Friday, February 25, 2011
YourNurseIsOn.com at HIMSS11 - The Journey Begins
The “Olympics” of Healthcare IT is the huge annual HIMSS conference and YourNurseIsOn.com was excited to go to HIMSS11 in Orlando. Like any start-up company, our people wear a number of hats, are busy and occasionally, make mistakes. I recount this story as an example of logistical challenges, flexible responses, dogged determination and perseverance in pursuit the mission. To attend HIMSS11, I needed to depart Hartford, CT on February 19 and would return February 24th. My plan was to attend the HIT Investor Forum on Sunday, we had been selected as a contestant in the HIT X.0 “Geeks Got Challenge” for Monday, hoped to make it to the finals for Tuesday and also expected to spend considerable time at booth #1331 which we shared with Intelligent Insites, our newest integration partners. Simple enough, right?
Wrong! To be more efficient, my executive assistant (me), attempted to book the hotels and travel for two conferences simultaneously and was quite satisfied to have found great deals for both HIMSS11 and the upcoming ACHE Congress in Chicago. The error in my ways became evident on the way to the airport when my lovely wife, Phoebe, began to call the airport to confirm our timely departure during a very windy afternoon. “MATTHEW!,” she shouted from the passenger seat, startling me from my “did I forget to pack anything” thought process, “THESE tickets are for MARCH 19th...”.
Now showing up to your flight without a valid ticket is rather frowned upon in this country, and can lead to a lovely discussion with various customer service “overlords.”
The very “helpful” woman on JetBlue’s “help” line nicely reminded me that ONLY an ignoramus would not bother to check his reservation 42 times before leaving the house to depart on the aforementioned non-existent flight. “Really?” I enquired, imagine for a second that you worked 80 hours per week for the last 3 years, hadn’t had a “day off” in month’s and gave up sleep for Lent so that you could facilitate a new integration, a new pilot implementation, prepare for a worldwide IT competition and , of course, arrange your travel... none of that lends itself to being perfect and may have even contributed to my glaring oversight. So, I askedfar to nicely, when you are done lecturing me on proper flight reservation review protocol, would you please tell me how I can fix this major faux pas?
Oh that would be easy, she let me know, it is nothing that $750 dollars ADDITIONAL couldn’t fix. Is there no other way I implored, as she wallowed in her customer service power trip. “No!” was all I heard. Now, I know that any well-meaning organization can mistakenly hire an anti-social troglodyte ;-) ( or more likely she was just having her own struggles that day), but having flown JetBlue many times, I hoped there might be a better way. So, I thanked her for her abuse and hung up in disgust, almost believing her about how dumb I had been to not check my reservation 42 times! This had never happened to me in 30 years of solo air travel. How the heck was I going to get to Orlando? by tomorrow morning? should I go at all? should I fly out tomorrow? how about from NYC or?? and how the hell did I do this? A few deep breaths later, I realized it is a mistake, decided it will be remedied and proceeded to the airport to beg for mercy. Did I mention logistical challenges?
At the Hartford airport, I proceeded to the JetBlue counter, without my bags, to see if there was ANYTHING that could be done. I was helped by two incredible customer service dynamos, Julie and Juan. “Night and day” could not even begin to describe the contrast between the telephone “service” we’d received and the exemplary service provided by these two. I explained by plight, and explained my needs. They apologized to me for the inconvenience and proceeded to squeeze me onto the next flight with the slightest of penalties for my incorrect reservation, and my eternal gratitude. They absolutely gained a customer for life and my respect for their professionalism, which I immediately conveyed to their manager and the world. This is the type of flexible response that we will model for our own customer service.
Upon landing in Orlando I went to the hotel to find that I had, of course, booked the hotel at the same time as the flight- with the same incorrect dates... unbelievable! The Days Inn “convention center” informed me that they had NO room for me that evening but that they COULD accommodate me for Sunday through Thursday. Whew! Lucky me, I got a room across the street form HIMSS11 at the very last minute. However, that left me stuck in Orlando, with no rooms available anywhere in town, at 9 pm on a Saturday evening. Tired, hungry, and needing a place to crash, we went into our creative, problem-solving, startup company mode...How do we accomplish the objective with the resources at hand? I had web-access and 30,000 friends, or soon to be friends, attending HIMSS11 with me- maybe one of them could help? A simple twitter request was re-tweeted by friends and lead to a wonderful late night discussion with a doctor friend from NYC before retiring to his extra hotel bed (Thanks again, Doc!). Lying down, exhausted, in the dark before visiting the sandman, I reflected on the day and decided that my dogged determination not only got me to HIMSS11 in time for Sunday’s kick-off, but was largely responsible for YourNurseIsOn.com’s amazing success at reinventing healthcare staff communications by creating an entirely new way to communicate, from a simple sketch on a napkin to an effective software as a service.
Perseverance plus presence equals opportunity, and our ability to rally, be flexible and to adapt to rapidly changing terrain allowed us to persevere through our travel challenges, to be present at HIMSS11 for the HIT Investor Forum on Sunday and to avail ourselves of the numerous opportunities present in a room full of HIT movers and shakers. The challenges that we overcame en-route lent perspective and clarity to the mission of the trip. This wasn’t optional, debatable or impossible- period! It was going to happen, had to happen and in true start-up fashion it did happen. I don’t present this story to wave my mistake to the world, but rather as an example of the “never say quit” spirit of new entrepreneurs worldwide who go “all in” to innovate, disrupt and change paradigms, possibilities and potential. The obstacles are “barriers to entry” and if you allow them to stop your mission, you will certainly fail. My advice to those visionaries, change agents and disruptors is simple- If you experience an adversarial customer “service” person, a logistical nightmare or seemingly insurmountable odds- don’t despair! Work the plan, be creative, solve the problems, side step and keep on dancing to your own tune. If you are true to your “music”, your vision is unclouded, and your motives are pure- your chances of success increase greatly. No one but yourself can make you stop pursuing the dream and, I don’t know about you, but nothing (and I mean NOTHING) is going to stop me from sharing YourNurseIsOn.com with the world! Good luck with YOUR journey! I believe you can do it, and look forward to your successes.