Competent Clients? (Issue 998)

In which we are reminded that six of the scariest words in the client support world are, "Hey….No problem. We've got this."

I have a friend in his late seventies who, for several years has been in pain. Back pain, sciatica, shoulder pain, restless leg syndrome, a bit of a neurological wreck. During those years, he shopped doctors, hoping the next one could  identify the root causes and asking each for pain management medication. He could find only temporary relief.

Finally, he and his physicians agreed on fusion surgery,  two vertebrae in his neck. So, he went last week for that procedure. He was in hospital for a couple of days, then discharged. His wife picked him up. She asked, “How do you feel?” and he said, “Great! No pain. I am good to go” (emphasis on “GO!!”).

So they went. They drove an hour to their daughter’s house to celebrate her birthday. An hour later, they drove to see some other friends. Some time after that, they went on their weekly errands. They were out all afternoon and…

…by  9:00 pm that evening, at which time I appeared at their door with a couple of quarts of ice cream and a “hope you feel better soon” card,  he was lying on the living room couch in a world of hurt, face covered, motionless under a quilt.

We heard from his wife the following evening. Hadn’t been a good day for him.  Pain everywhere. He didn’t want to go see his surgeon again. Didn’t want to go back to the hospital. He took some pain medication. That relieved little; the pain was out of control.

And I thought to myself, “What were you thinking?” When he was discharged,  he was still protected by high-test hospital pain medications. What did he expect would happen? Multi-hour neck fusion surgery. Knock-you-out anesthetic. The whole nine yards. Did he think that he was just going to walk  out of the hospital to skip pain free through fields of spring tulips?

And, what were hospital staff thinking?  Did they (and apparently, they did) discharge a somewhat frail, physician-shopping seventy-eight year old man into a sunny April afternoon with no guidance to expect post-discharge discomfort (also known as “teary-eyed pain”) and no instructions to rest, go easy, no hopping around like 16-year olds starting summer vacation?

Two questions come to mind as we think about OUR  clients and the products and services WE sell:

Two questions come to mind: 

(1) “Are the patients or clients competent?” – do they have the knowledge and/or the discipline needed to have a good outcome?

(2) “What post procedure or post-purchase coaching or support do they need so they don’t get themselves into trouble?” with a purchased product or fail to achieve the intended outcomes of a procedure or purchase?

P.S.  He did finally call for help. He’s mending. Almost time for more ice cream.

Nick Miller is President of Clarity Advantage based in Concord, MA. He trains banks and bankers to attract and develop deeper relationships with small businesses. Many more Sales Thoughts like this and a host of other articles and resources at

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