Dialysis Supply Companies: You Have ONE Job
By Gale Golden Schulke, RN, CDN
What happened to the Gold Standard for customer service in dialysis? I am specifically finger-pointing to the dialysis supply companies. I spend an insane amount of time just dealing with the various companies and their foul-ups. This has got to be exhausting for our patients who are the victims of this downward trend in customer service. Our precious dialysis patients have enough to deal with just being on dialysis. Now they are subject to 45 min to an hour wait times ON THE PHONE just to place an order or talk to a customer service representative. Then, the person on the other end gets the order wrong. It isn’t just the patient order, it is the PRESCRIPTION these companies are not following. When a patient has 6 liter bags of 1.5 solution on their prescription, why would they send them 5 liter bags?
The latest is that the companies are changing routes and delivery dates. It does not matter what the patient may have planned. If they go on vacation during that precious delivery window, guess what! They move the date and charge the clinic $500 to deliver off-schedule. Can I charge them $500 for changing the delivery dates? Of course not.
What happened to the pride of offering White Glove service? I have patients who came home after work to find their entire delivery sitting on the driveway soaking wet from the rain. My elderly patients are left to carry 40 heavy boxes up a flight of stairs because the delivery person told them that it isn’t their job to take them upstairs. The delivery service used to do not only that, but also used to stack the boxes according to their expiration dates.
Delays in delivery are causing major issues for our patients. My patient’s wife was crying on the phone to me today. She was upset because she had run out of one particular solution and it is on a 2-week backorder. She said to me, “Don’t they care that this is my husband’s life? This is not like taking Advil instead of aspirin. This is what he has to have to get the fluid off of his heart.”
One company calls the clinic at 7am—before anyone is there—to get approval for an overcharge. They KNOW we are not open at 7:00am. They do it because if we do not return the call in 1 hour, to the minute, they can go ahead and process the order to deliver 2 boxes of fluid and charge me $250 to do it. If this occurred only once, I would think that it was an oversight. Unfortunately it happens all the time. Even when I called it to their attention, I was told, essentially, “too bad.”
There is something seriously wrong with the mentality of the people running these companies. They have lost all sense of decency in order to make a profit for their shareholders. Does it REALLY cost $500 to process an order if it is 1 day late (because the patient was on hold the day before for 45 minutes). I don’t think so. I understand that they don’t exist for altruistic reasons. They need to make a profit. But do they have to do it at the expense of decent customer service? If you are going to charge me $500 to do an “off-schedule” delivery, then you had darn well better haul it up the stairs and put it away!
I might add that apologies only go so far. The suppliers think if they send out a letter saying how sorry they are for the “inconvenience”, all will be okay. This is just bandaid therapy. You need to fix the problem so that it does not happen again, and again, and again.
It is becoming more common than not for there to be delays, shortages, problems, recalls, cartridges that don’t work, and tech support staff who do not know how to fix the problems we identify. When do you need your best tech support? At 2:00 in the morning—that is when a majority of our patients are dialyzing.
One can hope that the suppliers will realize that they need to step up and provide good customer service, but they have a rather exclusive audience, so they really don’t need to.