Open Letter to the COO of Delnor Hospital

Open Letter to the COO of Delnor Hospital

how to communicate with customers during constructionNote: My Mom is pretty sure I’m a lot like Taylor Swift. If you do something that upsets me, you’ll not end up in a song, but in a speech, book, and/or blog post as an example of what NOT to do. Here’s an example from my day today. I wrote this and sent it in the mail because the COO’s fax contact information is not readily available.

An Open Letter to Robert Friedberg, Chief Operating Officer of
Delnor Hospital, Geneva, Illinois

Robert Friedberg
Chief Operating Officer
Delnor Hospital
300 Randall Road
Geneva, Illinois 60134

October 2, 2013

RE: Patient Complaint

Dear Mr. Friedberg:

Imagine for a moment that your wife, [name omitted but can be found online], had to make her way to Delnor for a procedure. Yesterday, you would likely have reminded her that the main entrance to the hospital is closed, parking can be a nightmare, and to enter the hospital, it’s probably best to park on the north side because that’s where the entrance is now located. She might have been concerned about whatever health issue was bringing her to the hospital, but it wouldn’t be compounded by the stress and chaos of confusion around where to go and how to get into the building.

I wish I had that same “insider information” this morning. But instead I had to learn all that the hard way when I arrived at the hospital today and tried to find an entrance – any entrance – to the hospital to arrive on time for my appointment to get a CT scan as a follow up to the muco-epidermoid lung cancer I mysteriously contracted last year and had cured by the amazing Dr. Mollie McAfee.

Going to the hospital for most people is stressful enough, or in some cases happy and exciting with the birth of a baby, only to be met by the torn up parking lot, then have that stress exacerbated by severe lack of signage and less-than-friendly staff giving vague directions, and a less-than-empathetic receptionist … I’d be hard-pressed to recommend anyone go to Delnor hospital for any procedure.

I was not the only one lost and confused while trying to get to a destination inside your facility this morning. I was followed closely by several elderly people trying to find their way to appointments and simply an entrance into the hospital. Cutting through the cafeteria or going all the way back to the car to drive around to the other side of the building, all with no signage are not acceptable options.  There we were marching through the labyrinth of your parking lot trying to make our way to a front entrance that turned out to be closed, being told by a surly construction worker in broken English that the only way in was to walk back through the parking lot another 250 yards and go in “that door over there with the green roof.” They all have green roofs.  Seriously.

All of this confusion could easily have been remedied. I was on the phone yesterday with someone from your staff who called to confirm my appointment. At that time she could simply have mentioned as part of her script that the hospital is undergoing major renovations, to park around the north side of the building, and enter at the temporary entrance on the north (or wherever) side, and to arrive with enough time to allow for the limited parking as a result of the construction.  Of course that didn’t happen.

Further, the signage in the parking lot and inside the building for construction-related detours is either abysmal or non-existent.  Posted just inside the entrance off Keslinger Road is a small sign with so many directions on it, is impossible to read with traffic following behind, construction vehicles in the way, and the disorientation of the chaos. Why are there not signs posted outside every single entrance with an arrow that say, “Hospital Main Entrance During Construction – This Way?” Why is there not a single LARGE sign with the only two necessary directional lines on them “EMERGENCY” and “MAIN ENTRANCE DURING CONSTRUCTION?”  Why are there not ANY easily visible signs at that entrance directing visitors where they should park to enter the building?

I run an international communication consulting practice based out of my home in a nearby suburb. As a best-selling author and award-winning speaker, my clients from around the world pay me to find these communication challenges and suggest easy, quick, and low-cost alternatives to fix them. It seems your organization values good communication, based on the accolades for your nurses posted throughout the hospital. As a patient and a professional, I hope you get this right. Each day that passes is a challenge for your visitors and patients alike. I wonder how many dozens have experienced what I have but instead of alerting you, simply told everyone they know that Delnor is awful?


Felicia J. Slattery, M.A., M.Ad.Ed.


To my blog visitors: Have you ever written a complaint letter to the leader of an organization? What results did you get, if anything? We shall see if I hear anything. I’ll keep you posted.

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  1. Kate November 16, 2013 at 1:30 am - Reply

    This kind of situation is too, too, too common – drives me nuts too. ( For another classic example, just go to Google and enter “United breaks guitars” -without the quotes…and enjoy the song that Dave Carroll wrote about his situation.)
    The letter you wrote was perfect – we can hear the very controlled anger, even though you are perfectly cordial. Better you’re clear about the problem and how it affects you and many others, as what they can do about it to fix it.
    I’m also really glad to hear that you’ll be using it as an example in your future presentations, because it’s so easy for a corporate entity to ignore one little customer complaint. It’s less easy when the little customer has a big mouth.
    So I have to thank you for “doing something” about a problem that affects all of us in the form of inexcusably poor communication.
    Yay for Felicia – go get’em gal!

    • Felicia Slattery November 17, 2013 at 12:05 am - Reply

      Hi Kate-
      Thanks for reading and your comment! Here we are more than a month after I wrote this and still I have had no response. Sad, isn’t it? And you know, I’ve got a pretty big mouth! LOL

  2. Karen J October 5, 2013 at 3:19 am - Reply

    Well put, Felicia! I can’t imagine that the added stress of *confusion* (plus the extra walking, and likely being late) does any good for anybody – patients or visitors!
    I’ve never written to a head-honcho, but I’ve often called “customer service” about products or services, and gotten refunds or discounts.
    To those who say “Why bother?” I say “If I don’t let somebody (who can *do something* about it) know there was a problem, they don’t even have even a *chance* of making it right!”

  3. Angie October 2, 2013 at 10:15 pm - Reply

    Great post and letter! And yes I have written a complaint letter to United Airlines and connected with them on social media as well. They were on top of things, even called me personally and totally took care of everything. I was impressed with their action after the fact but I still would probably never fly with them on my own dime again. We got 2 free tickets for the situations but that will probably be the last flight with them. We’ll see.

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