Lessons from the Back of an Ambulance

Aug 12, 2014 | Customer Service

Back of ambulance

My older sister rocks my socks off. She’s awesome. One of the best examples of her awesomeness is from last winter. Her apartment caught fire, and she lost everything she owned (except one change of clothes, her purse, cell phone, and car). But her way of dealing with the fire was to become a volunteer firefighter—in record time. See what I mean?

As a paramedic of 12 years, AmyRose saves lives on a regular basis. During our recent conversations, I’ve seen more of her care and concern for others. And this kind of “customer service” is something any business can learn from and implement. 

Here are five customer service techniques your business can learn from the Emergency Medical Services:

1. Your time is theirs.

Just like a paramedic, you’ve been trained to take care of customers to the best of your ability—to meet a need. So, don’t rush. Haste causes errors, miscommunication, and elevated heart rates. Instead, carefully observe and listen to the customer’s “symptoms” so you can better diagnose a solution. You may have to slow your process if the customer starts breaking out in a rash of anger, confusion, or anxiety. Instead of just rushing through the problem, take the time to help. Give people a reason to trust your services.

2. Explain the diagnosis.

When AmyRose arrives on scene, typically the patient is scared, intimidated by how out of control they feel about the situation. She is extremely careful about explaining what’s going on, what they’re doing, and when they’re doing it. When you’ve had health trauma, the last thing you need is another scare. Even if the issue isn’t a life-or-death situation, it is a problem for the customer. Provide relief by explaining how you are going to resolve the error.

3. Be in the moment, no matter what.

Working as a paramedic means long, hard hours. I have seen AmyRose work 12-hour shifts, 24-hour shifts, and sometimes back-to-back shifts. When the tones go off a few minutes before quitting time, after finishing several runs, she admits to sometimes being on the odds with her partner, and quite tired (maybe even grumpy, but you didn’t hear that from me). But despite how they feel, AmyRose and her partner put on smiles, swig the last of their cold coffees, and remember they don’t need to be anywhere else but there: caring for someone in need. Even though you’ve had a long, hard day, your focus still needs to be helping the customer feel comfortable.

4. Use an older-sister tone of voice if necessary.

Of course, some customers are just difficult for the sake of controversy. It’s impossible to please everyone. And while you must remain calm and stay above board, you can use a firm tone and stick to your policies. If the customer’s attitude is causing blood pressures to rise, move as quickly as you can, reassuring him along the way.

5. Go the extra mile.

AmyRose never leaves a patient at the hospital before checking in one more time. She asks if there’s anything she can do. Sometimes it’s nothing; sometimes it’s a glass of water or a blanket. She also asks the patient’s family if she can do something for them. “Show you have a heart,” AmyRose advises. In your customer service, what little ways can you go the extra mile? How can you, to the best of your ability, end on a good note?

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