Vaccination site a lesson in customer service

A powerful quotation in business circles says: “A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him.

“He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favour by serving him. He is doing us a favour by giving us the opportunity to do so.”

These wise words have been attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, but there’s some doubt over whether he actually said them. Nevertheless, they still carry a great deal of relevance. I am convinced that living them out can be of great value, irrespective of whether we are employed, self-employed or even seeking employment.

Acquiring a new customer can cost five times more than retaining an existing customer.

Increasing customer retention by 5% increases profits 25% to 95%.

The success rate of selling to a customer you already have is 60% to 70%, while the success rate of selling to a new customer is 5% to 20%. Just remember, customers don’t care what you know until they know that you care.

A few weeks ago, my wife and I received the first of two Covid-19 vaccinations.

We have both reached the age of 60 and so form part of the population that government is focusing on in June onwards.

We had heard of the experiences of other “silver foxes” at Lentegeur Psychiatric Hospital and decided to go through for our vaccinations.

We were absolutely blown away by the manner in which the entire staff pulled together to make what could be a somewhat scary experience into one which I will rank as one of the best of our lives.

The experience began at the gate where we confirmed to the gate staff that we were “walk-ins”.

They asked us to put on our hazards and drive down to the parking attendants. In doing so, it felt like we were celebrities of some sort.

The parking attendants then directed us politely to the parking area. Our details were then taken by another efficient and polite woman. We were then guided to a shaded area to wait by another friendly woman.

After five minutes or so, we were guided into a room before the hall, and, after a short wait, guided into the hall proper.

We were then led to an area where both my wife and I received our injections. (A huge shout out to Ayisha, the sister who administered the injection with empathy, humour and care.)

We were finally requested to wait for 18 minutes to check for any after effects.

The entire process took no more than 30 to 40 minutes.

We had no fewer than 9 to 10 staff members interact with us and the other patients.

The way they pulled together, creating a safe, friendly environment and pleasant experience deserves a standing ovation. This is truly world-class service.

Here’s three things that entrepreneurs and business owners can learn from that hospital:

● Commit to service that truly delivers.

We are not the first to comment on this service, and we won’t be the last. The reason? Staff there seem to hold to this maxim of “Just having satisfied customers isn’t good enough anymore.

If you really want a booming business, you have to

create raving fans ”− author and business consultant Ken Blanchard.

This service has made raving fans out of my wife and me.

● The success of that service is in the hands of all those in the chain of delivery.

As indicated, we personally had engagement with 10 staff members. This began and ended at the gate but was continued throughout the “system”.

“Customer service should not be a department. It should be the entire company” − venture capitalist, Tony Hsieh.

● Commitment to service must be driven by the entrepreneur/business owner first.

The experience we had happened by design and not default.

I suspect that every link in the experience was examined by someone in a role of “quiet leadership”.

This is amplified in the quote by Ken Blanchard: “Servant leadership is all about making the goals clear and then rolling your sleeves up and doing whatever it takes to help people win. In that situation, they don’t work for you; you work for them.”

Here’s to more heroic service…like this.

● Steve Reid is the manager of the Centre for Entrepreneurship at False Bay College. Contact him on