Competing to Be the Worst
At a recent conference, one of the marketing guru speakers argued that “we’re all competing against the best experience ever had by a customer!” It sounded nice, but I couldn’t disagree more.
Inaccessibility: A thing no one thinks about
Case in point: at this very conference while everyone else seemed to be having a lovely experience, I was having a terrible time due to inaccessibility. The restrooms were barely accessible, the beverages and snacks were on a high-top bar I couldn’t reach from my wheelchair, and the only space I could park in the lecture room was a cramped space in the back corner. Finally, when a group exercise required writing on posters taped high up on the wall, I just gave up and left. They just didn’t get it.
In my humble experience, it seems that every company is actually competing to be the worst. Maybe they are great for a couple people, but they virtually ignore the many people living with disabilities, chronic conditions, and differences that exist in the world. From my view, it’s a race to the bottom in experience, not to the top.
I’m not sure if it’s a failure to listen or in fact a failure to care. Companies are so determined to sell the most of a thing, that the quality of whatever that thing is doesn’t matter. It’s all about volume.
Looking at air transportation.
How many people can we cram into a tin can? We don’t care how angry and uncomfortable you may be, just that the plane is full. For me, the experience of flying has precipitously worsened in the last 20 years. Just about any time I fly anymore I have trouble getting help to board, having enough time to board because I move slowly with rheumatoid arthritis, being comfortable on the plane due to lack of space and not being able to bend my joints, and then, about half the time, dealing with how they have creatively broken my wheelchair this time around. Accidents happen but repeating the same problem is a sign of incompetence or complete lack of caring – again, racing to the bottom.
Inaccessibility in managing one’s own healthcare
Unfortunately, in many ways, I have the same challenges in my healthcare experience. Take my specialty pharmacy where I order my rheumatoid arthritis medications. They have a nurse that calls me periodically and leaves me messages. This person is supposed to be helping me with my rheumatoid arthritis, yet the one time I spoke with them, I knew more about the disease than they did. That’s fine—I’ve had it for nearly 40 years so I better be an expert. But they keep calling and leaving messages. They call me when I’m at work and don’t have evening or weekend hours. But when I have a problem getting information from this same company about getting a medication change approved, it means lots of wrangling and waiting on hold. The company seems built around the concept of wasting my time, not helping me live better with a chronic condition.
If we really want to do better, then a re-orientation is needed. It should be the patient or consumer’s needs and desires that come first. I am just not going to chat during my work hours to educate someone else about my disease. No. If you have something that will benefit me, I would be willing to listen.
Instead, I want to get the information I need for my medication or whatever item of my health easily and quickly—not hours on hold and jumping from person to person. Or how about a flying system that cares about the individuals buying the tickets and paying for the service? Right now, we’re still experiencing the impact of companies competing to be the worst. If they really want to be the best, they have to care about finding out what that really means.