common sense customer service directors doctors egg donation egg donor agencies fertility clinics nurses patients

Really – What does the “C” in Customer Service Stand For?

By on October 22, 2008

“Can’t be bothered”?

Get my drift here? See where I’m going with this?

Now I realize that this post is going to most likely anger some of you in the service industry. And so I am going to apologize ahead of time if I step on a few toes, but really this post has been a long time coming.

This article is not about most fertility clinics or egg donation agencies, it’s about some. But the issue is that some of these agencies and fertility clinics who are not providing appropriate or even good customer service are making things tough for the entire industry. (Marna Gatlin, PVED)
From the moment I step into your clinic I am your patient, client, or customer. My money that I am paying for service at your clinic, agency, or firm is going to pay for your salaries, mortgage, car payment, vacation, your child’s braces, your alimony, child support, your child’s private school or college tuition, or other living expenses.

My responsibility to you is to be on time for my appointments, follow your advice, ask questions if I don’t understand the information given, make requests that are reasonable, be mindful and respectful of your time, be honest with you regarding questions you ask regarding my health , bring my insurance information each time I have an appointment if applicable, and pay my bill on time.

I have had to give up any control I have ever had regarding my body. It doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to. All I want to do is have a baby for God’s sakes. It shouldn’t be that hard. I turn to you, to the experts because you have come recommended to me, and I am assured you will take the very best care, and help me through this difficult time in my life.

But that’s not how it always plays out. For some patients, infertility treatment of any kind becomes a nightmare, and not because of the treatment itself, but because of their experience with their clinic or agency.

I am tired of being treated rudely but your staff because they are having a bad day. We all have bad days. I am also tired of being ignored, spoken to in a condescending tone, or treated like a child. I am not a child. I am an infertile woman for God’s sakes, who has way more education than some of you combined!

I realize that we define Customer Service as any contact, whether active or passive, between a customer and a company, that causes a negative or positive perception by a customer.

However, one would think that clinics and agencies especially would put their best foot forward when dealing with patients and clients. Don’t they know we are their bread and butter, and that word of mouth is one of the biggest advertising tool out there?

Some of the stuff I have heard over the past six months has been utterly amazing:

“I didn’t call you back because I felt there was nothing to worry about.”

“We are busy here Mrs. Smith, we can’t call everyone back who calls us you know.”

(Yeah, you know what? I am busy too, and I have waited a week for you to call me back about your clinic, so guess what, I’ll take my 25k to another clinic who actually returns my telephone calls.)

“We don’t do injection teaching here at this clinic, we figure everyone is pretty Internet savvy, and you can learn how to inject yourself on the Internet.”

(Can we say “potential lawsuit?”)

“The time my RE oh-so-sensitively told me, after informing me that my last IVF with my own eggs was again canceled due to poor response, “I think you are done with IVF.”

(Oh really? How nice of you to make that decision for me, at a time when I’m clearly devastated. I switched RE’s)

“When the report came back from the psychologist regarding the first donor we chose, there was mention of her needing to return to college on a particular date. I questioned whether or not we had sufficient time to go through this process and our egg donation agency insisted we did. When we signed up, we were told that a clinic rep accompanied every donor to the first doctor’s visit. The first donor we chose (in the first week, I might add) went to the first doctor’s appointment at the Infertility Clinic alone and was supposedly never heard from again. According to my doctor, she had no clue about how the process works and told him that she needed to return to college on a certain date. She was shocked to find out that he would be dictating the schedule and not her. The clinic offered no apology and we were told “this never happens”. Well obviously it did!?!? And obviously the psychologist and I saw it coming?!? They wanted to charge us for a rematch. My lawyer got involved and they ended up not charging us.”

“On my second failed procedure with my first RE, she called to tell me the bad news. I asked her a few questions and during the discussion she told me that “you were lucky to have had your son” in a condescending tone. It literally took my breath away and my heart felt as though it fell to the floor. We had no trouble conceiving my son and didn’t get any fertility help until having three consecutive miscarriages after having him, so it’s not as though we perceived having him as medically lucky. Although their may be some technical truth to what she said, I see no value in telling it to me. I believe it was mean spirited and we switched RE’s. By the way, this particular RE had horrible SART statistics. If only I knew then what I know now, I would have seen a much better RE initially.”

“They began sending us profiles that did not meet our single-most important criteria which was blue eyes. We were not asking for a lot of criteria, just similar coloring to me and most importantly blue eyes. After a dozen or so profiles of brown and hazel eyed candidates (who, by the way, had no other resemblance to me either) I called the clinic and the representative actually asked me “Isn’t hazel good enough?” Meanwhile, she interrupted our conversation to take a phone call from her daughter. When she returned, I asked if she can see the resemblance to herself when she looks in her daughter’s eyes. After she told me she could, I explained that the possibility (just the possibility) that I might have a chance to have a blue eyed child was one way that I too might be able to have that same feeling when I look into my child’s eyes.

She promptly sent me blue-eyed candidates.”

(I should hope to shout she sent this mom blue-eyed candidates, if she wanted hazel eyes she would have requested an egg donor with hazel eyes. Isn’t hazel good enough – oh please, this is not like this mom is ordering a damn car, her feelings matter for goodness sakes.)

