Don’t Let a Process Get In the Way of Making Smart — Even Common Sense — Decisions

Shep Hyken
3 min readNov 17, 2022

Here is another customer service horror story about a woman who was so fixated on a process that it almost cost her “customer” his life.

My friend Jerry went to the emergency room of his local hospital. He was in excruciating pain. Something in his abdominal area was not right. He truly felt like he was going to die.

Doubled over in pain, he limped through the waiting room to the registration desk and begged to see a doctor. The woman behind the desk said, “I’m sorry you’re not feeling well. There are two people in front of you, and you’ll have to wait your turn to register. If you sign in with your name, I’ll call you when we’re ready to get your information.”

He said, “I think I’m dying! I’m not going to make it.” After several minutes of pleading, she eventually gave Jerry the attention he deserved. Something was seriously wrong. Well, good news and bad news for Jerry. The bad news is that his appendix had burst and he needed immediate medical attention. The good news is that, even though it was serious, it is a fairly routine surgery. And during surgery, the doctor discovered he also had a hernia. (Ouch!) Today he’s doing just fine.

The process in the ER was for patients to put their names on a list — not to see a doctor, but to register to see a doctor. After waiting their turn to register, the patient would then wait again before being taken back to the examination room. However, that’s supposed to change when there is a true emergency. Somehow, the woman working reception was more interested in the process than the person. She didn’t recognize or acknowledge Jerry’s pain. Her lack of common sense judgment could have cost Jerry his life.

Managing the reception and registration process in a hospital is tricky. People come in with pains and sicknesses that, while uncomfortable, aren’t life-threatening. Then there are patients with more severe issues, such as a heart attack. The people on the front line assess the situation and determine if the patient goes straight back to see a doctor or gets sent to the reception area to wait their turn.

The point is this. It doesn’t matter the type of business you are in, regardless of processes and systems, sometimes common sense must prevail. If we hire qualified people and properly train them to do their jobs, we should let them do what they were hired to do. Give them permission to say “Yes,” teach them when they must say “No,” and coach them on finding alternatives to avoid saying “No.” Empower them to make good common-sense decisions because, in many situations, common sense prevails!

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, keynote speaker, and New York Times, bestselling business author. For information on The Customer Focus™ customer service training programs, go to Follow on Twitter: @Hyken

Originally published at on November 16, 2022

Shep Hyken

Shep Hyken, customer service expert, business speaker and New York Times bestselling author, helps companies deliver AMAZING customer service and experiences!