What a nightmare trip to the doctor’s office taught me about “trust” and what your frontline can do to salvage it.

I usually think of the annual doctor visit as a necessary evil, an expensive inconvenience that can just so happen to save your life.  But this last doctor might have fallen more in the “evil” category than the “necessary” one.  Alright, “Doctor Evil” might be a bit of a stretch, but my most recent visit contained a comedy of errors (one might say malpractices) that got me thinking about trust:

First: It was my first time at this doctor, so the environment was unfamiliar. The equipment seemed outdated. The chairs in the waiting room creaked.  The décor made me feel as though I was visiting my Grandma.  It was hopefully sanitary, but there was nothing that proved to me it was.

Second:  I had recently had blood work sent to the doctor, so I asked the nurse if the doctor was going to go over the results of the test.  Her response was “Depends on what kind of mood he’s in today”.  Fantastic, a moody doctor is just what I was hoping for, not to mention the inherent lack of teamwork and cooperation between the nurses and doctor.

Third:  The doctor eventually came in, looked over the blood work (guess he was in a good mood) and decided it was time for a new medicine.  When I asked why, his reasoning was that this one number should be lower, without ever explaining what the “one number” actually meant!  I tried to drill down but wasn’t getting anywhere.

Fourth:  This one was the real kicker.  As I was sitting with the doctor, a different nurse knocked on the door.  She came in looking a little distressed, proceeded to put an overfilled manila folder on the desk, and began rattling off medications and numbers.  It took me a few seconds to realize they were talking about another patient, who was standing right outside my door.  They discussed her medicine, her weight gain, her previous diagnoses, etc. for about 5 minutes… in MY ROOM!!!  Meanwhile I was sitting in the corner trying to check Google for other doctors nearby.


The visit triggered an emotional reaction that can only be categorized as distrust.
  • Seeing old furniture eroded my trust in their ability to invest in and maintain their office. While I didn’t see anything unsanitary, I still questioned it.
  • I didn’t trust that the doctor had a good working relationship with his nurses after she made the “mood” comment.
  • It was hard to trust the medicine I was put on because I didn’t understand why it was necessary or what the implications were.
  • Most importantly, I didn’t trust that my information was kept private amongst other patients if they were willing to so blatantly violate HIPPA regulations in front of me.

As my brain is trained to do, I started thinking more deeply about the concept of trust, and realized that doctors aren’t unlike most businesses.  They might have a few more certifications and diplomas on the wall, but it’s still imperative that they drive a positive “customer experience” in order to keep patients.

It serves as a good reminder that we too, as businesses, should do our own annual health check to inspect the state of our trust with customers.


Here are a few tips for your team to keep in mind and establish trust with your customers:
  1. Paint a Positive Image: Work feverishly to spread positivity, it’s contagious (intentional medical-term pun).  Whether it’s the décor in the lobby or an upbeat personality from a customer service representative, portraying a positive image can alter how a customer perceives the trustworthiness of a brand.
  2. Don’t Play the Blame Game:  Avoid pointing fingers at other employees in order to escape the blame, all that does is undermine trust in the brand.  The customer sees you as a company, not as an individual employee, and you should portray yourself the same way – unified.  Instead of blaming others, shift the focus towards what you are going to do in the future to make their experience positive.
  3. Always Explain the “Why”:  Don’t prescribe solutions without explaining why to the customer.  One of the biggest steps towards establishing trust is making the customer feel confident.  Confident that they got the best product.  Confident that they got the best price.  Confident that they know how to use your services.
  4. Don’t Let the Customer Feel Vulnerable:  The quickest way to lose trust is by making the customer feel vulnerable.  Why do you think companies compete on warranties or identity protection is a booming industry?  It’s an innate trait that we hate feeling vulnerable.  Always try to explain to the customer why they are safe. Let them know that they always have quick access to a company representative or that other customers have faced similar challenges, yet succeeded through the obstacle.

Trust is an intangible feeling, and it’s easy to let it slip away into the subconscious. But, it’s always there.  Customers are always gauging their trust in a brand or product, and it informs their future decisions.  Your company’s vital signs will depend on it.