putting up a sign does not inspire confidence; it may be less labor intensive than other alternatives, but if we believe a great patient experience is paramount, that alone cannot be the decision point.

In another waiting room I observed multiple signs that said “We do not take xxxxx insurance.” I guess we expect our patients to read the sign, leave our facility and find someone who cares at that point. While I appreciate the fact that insurance and costs of care are pain points for our patients, we should be having conversations with these patients and help them find the nearest or most convenient place that would take their insurance. It allows us to engage with one of our customers and help them get what they need. There’s a chance they may come back for another service with us in the future!

Now, I do believe that there are good reasons to have signs in our facilities. Some may be required by law (“Employees must wash hands prior to returning to work”). Some might be helpful with way finding. Some may prevent people from doing something hazardous. All I am suggesting is we should think before we put up a sign that is convenient for us but sends an entirely different message to our customers. If I walk into an office and there are multiple signs plastered all over the place in my opinion the customer experience has taken a back seat to other objectives.

What do you think? Are there any signs that you think would be acceptable? What signs have you observed that have made you question the why?


Dennis Bruens

V.P. Regional Cancer Center

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