Thursday, June 14, 2012

What to do when a simple thing becomes extremely stressful

If you have ever tried to accomplish something that should have been relatively simple, and it became increasingly difficult and stressful, what do you do?  The simple and most productive answer here is to   remain positive, be kind and speak clearly to whomever you are working with. Remember, the old adage, that you get more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.  Maintaining a cool, calm, collected exterior when dealing with stress and unfriendly customer service, it is also important to remain friendly and cheerful.  I know how hard this is and how frustrated you can get because you have repeated yourself a hundred times, been transferred all over the place and still you cannot achieve the resolution you are seeking. I know how easy it is to quickly loose your temper, raise your voice and get as nasty back to a rude customer service rep.  But I tell you if you can keep your temper in check and keep the frustration from creeping into your voice and face you will get further and might actually get to someone who will take the time to assist you properly.

I am writing this entry while sitting on hold with Wellcare a Medicare advantage plan.  I have been calling them and trying to work out a surgery scheduling problem that should have been taken care of earlier in the week.  Unfortunately, the ball was dropped by the surgeons office and the hospital admissions office waited till the last minute to notify me of the situation.  Now let me further preface this conversation by telling you I was notified at 10:30 this morning that there was a problem with my insurance and that authorization wasn't going to be given for this procedure.  The situation devolved further when I called Wellcare the first time and was told that I just needed to get my Primary Care Provider to call in and get authorization. The problem is my PCP doctor is no longer practicing at the practice and the other physician that is handling the office will not be back till Tuesday which is the day after my scheduled surgery.  I have searched the internet in vain trying to locate my doctor and have come up with nothing. The practice she was working at will not assist me any further and has told me that I needed to come in to be seen by the PA who may or may not be able to authorize the procedure.

So here we are 5 hours later still on hold with Wellcare and have been bounced from one area to another and still I haven't gotten anyone on the phone who can assist me with this situation. My case manager with Wellcare is out of the office till tomorrow morning.  I clearly am frustrated and have gotten a sore throat trying to explain the situation over and over again.  However, I realized early on in the conversation with the insurance company that if I raised a fit or my voice, let the frustration creep in the agents were less likely to listen to the whole situation and I was placed back in the endless queue waiting to once again explain the situation.  So taking my advice that I am giving you now, I calmed myself, addressed the situation professionally and with as much courtesy as I could muster, and guess what my call was finally routed to a department that was able to assist me further.

I am not sure what the total outcome of all this is going to be with the primary care doctor MIA, I may have to postpone the actual surgery till I can establish a new primary care doctor and start this whole process over again.  The one saving grace here is that this is an established condition that was handled by the same insurance company and this is still under follow up care from the initial surgery. So using my brain and working within the system I figured I would take it back to the GA branch that handled the original surgery and explained what had been happening all day. Even though I technically dropped the old insurance and started a new policy, the old policy still has to cover follow-up treatment of the operation that was done under their care.  Maybe it is a good thing I did all those law classes, because I may have been given the run around even longer.  Even though the policies changed and my state of residence has changed I was still a member of the Wellcare organization for the initial surgery, and it is their responsibility to make sure that all corrective and follow up measures are taken care of.

The has been a lot of red tape I had to cut through and I may have had to explain my case over and over again, the end result was this. I was able to identify the situation and suitably point out my case so that someone of authority had to take notice of the problem.  In a couple of other cases I had to have my medical case taken all the way up the chain to the medical director of each state within the Wellcare system. I am hoping that won't be necessary this time.  In order to have my claim taken seriously I needed to maintain my professional demeanor and moderate my tone and attitude when dealing with each of the various representatives that I came in contact with today.  Thus, by doing so I was able to demonstrate that I was serious, knew the ins and outs of the situation and was willing to work within their framework to address the issue. Trust me I know this has been a long and drawn out procedure but when it is finally all done and over with I should be able to report back that I have successfully navigated the hurtles and achieved my desired result.

I have held many jobs in my life and the one thing that I have learned in every one of them is that customer service and satisfaction is very important, it helps ensure a positive reputation for your business or company.  It also promotes word of mouth advertising and repeat business.  Also from being on the receiving side of an irate customer call, I know how difficult it is to address the issue at hand if the customer is yelling and swearing.  I know when I was in those situations I had many times wanted to push the call off on someone else or just simply hang up, but I knew in the long run doing either of those things would just aggravate the situation and could possibly cause me to loose my job.  Dealing with an irate customer is never easy, and if you find yourself in a situation like that try and appease the customer, find a middle ground on which you both can stand and ease the tension between you and them.  Keep in mind that you are not the cause of their discontent and are striving diligently to correct the problem as quickly as possible.

No matter which side of the fence you are on keep in mind that your tone on the phone conveys your emotions over the line.  The reaction you might be getting could be in direct response to your own tone and might be able to be addressed simply by trying to keep a smile in your voice and extending patience to your caller.  Handle each case with the attention you would expect yourself if you were in a similar circumstance.  As a customer calling in don't let the tone of the representative trigger you to respond in kind, and if you are the one taking a call from a caller who has a problem, make sure you listen intentively and you demonstrate the proper concern toward their situation.  I promise you that the call will go that much more smoothly and you will be able to get down to the business of addressing the concern and getting the caller on their way, and both of you will be satisfied with the outcome.

Now do you know how to handle yourself in any situation where you find yourself dealing with someone on the phone?  In the simplest terms, courtesy, concern, confidence and commitment are essential.  Remain calm, keep your tone neutral and address the issue succinctly, listen to what is being explained and offer kind consideration to what you have been told.  Maintaining composure and courtesy in every phone conversation will go a long way toward achieving the final goal you are seeking.  It doesn't matter if you are calling in because you have a problem or if you are the one answering the phone if you keep these few things in mind I guarantee the conversation will be rewarding on both parts.

If you have any comments or concerns or would just like to offer a differing of opinion, I would love to hear from you.  Take a few minutes and either respond directly on the blog page itself or drop me a line to my confidential email at and let me know.  I am always seeking new members to the site so please feel free to become a member and join in on the topics or feel free to suggest your own.

As always my hopes and dreams are with you,

Uncle B