A customer’s perception of excellent service is based on his expectations. Obviously, a customer paying a premium price for accommodations in a five-star hotel will expect higher levels of service versus perhaps, in a backpacker’s inn. Expectations for a five star resort will likewise be different for a five star business hotel where the target markets may both be able to afford the rates but each with distinctive needs.

What about hospitals? While matters of life or death should have no social class divisions, there still is much difference in expectations when one goes to the top hospitals. After all, the premium price one is paying for is actually for peace of mind brought about by the image of safety, technological advancement and the best medical doctors, thus giving the patient more value, with benefits outweighing costs.

Yet despite the brand image and high price, some hospitals still fail in service delivery. Last July 29-30, I submitted myself for overnight executive check-up in a Makati hospital so I can get peace of mind and assurance regarding the status of my health. While I am aware that the hospital industry is much challenged not just by external issues but by the very nature of its work (caring for the sick and their stressed out relatives or caregivers is always tough) I can’t help but note many deviations from service execution, despite poster reminders everywhere in the hospital about their core values of compassionate care, service excellence and accountability.

From the very start, this hospital needed to be followed up for information or a checklist, as to the different types of executive check-up or what to bring and what to do during my overnight stay. There was no schedule of procedures given to me and I only got a copy after I insisted on getting one.

Upon arrival, I was not informed that executive check up clients, who pay much more, can go straight to the 9th floor admitting section. I was not even given an identification hand tag when I was admitted, not even after I joked with one of the nurses that I might be somebody else.

I was asked the same set of questions about what I was suffering and the medicines I have been taking when I have already indicated these in my admission questionnaire. I stopped counting after the 4th time within two hours of my admission.

There were conflicting instructions whether I can or should drink water the night before due to different procedures for the next day. I was finally told not to drink except to have small sips for my medication after two hours.

The technician for the blood test procedure came over an hour late the next day. He apologized only after I reminded him that I woke up early for him because I was told he would be in my room at 6:00 am. And because of this, everything else was delayed that day and my scheduled release from the hospital was moved by three hours causing me to miss an important business meeting.

Even more unbelievable was being asked to come back since the urologist who was supposed to see me, was in a meeting and had 28 patients waiting for him at his clinic. This lack of coordination and prioritization can also be seen when a cardiologist came in apologizing that he just knew of his assignment moments ago.

Finally, my bill came up to some P57,000 (from P21,000 standard price) to include virtual colonoscopy, derma services for some skin issues and professional fees for other doctors. As of this writing, I have not gotten the receipts for the professional fees of the doctors.

Like a person’s health, multiple service breakdowns do not just happen overnight. It is usually a result of two I’s, namely Ignoring and Ignorance. Good execution is about having at least 5C’s namely, Choice, Coordination, Commitment, Competencies and Communication.

Management should be consistently getting feedback from customers or patients directly if they wish to remain true to their brand promise. They (and traditional doctors) should start treating patients like guests and customers so they are able to see things with a different perspective that is more customer-focused and truly more caring. Patients are not hostages who have no choice but take on such attitudes of their doctors and their doctors’ preferred hospital. Patients are people, too.

JOSIAH GO is a recipient of the Ten Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) of the Philippines in 2001 and the first and only recipient of Ten Outstanding Young Persons (TOYP) of the World in Business Education in 2002. Follow him via twitter @josiahgo. For his schedule of live seminar appearances, log on to www.mansmith.net For feedback, email josiah@mansmith.net