The Online Word of Mouth
Many people, myself included, claim that the modern technological age has made us disconnected from one another, especially the younger generation. Between social media sites, text messaging, and online gaming, people always seem to have some type of device in their hands. You’ve seen me expound on the modern phenomena of rude behavior because people simply have to answer a text message while in the middle of a real conversation with someone sitting right beside them. Furthermore, it has hindered the creative imagination of children because instead of having to entertain themselves, they are constantly being entertained by technology.
You have also seen me discuss how some become emboldened in their behavior as they hide behind a computer monitor. Online Bullying is rampant as threats are made and vicious comments posted. “Your mom wears combat boots” has been replaced with “Your mom uses a Mac.” Kids, nowadays, are just mean.
However, with the majority of people posting anything and everything to social media sites, one positive outcome to the technological age is businesses have to be more on their toes. They may have been crass and rude in days past and with word of mouth it would only affect them with a few people. That, however, is not the case, anymore. Now, with a click of a mouse the negative word goes out to thousands of people all over the world. A business can now gain a bad reputation before the end of a phone call. A bad review goes viral and, as sad as it is, people will spread the bad more than they will spread the good. Businesses are quite aware of this, and if they haven’t figured it out yet, they truly need to.
Back in April, I had to wear a heart monitor. The girls believed it to be a waste of time, thinking I never had one. Still, the doctor wanted to make sure. The week before, someone from the hospital called to pre-register me and acquire my health insurance and other pertinent information, like who to call in case I had a heart attack while being monitored. For those who are unaware of the procedure, it’s simple and painless. They hook these sticky things to my body with wires that lead to a box that hangs around my waist and records every beat and flutter of my heart or the lack thereof, as the case may be. During the course of our conversation, I inquired as to my out of pocket expenses and he gave me an “estimation” of the cost to my scotch and cigar budget. It was a good thing I wasn’t wearing the monitor at that point.
After a few deep breaths, I said okay and went forward with the procedure. The twenty-four hours went quick and my follow up visit revealed a premature ventricular fluctuation.
“Wait. He has a heart!”
“Believe it or not. And that heart has the occasional fluttering spasm.” They have medicine for it, but the drug is worse than the heart spasm, so I vetoed it.
A month later, I received the bill - for double the amount I had been told. My heart went into spasms. When the insurance sent me the summary of what they had been billed and what they paid, it appeared that the hospital had charged me twice for the same thing, so I called the hospital.
“No. Mr. Cox, that’s what it cost. The two billings are for the monitor and then to read it.”
“And it costs the exact same amount for both? Not even a dollar difference? When I’m given an estimate I expect a $100 either way, not double the amount. Why didn’t your guy tell me about the other charge?”
“I see his estimate here in his notes. Perhaps, he didn’t know it would be read.”
“Do you receive many people who come in just to wear a monitor? I mean, what’s the point of recording the data and not reading it? Common sense dictates that I’m wearing the monitor for the sole purpose of you analyzing the data.”
“That’s the way it’s done. Your doctor sent over another lab request to read the data. I’m sorry, but your bill is that amount.”
We went back and forth a few times, my heart rate climbing. Finally, after another of the asinine justifications, I said, “Fine. I’ll pay the ludricious bill, but I will be writing about this on my blog.”
“I don’t know why you would want to write about this.”
“Because I can. Because it’s part of what I do.”
“Um, Mr. Cox, if you’re still not satisfied, I can have my supervisor call you.”
And she did. By the next day, my bill was back to where it was supposed to be, the mistake blamed on a clerical error they had found. That is all I wanted. I wasn’t looking for anything extra, and, to be honest, the people I talked to were all very polite and as helpful as they could be at their level. Never settle. Always go to the next level of management. Still, I don’t believe I would have received anything if I hadn’t mentioned taking my battle to the internet. Businesses do not need the bad press.
For the record, my doctor’s office never sent the lab requests. They agreed with me that when they request something such as a heart monitor, it is implied that the data will be read and analyzed. Common sense.
I had also called my insurance company to find out exactly what they had been billed for. It was the exact same thing except for two words - analyze readings. They never even questioned why they had been billed twice for the same procedure. No wonder our insurance is so high. They pay unnecessary bills.
I’ve only complained about two or three businesses on the Mess. I do, however, use my Facebook and twitter to criticize and complain, occasionally, and the word spreads. It’s a powerful medium that we need to use more often. Businesses are quick to pay attention and deal with poor employees. The results are greater than a complaint letter mailed into someone who will just file it under annoying. While the rest of the world is becoming more and more disconnected, a business that wishes to succeed will remain connected to an online world and put a compassionate, human face to their company. I, for one, would be happy to spread some positive word of mouth for a change.
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