Are you so caught up at work in your doing of what you’re doing that you totally forget about the customer?
I speak and write about this process of disconnect so so often.
Yet businesses, and dental surgeries, fall into this category. They get so tied up into what they have to do on a day-to-day, minute-to-minute basis that they ignore their customers, sometimes acting as if the customers are not even there.
When they are.
And it’s an ignorance that these businesses need to remove.
Keep being ignorant to your own peril…
I see it so so many times….
I see patients arriving at doctors’ offices, at Dental Practices, only to have to stand unattended, ungreeted even while someone able-bodied sits there right in front of them and talks on the phone or looks at a computer monitor.
And ignores the arriving person, as if they aren’t even there.
And so the arriving patient feels unwelcome.
Purely because they are being brushed off as an interruption.
It’s almost as if there’s a word bubble appearing above the head of the staff member saying:
“Can’t you see that I’m busy?”
“Just wait. I’ll deal with you when I’m ready to…. and not one second earlier….”
Yes this goes on…
At one X-ray clinic near my home the signs are offensive to customers….
And is this because the staff there perceive the customers as an interruption to their duties?
Because that’s the message that these signs, and the staff by their actions, sure are giving…
I visit Dental Offices regularly.
And one of the things that I do when I visit is to sit in the waiting room [they all call them waiting rooms] and watch the patient flow.
And this soon tells the story.
At one dental office I visited, I watched a female patient arrive and stand there, ignored by the woman on the front desk for well over three and a half minutes, while the employee was speaking on the phone.
Not even an eye raise?
Nor a motion towards a comfortable seat?
Or a mouthing of “I won’t be a moment…”?
And the story get’s better….
Finally when the receptionist finished her call, she then told the arriving lady to take a seat. After this, another woman arrived at the practice and joined me and the first woman in the waiting room.
Incredulously, the receptionist then engaged in a personal conversation with the second woman, without trying to communalise it and draw the first woman into the discussion.
The first woman must have felt ignored. And ignored. And ignored….
Last week, while in Melbourne for a workshop, my wife and I visited a restaurant that we had visited several times before. Over several trips, and several years.
When we arrived for our booking, we let the maître de know that we had been there before, including a special occasion where we had been seated at the prestigious front row table by the open kitchen.
Our words obviously fell on deaf ears.
The maître de asked us whether we’d like a drink at the bar or to go to our table.
“Let’s have a drink at our table.”
This was obviously too much information for the maître de to comprehend, because when we were seated at the table he slipped into the “what kind of water would you like? Tap, still, or sparkling?” modeand totally forgot our prior request sixty seconds ago for adult beverages at the table.
He did not return, but obviously flick passed the service to a waiter, who arrived with the chosen water and menus, but failed to offer us a pre-dinner beverage.
Our waiter, from Paris, ran through some of the extensive menu, making several suggestions and recommendations.
But at no time did he stop to ask:
Had we been there before?
Were we thirsty for a pre-dinner drink?
Did we have any dietary requirements or restrictions?
So here’s what happened next…
We ordered our pre-dinner drinks, along with our first courses, and our second courses, as well as two glasses of red wine, which we asked to follow on from the first drinks.
So guess what arrived first?
The first course of food arrived.
With no sign of the pre-dinner beverages.
In the background, in the corner, we could see the wait staff running around like Manuel and Basil from Fawlty Towers.
Our pre-dinner drinks were found, apparently having been delivered to another table.
So it was said to us.
But still, the order was all wrong…
So what else could happen here…?
When our second courses arrived, my wife’s duck dish had four big pieces of cooked pork on the plate.
Now, for dietary reasons, my wife and I both choose not to eat red meat.
So, we called the waiter over, wondering whether we had missed reading the letters P.O.R.K. on the menu?
Sadly, we had not.
The word “pork” was omitted from the menu.
And so the dish needed to be replaced.
Oddly enough, the waitress who attended to us, this moment, did mention that this uncomfortably awkward situation had arisen a couple of times in the past.
And yet, this awarded restaurant had failed to pre-warn its diners about the presence of the offending pork chunks.
