Customer Service is Dead

When I was young the customer was always right, period. Customer Service reps, either on the phone or in person (I was young before the internet), bent over backwards for your satisfaction. Fast forward some 40 years and while there are still many excellent customer service reps who give superb service with courtesy and care for a happy resolution to your customer needs, there is also an eroding of common courtesy. Specifically, my recent experiences with companies that supply my diabetes devices have come up very short on common courtesy.

It seems to me that the customer service reps have a check list of questions and once they check off that list they are done with their “customer service”. I recently called Accu-Chek because my insurance company has dictated that I must use an Accu-Chek meter to be covered. That is a whole other subject but when I received the meter, I went to the Accu-Chek website for some generic information about my new meter. When I got to the website the only thing that was there was a link to receive a “Free Meter” (My meter was not free so this was a little annoying). The links to anything else except the free meter were all the way down at the bottom of the page in the smallest of blue link type. The “Chat Live Now” link at the top of the “Contact” page was out of service the several times I tried to access it. The website is not user friendly, but I digress.

The first several times I did a blood test with my new Nano meter the discrepancy between the meter and my Dexcom G5 Continuous Glucose Monitor was large, nearly 100 points difference on more than a couple of occasions. I posted about this on my twitter account, @DiabetesProject – and received a response from another user, not from Accu-Chek or Dexcom. This twitter follower noted that the meter should have been calibrated when I picked it up at the pharmacy. I went to my pharmacy to ask how to do this and was informed that I needed control solution which they would be happy to order for me at $11.61. Right then I remembered that my One Touch meter included control solution when I first received it. I also thought that Accu-Chek had totally dropped the ball by not including control solution in a new meter package. I had my pharmacist order the control solution and went back to pick it up the following day.

My pharmacist ordered the control solution for The Guide and I have a Nano. Since I am brand new to Accu-Chek meters (the last one I had was in 1983 right after I was diagnosed) I was not familiar with their different meters. I now had the wrong control solution and I have had the meter for nearly 2 weeks and the accuracy in comparison to my cgm is still in question so I called an Accu-Chek “Customer Service” representative.

First, I was on hold for over a half an hour. When I finally got a customer service agent on the line she was very nice but all she did was gather all of my personal information. Name, address, email, date of birth, doctor name, address and phone number. To me, that’s not customer service, that’s data collection. She then told me that she would have to get a “Product Specialist” to address my need for control solution.

I was on hold for another 30 minutes. My first rep came back twice to apologize for the long wait. She was trying to get an agent on the line. I have now been on the phone for over an hour and all that I’ve done is give Accu-Chek all my information. I was not happy.

Finally a “Product Specialist” came on the line and said that she would get me the control solution I needed but not before she asked me several questions and actually sounded annoyed in her demeanor. She asked me if I had the original box with me and implied that perhaps I had missed seeing the solution because it should have been in the box. Since I was at work, I did not have the box with me. The “Product Specialist” asked me 3 more condescending times if I was sure the solution was not in the box. Since I did not have the box it was probably in there. It was not. I had checked that box several times as I too assumed that the solution should have been included with the original purchase, a purchase that appears to be free for some but not me. The repeated assumption on the “Product Specialist’s” part that I must have been mistaken about not seeing the control solution further irritated me, the customer, but I maintained my courtesy as I had been taught. A lesson that was not taught to my “Product Specialist”.

The “Product Specialist” now assured me that she would send out a control solution BUT, the meter does not need to be calibrated. She told me the control solution will not change the meter’s readings but will just make sure it is accurate within the range of the control solution. While I know this because I have been living with diabetes for 36 years and have gone through several meters with control solutions and the need to know that my meters were accurate, I was treated like a child who must have been doing something wrong to cause this anomaly.

Now, the most insensitive and ignorant part of the conversation, the check list. First, I was asked, “Did you wash your hands before your blood test?” Really? Again, I have done close to a million finger-stick blood tests I am sure. Sometimes I do 2 in a row if the number seems off. While I do not expect the product specialist to know about my vast experience dealing with blood tests and diabetes, I do expect her to be kind and courteous during her interrogation. The snarky, “did you wash your hands?” question could have been easily stated as a, “of course, you washed your hands?” Or, “I know this sounds silly but I have to ask because it’s on my check list, did you wash your hands?” When I impatiently answered in the affirmative, she immediately asked, “and did you use an alcohol swab on your finger after you washed your hands?” Well, you can check that off your little list but no, and I never do and it has never ever even once made a lick of difference. I did not dip my finger in honey or maple syrup after I washed my hands. I did, however, answer in the affirmative because I know that would give Accu-Chek an out from my issue by calling it “operator error” and dismissing my legitimate issue. The next questions were all lot number, expiration date and the like. While I understand that as it pertained to my issue I go back to the attitude and demeanor of the “Product Specialist”. Almost accusatory. Assuming I had done something wrong that is causing this discrepancy. Clearly, it was my fault and she made no bones about making that assumption and communicating it to me through her attitude.

So this is “Customer Service” in 2019. Protect the company at all costs. Try to shift the blame to the customer so that the company is in no way, shape or form liable for any negative product issues. Never give an inch. Perhaps the proper company response would have been to ship me out a new meter since they offer them for free and I had to pay for mine. That would have eased all this accusatory rhetoric that I had to endure on a phone call that should have taken 5 minutes but took well over an hour.

