Lessons learned: The gas station attendant
On a trip back to my hometown of Bend, Oregon from Portland this week, I had occasion to stop for gas in the small town of Madras, Oregon. Madras is a great little stop because it’s the 45 minute mark before getting home from Portland, and because it has cheap gas.
For those that aren’t aware, Oregon law mandates that the pumping of gas is performed only by station attendants, requiring customers to sit idly by as fuel is purchased. It’s easy to get used to, and I certainly consider it a benefit of living in the great state of Oregon.
Having the extra time to sit and do nothing provides ample opportunity to think about things like the cost of gas, your kids, and in my case – blogging. The topic for today’s post came to me after the station attendant approached my window and asked if he could wash my window while he fueled my tank.
I should note that while it’s mandatory for a station attendant to fuel the tank in Oregon, it’s not mandatory (and it’s actually not too common) for the attendant to wash your windows. It’s even less common for the attendant to do a good job if they wash your windows, and it’s almost unheard of for them to leave the window looking perfect.
This said, it’s no wonder that I was so impressed as the attendant began his work. Not only did he have great technique, perfectly consistent strokes, and an almost flawless end result – but he was courteous, friendly, and engaging the whole time. He truly enjoyed what he did, and took visible pride in his work.
Now, as the attendant was performing this work of art on my windshield and I should have been simply sitting back thinking of something entirely different, I couldn’t help but overanalyze the situation. Was his boss working on the car next to me? Was he training a new employee who was watching him from afar? Was he working for a tip? Anything I could come up with would have helped me to make sense of the situation – I mean, why on earth, in the absence of any external motivation, would this guy spend so much time and energy making my window look so perfect when he didn’t have to?
The answer to the question was in his courtesy, his conversation, and his overall enjoyment of the experience – this guy actually liked what he was doing, and because of it, he did a great – nay, fantastic – job. He enjoyed the experience, I enjoyed the experience, and I will continue to stop at his gas station, not because of the cheap gas or the 45 minute rest break on my trip home, but because he earned my loyalty by taking care of me in a way that he didn’t have to.
I immediately drew a parallel to what we do in the healthcare field as relates to customer service. Whether a doctor, dentist, physical therapist, or someone else in the field, we care for people – not windshields or cars. In doing so, we are able to reap the rewards of benefiting real people who, in most cases, are experiencing difficult times influenced by illness or injury. People don’t come to see us because we are cheap. They don’t come to see us because we’re on the way home (patients will drive an average of 5-7 miles to see us). They don’t come to see us because we’re a good alternative to a dinner and a movie. People come to see us because they need our help and they want us to care for them just as they would care for themselves (better in most cases).
Not to speak for everyone who reads this blog, but if we can be won over by something as simple as a window washing at a gas station, how easy is it for us to win over our patients for life, simply by giving them all that we’ve got, and by enjoying our experiences with them? By taking full pride in our services, smiling graciously, and conversing naturally, we’re forming bonds with our patients that are much stronger than can be broken by an insurance company, a referral source, or a patient co-pay.
More and more I find that it’s easiest (and probably the most important) to learn from the simple experiences in life – those that can be learned from even a gas station attendant.
Tannus Quatre is a passionate blogger and writer, as well as a principal/consultant with Vantage Clinical Solutions.