Through all our interactions with all of the restaurant staff, and now there were many involved, there seemed to be no desire to get to know the customer.
The wait staff seemed too intent on just going through the motions.
How could they have improved upon their poor service in this occasion?
Here are my suggestions:
The maître de should have realised from the information that we told him that we had been visiting this restaurant for a long time, at least seven years.
When he seated us, the maître de should have asked if we would like a pre-dinner drink. Why the heck not? What is it with restaurant staff selling water now ahead of asking about alcohol?
The waiter who took the food order should have asked if we had any dietary restrictions. This would have prevented him boring the pants off us describing dishes we choose not to consume. It would have also prevented the pork surprise on the duck.
The waiter who took the order should have asked if we had any favourite dishes? After he’d bored me to death describing the shanks and the beef and the pork, in my cathartic state I totally missed the pasta section on the menu and missed out on visiting one of my favourite dishes of all time.
So what happened next?
The restaurant made a very poor, poor, feeble attempt at service recovery.
We were offered “One free dessert”?
Now we had to ask the new waiter, who appeared to be the floor manager, to repeat this as we were confused.
“One free dessert”.
Was that my dessert plate free, but the dessert for my wife not free?
Or was it both desserts free, but don’t think of having four desserts each for free?
Whatever it was, it was a poor attempt at retribution for the series of service fails.
We chose not to reward the restaurant with any more of our funds, or attention.
We asked for our bill.
The bill was presented to us with an explanation that our pre-dinner drinks would not be charged for.
Well whoopee do.
So they removed their lowest cost items only?
Here’s what I would have done.
Firstly, I’d have made a significant concession on the meal cost.
Not that we were looking for a free meal, but I think a concession of at least 50% was in order.
Secondly, here’s the sweetener I would have applied, and I’ve yet to see a restaurant ever do this…
I’d have made an offer of complimentary desserts and complimentary wine at your next visit….
You see, as it stands, this restaurant has no way of knowing if we will ever come back.
And if we do return, the staff on that night [in the future] will have no way of knowing that we’d been the victims of a previous massive service failure.
No way at all.
Whereas with the pay-it-forward offer of wine and desserts, as future diners we’d be identified for a “we’ll try harder” standard of care.
But now, no one will know…
So how’s all this working in your dental office?
How can your staff use this story of woe to help raise the bar?
Well for starters, your staff need to ask questions, and they need to get to know their customers and patients.
“Have you been coming here long?”
“Why do you like it here?”
“What have you had done in the past?”
Now I know all this information is available in the patient’s file, but boy, doesn’t the patient feel special when the dental assistant sits down with them, eye-to-eye and knee-to-knee, and asks them these questions as if they are well, a real live person?
And not simply just a couple of teeth and a credit card…
Believe you me, this stuff makes a difference.
To the customer.
And at the end of the day, that’s the only person for whom it all really matters.
Because without happy customers, all you’ve got is a ghost town…..
To be the tallest building, you can either build the tallest building ever, or you can tear down those taller than you…
Which would you choose?
When I built my Dental Practice in the heart of Western Sydney, I chose not to look at what everyone else was doing.
In a land of fibro homes, where people had average incomes, average jobs and drove average cars….
I chose for my practice to deliver exemplary customer service to those in the area that preferred to be treated better.
I wouldn’t have even known who my nearest competitor was, because I was focused on being better for my patients tomorrow than I was for them today.
And being better did not mean getting my mates to give me fake five star ratings on my Facebook page.
Because that would be misleading advertising….
And being better did not mean bagging my competition either.
Because there’s a market out there for those customers who want to treat dentistry like a commodity.
But I did not.
I treated every patient like true family and friends.
I gave them only the best World Class Ultimate Patient Experience each and every time they came in.
From the beginning of their visit right up to the moment they left our Dental Office.
You see, I knew the numbers.
I did not need to be the best Dentist in town to every person who lived in my town.
I only needed to be the best Dentist to those in my town who chose to receive my services.
You cannot be everything to everybody.
But if you choose a niche, and service that niche exclusively, you will be successful.