In conclusion I think that companies whose customer service is dealing with people with diabetes should show some compassion and understanding toward their customers. I have singled out Accu-Chek here but the same goes for Dexcom (another story!). Does your “Product Specialist” have any clue what it is to live with diabetes? The answer for this particular person is obviously, no. I firmly believe the customer service reps at diabetes companies should be given a comprehensive program on what is like to live with diabetes. Clearly the ones I have dealt with haven’t a clue. I think doing this would give a little more sensitivity and a little more kindness when dealing with people who can be overwhelmed by the needs of their day-to-day healthcare.

We do multiple finger-stick blood tests every day. We count every morsel of food that passes through our lips. We often inject multiple times a day or insert ports and sensors into our bodies to help maintain control over our blood sugar. We are busy people, as are customer service personnel with one big difference, add to the level of busy an additional 24/7/365 responsibility that could lead to your death if you don’t properly manage it. Have some empathy. I’m being forced to use your product. Be nice.


Shift Work and Diabetes

I’ve been gone from the “blog-osphere” for awhile. Life. Diabetes. Those two things in and of themselves can take up all of my time. Plus, I work in television news production which is a 24/7 operation. Yesterday my shift was from 8pm to 4am and I had to be back at work by noon today. This would be a challenge for anybody. Add Type1 diabetes to the mix and the challenge becomes a thousand times more difficult. There are numerous articles about the negative effects of shift work – webMD¬†– but I don’t need those articles to know that shift work has many negative side effects. I do whatever I can to mitigate those negative effects.

When I was first diagnosed with diabetes, 36 years ago, the regular schedule of insulin shots, food and exercise were critical in maintaining good control. Even then, my schedule was less than regular I was able to establish a fairly structured routine and I credit that for my stellar control in the early days with diabetes. I was able to transition from television production; which often requires very early starts and very long days in various locations, sometimes with limited access to any food no less healthy food; to television post-production. Post-production generally starts a little later and I stay in one place with a refrigerator nearby. When I was doing Multiple Daily Injections (MDI) being near a refrigerator was a requirement. As an editor, the hours are also very long and I sit for long periods of time. Basically, television is not the best line of work for people with diabetes but having food nearby and staying active outside the edit room keeps my diabetes management under control. However, the lack of a steady schedule, eating take-out and delivery food all of the time and those long stretches of no physical activity make healthy living nearly impossible.

How to adapt? First and foremost, a healthy diet. That means bringing lunch and healthy snacks every day. Instead of doughnuts, cheeseburgers and pizza everyday eating homemade salads, leftover healthy dinners, fresh fruits and nuts make blood sugar control a little easier when I’m out in the world. Granted, it is not easy when everyone else is ordering fries and milkshakes but the trade-off makes hyper- and hypoglycemia less frequent. The one thing no one needs during a stressful work day is a severe hypoglycemic reaction that brings confusion and an inability to function efficiently or hyperglycemia that fogs the brain and slows the body. No one wants to have to call 911 during the day and I have always felt an immense responsibility to not burden my co-workers with my disease. That said, I am also very open about my diabetes. I tell co-workers that I have type1 and I also tell them how to deal with me if they notice hypoglycemia before I do… which, luckily, has never been necessary.

Secondly, blood tests and a continuous glucose monitor (cgm). There is no replacement for knowing what my blood sugar is. Before I had a cgm, I easily did 10 to 12 blood tests a day, right at my desk/console. With a cgm I still do 3 or 4 blood tests a day and I am very tuned in to my iPhone’s cgm display. If I am eating right and I am aware of my blood sugar I minimize any possibility for hypoglycemia. If I do get a low blood sugar alert I react immediately. I think reacting to the data is paramount to staying in control and not having co-workers have to deal with my negligence. Sometimes a low blood sugar is not negligence but not reacting quickly is. I am also on an insulin pump which has helped heighten my hypoglycemic awareness. The pump along with cgm alerts help tune you in to what you feel like when your sugar is falling or rising rapidly. Being aware of the subtle changes in mood or physical differences helps me stay in control throughout my day.

Finally, exercise. Admittedly, this is an area that I still struggle with. I ebb and flow with exercise. I try to get my 10,000 steps in everyday. Key word, “try”. Working in New York City helps since city working makes walking part of everyday so even on a bad day I am getting a minimum of 7,500 steps. I make sure I get up and walk everyday but sometimes the walks have to be short since I am in a deadline business. I must be mindful of getting enough exercise in to help manage my blood sugar. Regular exercise is paramount in maintaining good blood sugar control. In addition to all the walking I have also begun doing a daily or every other day strengthening routine.¬†Find something that works for you and your schedule and stay on it.

Bottom line, shift work is difficult but it is manageable. I have worked shift work into my diabetes life successfully if somewhat reluctantly. Do I love it? No but I do love the work I do so I am able to adapt to the shifts as they come my way. I work with my healthcare team to build a shift pattern for my basal rates and an adaptive bolus schedule for my shift work. It is not always easy but, Life. I do what I have to do and pay close attention to what I need to do it successfully.

Stay positive and meet the challenges head on.