“With my first RE ( I switched REs later), pursuing conventional IVF with my own eggs, on my second protocol, I went in for monitoring and did not have much follicular recruitment. The US tech asked if I wished to speak with the RE. I did. She put me in a little waiting room, and I waited for over TWO hours with no one ever coming in to check on me. When the RE finally appeared, it wasn’t what he said, it was all his body language. He was clearly irritated that I wished to speak with him, and he clearly didn’t find it within his job to take time to speak with me. This same RE later spoke with DH on the phone about the dismal results and told us the clinic would be terminating our shared risk agreement due to “something unforeseen wrong with my eggs that no longer made me a good candidate” and when asked what else we could do, told us “adoption”. This was in a large clinic where they have a DE program. ????????. Granted, it wasn’t me who spoke with him on the telephone, so I am not sure EXACTLY what was said, but there is no love lost with this MD, who is a sixty something year old, and the clinical director of the large practice. So at that point, I am devastated, and wondering if I am in danger of dying from “something unforeseen wrong with my eggs”…at age 33… you know, a little touch of compassion for the folks who shell out the big bucks so you can earn a living might be nice…gee, I am getting angry just reliving this…”

“The second donor we chose never showed up for the first doctor’s appointment at the Infertility Clinic and was supposedly never heard from again (now, I’m suspicious, considering this “never happens”). According to our egg donation agency, a representative was meeting her at the clinic, although I never thought to contact my doctor to confirm (no surprise that I had my suspicions about this too) The clinic offered no apology or explanation. We then decided to explore other clinics/options and they charged us $900 to leave the clinic for “services rendered”. What service?!?

All’s well that ends well as I am now almost 31 weeks along however we (the DE recipient community) shouldn’t be subjected to these shenanigans to begin with. Our egg donation agency  set us back a year time-wise in this process. Plus, we ended up losing about $3,000 as a result due to the $900 charge to leave the clinic and additional money set aside in my flexible spending account that went unclaimed. Let’s not even mention the emotional and psychological affect it had on myself, my husband and our marriage while we recovered from the financial setback and reeled from the thoughts that this might never happen for us.”

(This Mom had a great outcome, but how many others don’t have great outcomes and no one to advocate for them?)

“Well we kind of promised this donor already to another couple, but we also promised her to you because we wanted to make sure she would cycle this spring.”
(You kind of promised this donor I already put money down on ??? Because the egg donor wanted to make sure she would have a for sure cycle in the spring at my expense?)

“Bleeding is normal, don’t sweat it.”
(Excuse me, bleeding is not normal, it’s COMMON but it’s not normal.)

And then there are the sighs, groans, teeth grating, and the tone of voice that occurs when you seem to ask a question that whoever is on the other end of the phone doesn’t want to deal with. All of the sudden we become big fat inconveniences and burdens, and that doesn’t make anyone feel great, I don’t’ care who you are.

And some clinics and agencies don’t bother returning calls or emails for days and days.
I have even had women ask me – “You don’t think the clinic would intentionally screw up my cycle because they don’t like me, think I am a pain in the neck, or a problem patient.”

Now that is just darn sad.

And your front office staff, your front line, who’s supposed to our first contact with your clinic or agency. News flash folks – If I can hear your receptionist refer to a patient on the phone as a pain in the ass or a bitch – then what in the hell are they saying about me the moment I hand you my check for the 500 bucks I once again spent at your clinic as I walk out the door?

With that being said, we KNOW and REALIZE we are not your only client or patient. We know you have other people to interact with other than us during your day. But our concerns, questions, and issues are valid. You can be rest assured if your clinic or agency called we’d be hopping to and returning a call in a 24 hour period.

From where I stand it’s all about an imbalance of power. The clinics and agencies have it, we don’t. They hold our reproductive lives in the palms of their hands. Is that the way it should be? I don’t think so. I think there needs to be a balance.

You are our service provider, we pay you for that service. One would think that in return for appropriate medical care we’d receive decent customer service.

One would think.

  1. Reply

    PVED Mom

    October 23, 2008

    (The comments keep on coming)

    How about an RE saying “I don’t have access to our statistics,” and “I really don’t know anything about POF even though I can diagnose it when I see it,” or a nurse saying “Wow, you are so young to need egg donation! Most of our egg donor patients are AT LEAST ten years older than you and already have kids…they just want to have kids with their second husbands!” (My first RE…short-lived, after that consultation, we were done!)

  2. Reply

    Yet another mom

    October 23, 2008

    This wasn’t an RE but it was the gynecologist that removed one of my ovaries (that had a giant dermoid cyst attached to it). I asked him about children. He said, “you will never have children.” Period. That’s it. Nothing else. Did not suggest seeing an RE. Did not say anything else. Just closed the door on everything.

    I cried.

  3. Reply


    October 23, 2008

    When going in for my initial infertility work-up with my first RE, he diagnosed me with PCOS after glancing through my file (sent by my OB) right in front of me. I asked him why he thought I had PCOS (knowing that my OB had tested my FSH at 24.5, which he said nothing about), and he responded, “Well, you are a teacher. Let’s see how well you were listening. What did I just explain to you?” I then pointed out the high FSH number, which he hadn’t even looked at in my file, to which he responded, “Oh, this is bad. This is really, really bad. This changes everything.” I immediately fell to tears, and he said, “I see that I’ve made you upset.” Ya think?????????

    I started the clomid challenge test after that, never actually getting to take the clomid, because my first blood draw showed an FSH level of 82 at the age of 27. His nurse called to tell me the news at work- not him. I got a new RE immediately, and am now 14 weeks pregnant with DE IVF.

  4. Reply


    October 23, 2008

    I just want to comment that this was such a well written article. I had many terrible experiences at three clinics and do not want to share any of those experiences with readers because I have mostly forced them out of my mind in order to cope and try to be a somewhat happy person now.
    Fed Up But Didn’t Give Up!



Portland, OR

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