When a dentist around the corner from me gave me his patient files because he was retiring and was unable to sell his practice, I wrote to the patients in his data base on his recare programme and told them:
I only did white fillings
I had a dental hygienist
My fees were higher
I had all their records
And about one hundred of those patients chose to come, and stayed, and received care and treatment beyond their wildest expectations.
But you have to be honest with your customers.
When they go to your website and read the “About Us” page, don’t put up rubbish like
Dr Brown believes in the fundamental importance of continuing education.
Dr Brown believes in the fundamental importance of life after death…
What the heck is “fundamental importance” anyway?
Except a tautology.
Tell us that Dr Brown has three kids and likes playing golf, wrestling water buffalo, or abseiling down three hundred metre cliff faces.
And tell us about all the staff on the “About Us” page.
Not just about Dr Brown.
Tell us that Mary on the front desk loves taking her grandsons to the ice rink on the weekend. Tell us that Julie the hygienist is a soccer goalkeeper on Sundays.
But don’t ignore your team and the fact that they are human.
Because when and if you do get a new patient into your office, they’re going to see that the team is “about” more than just “the fundamental importance of continuing education”.
It’s been said, time and time again, that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care, and that’s all they really want to know:
Are you a real person?
Are you nice?
Are you going to hurt them?
So don’t go rabbiting on about all the courses you attend.
Customer Service is not a *Thing*. It’s not a department. It’s not a process. It’s not a policy. In every organisation, providing World Class Customer Service that is memorable needs to be a “culture”. It’s more than the Kool-Aid that everybody drinks from. It’s the oxygen coursing through the arteries and veins of every employee and manager and owner in your organisation. It’s their life-blood. Having said that, this then means that looking after the customer is not the responsibility of one person, or some people in your organisation, but not others. Looking after the customer is about *everybody* in your organisation putting the desires and wants of the customer, and other employees, ahead of their own. Every time. Providing world class memorable customer service becomes a way of life for those who embrace the culture.
Because it’s not about just simply living and breathing that culture at work, it’s about living and breathing and *being* that culture at home, and at the store, and in your car. You know what I mean. It’s as if you’ve been bitten by the customer service bug. And that bug’s bite is contagious. There is no cure. And that’s a great way to check that you have the right team on board. Because your team is always looking, looking, looking for ways of doing things better. Better for the customers. Are you looking at your Dental office procedures and policies from the viewpoint of your patients, your customers? Or are you looking at those protocols from the viewpoint of the most important person in the equation? Are you looking at everything from the viewpoint of your customers? When my team and I wrote the Ultimate Patient Experience for our dental practice we dissected everything that happened in our Dental Office and looked at each step or stage from the Customers’ points of view first and foremost. With those views in mind, each team member then came back with a review of each of their steps that they were responsible for so that everything the team then formulated was made to enhance the *experience* that the customer was receiving. And so our patients soon came to realise that a visit to my Dental Office was not about teeth and credit cards. It was always about them. And the dentistry was secondary. So how exactly do we do this? Firstly, the primary thought in the Dental Practice needs to be that Service, World Class Service, is our primary driver. Everything we do in our practice must be based around the philosophy of being the best we can be when it comes to dealing with our clients. There’s no point in being efficient, but cold. Or rude. Just to be efficient. We’ve got to know that dentistry is a people business. And we need to look out for our customers, as people, and our staff as people too. And so we need a clear and precise Mission Statement for our business And a Vision Statement. Both of which support or practice culture. As our standard. As our reference point. Once the team has an understanding of where we want this ship to sail to, we need to make sure that we have only those who want to sail the ship on board. We want no conscripts. Only volunteers. Because the path to success is sometimes not always smooth sailing. Once we have the right team members on board we need to empower them with the authority to do what’s best for the customer. Dentistry is a grudge buy for most of the community. It’s like buying tyres. Or car registration. Nobody likes to do it. Except those clients of Ultimate Patient Experience Dental Practices. Because those patients know that their visit is never about the teeth. It’s about the experience. It’s a visit about catching up with friends. And we have to keep remembering this. Time and time again I see Dental practices slipping back into old habits. They use jargon and technical terms in front of patients. They even use jargon and technical terms when