McDonald’s and the emergency room–what they have in common; but also why you will never see drive-through brain surgery
What do the hospital emergency room McDonald’s have in common? Answer: on-demand access.
In this era of on-demand services, along with all-access TV and movie resources and all the other things instantly accessible via the internet, we sometimes find that clients and customers have unrealistic ideas about similar on-demand access to professional services. Some people fail to comprehend why their accountant or their dentist is now “on-demand” just like their xfinity movie collection.
This post is actually the culmination of many years of experiences (my own and those of other professional colleagues) and discussions among professionals about the demands of people in our “I-want it-NOW!” society. More and more, we are finding that many people tend to have the mindset that when they need or want professional services (of any kind), the professionals providing such services should be available and responsive at a moments notice, day or night. True story.
For example, earlier this week, I received a message from a gentlemen looking for information about certain legal services and an estimate of the associated costs. I happened to be in the middle of some other projects just that moment, but I made sure to return his phone call later that afternoon. When I got him on the phone, he let me know in no uncertain terms that he was not happy I had not taken his call in the first place (again, not one of my clients–he was “cold calling” me) and because I had not answered his phone call in the first instance, he had elected to keep calling other attorneys in the directory until he was able to find an attorney who did answer his phone call. Here we have someone who really, really wants to find a professional sitting by his/her phone doing nothing but waiting and hoping the phone would ring. If that is something desirable for a particular client or customer, more power to such person. Even so, I tend to find that mentality a little strange (among other adjectives). Consider the ramifications of such an approach.
Let’s analogize to the medical field–something I like doing on a regular basis because of the clear disconnect in the world of professional services between the medical field and all other professional fields. To illustrate, no one in their right mind would ever expect that they can pick up the phone any time day or night and dial directly to their family doctor or their orthopedic surgeon. No, we understand that if we call the doctor’s office, we will get a receptionist first, then perhaps a nurse or other assistant to answer immediate questions and to invite us to schedule an appointment many days (or weeks) in the future. If I if picked the phone and dialed the doctor and he or she picked up the phone on the 2nd ring, I would be both very surprised and (upon further thought) would also be worried that there was something wrong with that equation. Why? Because I know that doctors are always very busy doing doctor stuff–seeing patients, performing medical treatment, etc. I understand that for medical services, I almost always need to wait patiently in line for our turn.
Why is it so very different when it comes to our attorney, accountant, financial advisor, engineer, contractor or any other type of professional we retain for assistance? Do we not realize that such professional has other clients, other customers, other work, other obligations, other deadlines, other STUFF?
The same concept applies with regard to the “walk in” mentality. I understand that when I need help from the tire store, the auto mechanic, my barber and certainly from my accountant, I need to make an appointment and wait my turn. I know that I can’t just drive down the road, realize that I have a question or problem that needs solving (from one of these professionals) and then just stop in to the shop and expect that my mechanic will just be sitting there waiting for me (within nothing else to do). I certainly understand that when it comes to my dentist and my doctor, this is all the more true and that unless I have a serious emergency, I am not going to get through to my medical professional on a moments notice. And yet, I have had many conversations with fellow attorneys, accountants, financial adivsors and other professions about clients or potentials clients who felt that they could just “stop in” to the office to get the immediate help they wanted and were later upset when there professional advisor had other commitments, appointments and work for other clients which prevented such advisor from being able to drop things at a moments notice to meet with the “walk-in” person.
Again, this may seem like nothing more than a selfish rant by a frustrated professional. It is in some ways just that. Even so, it is also an effort to identify a troubling trend which seems to be getting worse. This selfish mentality can lead to many unintended consequences (most of them not good). The propensity to “want it now” in all aspects of our lives, while it may seem nice in some ways when we are able to get immediate access or service (such as with McDonald’s and the emergency room), underwrites and perpetuates such unreasonable expectations and demands a level of service which is not sustainable (or even desirable in many respects). When we need careful thinking and wise execution for important things (whether it be tax return, corporate finance or brain surgery), if we are wise, we realize that careful, measured and accurate actions are MUCH better in all respects than instant and perhaps haphazard actions. There is a reason why brain surgeries are not offered via the drive-through method (actually, many reasons).
If any of this resonates with you, then perhaps you can join in the effort to encourage patience and reasonableness when it comes to our collective demands and expectations for the people we hire to help us in various areas of our lives. If all of this seems foreign and unfamiliar, then perhaps you are just one of those rare and blessed individuals who is patient and reasonable with regard to such things. If that is the case, thank you and please pass along your noble example to all within your sphere of influence. Finally, if you find that you have the “drive-though” mentality in some or all of your demands and expectations for those you hire to help you, please take a deep breath, try to put yourself in their shoes and remember that life is not just one big McDonald’s drive though…:)