A few weeks ago I posted a story on (Heart Surgery, , and Service. Click here to read the story). Specifically I wrote about how despite a very successful medical procedure, shoddy treatment created such a poor impression.
Lots of you responded and were almost unanimous in saying that you'd had similar experiences or knew of people who had. A few of you pointed out how malpractice attorney's coffers are fattened because of the adversarial relationships arrogant doctors create with their patients. Only two people thought the doc was justified, suggesting that busy doctors neither have the time nor the focus to be polite – they're too busy saving lives. Tellingly, one is the son of an interventional surgeon and the other one had trained as an emergency medical technician (EMT).

Disagreeing with that point of view, , CEO of Metropolitan Health Networks wrote, “Unfortunately, your recent experience is typical of our struggling industry. (Doctors believe that) ‘We're here to save your butt, not kiss it.'”

But this post is not a recap of my story. Instead, I want to focus on and the power of .

Less than a week after my post ran, I received a call from Dr. , the senior vice president for medical affairs and dean of the of Medicine. Dr. Goldschmidt said he had read my essay and was calling to personally apologize for the way we had been treated. He told me about some of the programs he was establishing at UM and what he expected from his practitioners. And he gave me permission to tell all of you about his call.

Please note that Dr. Goldschmidt didn't have someone else call, he spoke to me himself. And he didn't blame the situation on anyone else. Instead, he took full responsibility. Finally, he didn't just offer an empty apology; he told me what he was doing to rectify the situation. Whether he knew it or not, Dr. Goldschmidt masterfully followed a textbook QERC strategy – Question, Empathize, Respond and Close.

Question – “Tell me what happened.”

Empathize – “I understand why you're upset.”

Respond – “I'm truly sorry.”

Close – “I want you to know what we're doing to make sure this doesn't happen again.”

Imagine the effect that simple manners and graciousness can have in otherwise unpleasant circumstances. Because Dr. Goldschmidt initiated the call (he was both informed and concerned about what had happened, and offered a sincere apology) the situation was neutralized and improved. And my future stories will not be about how shoddily we were treated but instead about how well the follow up was handled.

But here's what I find even more interesting. After I hung up, I checked to see if Dr. Goldschmidt's e-mail address was on my master distribution list.

It wasn't.

That means that at least one of you either sent the post directly to Dr. Goldschmidt or passed it on to someone who did.

This clearly confirms the simple power of social media. Whereas years ago my story may have only reached a few people, now the power of the message is multiplied every time someone reads it. While we used to live in a world where big advertisers controlled message distribution, now the process has been democratized directly into the hands of anyone with a computer, an Internet connection, a story to tell, and people who are interested in hearing it.

Think about what this says about your business and your reputation. Think about the strategies – both offensive and defensive – that you need to employ to know who is saying what about you and to whom. And think about the opportunities that you've got to spread the word, reach your customers and sell your services.

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