When should extra charges be disclosed?

No one likes a surprise bill. Whether if it’s for more than  expected, or for something you thought was included in the price.

So when should any extra charges be discussed?

Common sense says they should be discussed before the service is provided or the product delivered. But some employees are either timid about mentioning it or unconscious that the customer may have a problem with the increased charge.

Case in point: A recent unexpected charge after a doctor’s visit.

For the last 10 years, I’ve belonged to an HMO that covers nearly everything for a reasonable co-pay. Name-brand prescriptions are more, and a few procedures may cost an extra co-pay. I’m grateful that I’ve been healthy and not had onerous health expendatures.

So imagine my surprise to be billed $550 for a 30-second medical procedure that I thought was included in my co-pay.

While I suppose I should have asked the doctor if there would be an extra charge, it wouldn’t have occurred to me to ask since in the last 10 years I’ve not been charged more than the co-pay for this bi-annual check up. I realize that doctors often don’t know if there is an extra charge, but I think now, in these days of financial uncertainty, it is their responsibility to discuss with the patient that there may be. There can then be a discussion on how critical the procedure is and the nurse or MA can look up the charge before the procedure is done. I think saddling a patient with an unexpected $550 charge for a non-critical procedure is unacceptable.

Why might the doctor not discussed this?

* She doesn’t have anything to do with the business side of care so had no idea it would be an extra charge.

* She is pressured to see more and more patients and felt time crunched so skipped mentioning it thinking the discussion would take precious time.

* She is sensitive to mal-practice suits in case she doesn’t do something that would have prevented a problem later.

* She thought there might be an extra charge but didn’t have or want to take the time to look it up.

* Felt it was her duty to protect the patient from anything that could be harmful so did what she felt was best.

* Was uncomfortable bringing up charges.

When your people are faced with a similar situation where an added charge will be incurred, what are the chances they won’t bring it up? Perhaps they have perfectly viable reasoning. The bottom line, though, is if the customer is upset by the increased bill, they will be unhappy, not only with the rep but with your organization for not making sure that discussing increased charges is a standard before the service or product is provided.

How can you ensure your people are having these potentially difficult conversations? By giving them training and role playing to make sure they deliver the information professionally. Without training and practice, they will seem stilted and they may be tempted to skip it all together. You can’t afford that.


Remarkable Customer Service...And Disservice

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