Massage therapist needs to work kinks out of staff

Massage therapist needs to work kinks out of staff

by Mary Ellen Collins 

I love my doctor, but I wonder how a guy who assembled such a top-notch clinical team could have failed so miserably when staffing his front office. His excellent medical massage therapist has been treating my nerve impingement weekly for three months, which means I've had way too much contact with the incompetents who try to manage payments, paper and patient flow.

It starts when I arrive at 7:50 a.m. for an 8 o'clock appointment to find the office locked. I knock and cool my heels outside until about 8:05 a.m., when a soft click signals the release of the lock. No one bothers to open the door, much less extend an apologetic, "Come in. I'm sorry we left you standing out there."

As I sign the check-in sheet, whoever's behind the window offers a bored hello and a split second of eye contact. I've only seen the office staff come to life with grins and chirpy greetings when welcoming a drug salesman who arrived bearing Starbucks coffee for all of them.

Usually, Charles the therapist comes out to get me. But if he doesn't, one of the minions beckons me by last name only, which makes me want to ask, "Would it take too much energy to attach a 'Mrs.' to that 'Collins'?"

Once inside, I receive thoughtful, thorough care. When I'm done, I return to the alternate universe where gossiping and griping about the slow computers takes precedence over noticing me.

One of the clueless chicks eventually looks up and takes my money, although they never have change for a $20, despite the fact that I can't possibly be the only patient who has a $15 co-pay. We make another appointment, and the young staffer takes a stab at being sociable by seeing me off with a really annoying, "Have a nice day, dear."

After one recent 8 o'clock appointment, I got home at 9:30 a.m. and worked until the phone rang at 11:30 a.m.

"This is Dr. R.'s office, calling to confirm your appointment with Charles for tomorrow at 8 o'clock."

"You mean next Friday," I say.

"No... it's tomorrow."

"No, I was just there two hours ago," I say. "My next appointment is next Friday."

After a looooong silence, I hear a murmured, "Please disregard this phone call."

Every irksome interaction with them makes me homesick for our dentist's office back in St. Petersburg, where the entire personable staff could teach seminars on customer service.

In addition to a dentist and several hygienists who are masters of their professions, the office includes ladies who keep things running smoothly thanks to interpersonal and organizational skills worthy of concierges at five-star hotels. They remind us of appointments with timely calls and e-mails; handle our rescheduling requests with flexibility and finesse; and when we arrive, they greet us by first name like they are truly delighted to see us. There's a reason we still drive 250 miles across the state for twice yearly teeth exams.

For now, we appreciate having a doctor's office that's five minutes from our house. But if we ever leave this town, Dr. R.'s band of staff simpletons definitely won't merit a road trip return.

Mary Ellen Collins and her husband, John, live in Boca Raton, Fla. When she's not grappling with the ups and downs of making a house a home, Mary Ellen reads, does yoga and worries about coming up with column ideas. E-mail her at

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