“The Customer Is Always Right” is sometimes wrong

One woman who frequently flew on Southwest, was constantly disappointed with every aspect of the company’s operation. In fact, she became known as the “Pen Pal” because after every flight she wrote in with a complaint.

She didn’t like the fact that the company didn’t assign seats; she didn’t like the absence of a first-class section; she didn’t like not having a meal in flight; she didn’t like Southwest’s boarding procedure; she didn’t like the flight attendants’ sporty uniforms and the casual atmosphere.

Her last letter, reciting a litany of complaints, momentarily stumped Southwest’s customer relations people. They bumped it up to Herb’s [Kelleher, CEO of Southwest] desk, with a note: ‘This one’s yours.’

In sixty seconds, Kelleher wrote back and said, ‘Dear Mrs. Crabapple, We will miss you. Love, Herb.’”

I met with a doc a few months ago who was in town from California.  He was a lovely guy who interviewed his patients before he accepted them into his practice.  If a patient smoked, he simply would not allow them to be a member of his practice.  If they weren’t willing to work with him, he wasn’t willing to work for them.  Makes sense to me.

If the next witch hunt on doctors focuses on so-called quality outcomes, I think you’ll see docs keeping those problem patients out of our practice.  Outcomes are always better when you start a foot away from the finish line.  Imagine a smoker or an obese person who can’t find a doctor because they engage in unhealthy behavior.  I can definitely see this being an unintended consequence of “pay for performance.”  

And for the record, I absolutely love flying Southwest, and I love what Herb said to that “customer.”  

Instead of competing with other airlines, they simply rethought air travel and started their own blue ocean.  

Hello Health is doing the very same thing.  We’re not even competing with traditional doctors.  There’s simply no point.  Each Hello Health neighborhood will compete against one another. 

“The Customer Is Always Right” is sometimes wrong