talking to patients, as if they are trying to implant a Dental Degree into the brains of those patients then and there. They give the patients too many options, only confusing the poor patient. Often the patient only wants to know what’s best, and when it needs to be done, and what will happen if it does not get done in that time frame. And that is all they need. If the patient does not have a dental degree why on earth are we giving them “options” so that they can choose? Because a decision by an uneducated person is really no decision. Part of great customer service is helping the patient to make the correct decision. And if we’ve got the culture in place, and we’ve worked out our processes that support that culture, then the doing of the Dentistry becomes very pleasant. And patients who trust us and like us because they feel comfortable with the way that we treat them will more often than not decide to go ahead with best treatment. People do business with people they like and with people they trust. And our World Class Culture promotes that trust. ****** My upcoming two day workshops will be held in Manhattan in April as well as in London in August. You can reserve your places here: Click Link To Order and also Here ***** Have you read my book , How To Build The Dental Practice of Your Dreams [Without Killing Yourself!] In Less Than Sixty Days. You can order your copy here: Click Link To Order ***** The Ultimate Patient Experience is a simple to build complete Customer Service system in itself that I developed that allowed me to create an extraordinary dental office in an ordinary Sydney suburb. If you’d like to know more, ask me about my free special report. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.orgDid you like this blog article? If you did then hit the share buttons below and share it with your friends and colleagues. Share it via email, Facebook and twitter!!
I posted the following quote onto my personal Facebook page last year.
I’ve checked to see who wrote it, as it seems well quoted. As far as I can see it was written by that great philosopher Anonymous.
I wouldn’t have the gall to claim it as my own.
Yet just this week I saw one writer do just this thing with another article about secrets every dentist needs to know. When I dug deep I saw the so called secrets were principles lifted from a thirty three year old [non dental] classic best seller that had been published in over thirty languages and sold over thirty million copies….
Which meant they were thirty-year-old secrets. Hardly really “Secrets” at all….
I’ve always said that whenever you choose to follow a leader, first make sure they are headed in the right direction.
This is because if they are not, you can end up in a completely different place than where you thought you were going to go.
Along this line, then it is true that it is sometimes better to go it alone than to be in the company of the wrong people.
I’ve seen people take advice from the wrong people.
At times I’ve taken advice from the wrong people.
And regretted taking that advice.
I’ve seen people ask the advice of their friend, their spouse, and the unqualified.
About investment, about finance, about a business, only to regret taking the advice that was given.
Because the person they asked was only a pair of ears.
And not a sage.
So why not seek advice from the right people?
I came across a chat forum this week where some dentists were moaning about a run of cancellations in their schedules.
And of course they started blaming.
Blaming the month. Blaming the patients.
And seeming happy that they all had the problem. And because of the commonality, it must not have been them that was the cause of the problem…
But when we point the finger of blame away from ourselves there’s always three more fingers pointing right back at the true problem.
And it’s us.
The reason patients cancel is they are unsure and not clear about why they actually have to come in, and if they have that doubt it is because our office has not given them, the patient, enough information, enough concern, enough worry about why they absolutely need to be having that treatment when we say they have to get it done.
Because concerned patients who understand keep their appointments.
And the concern and clarity about what is next has to begin with the doctor and then be carried forward by the team.
And the team must be with the programme.
And even if the team are with the programme but do not know what to do, and the doctor does not know what to do then they all need to be taught by people who can help them.
Rather than communally blame the month.
Or the lousy patients…
You see, it’s not the movies.
You just don’t wake up with magical powers and new skills.
You need to go and be taught those new skills.
And you need to take action on those skills.
Not put the lessons on a bookshelf and hope by some magical power the knowledge is teleported from the notebook into the brains of the people who need it…
But there’s always people who are unqualified who will have an opinion, often wrong, about things…
Free advice from the unqualified is worth every penny you pay for it.
Often the opinionated are not wise.
They’re just loud.
Who better to teach you golf?
A golf pro, who makes a living from the game, and can perform at the higher levels?
Or take advice from your playing partners, who chop it around once a week, if that, and have never broken 100, let alone 80?
Speaking of golf clubs, there’s never ever a shortage of members who know how to grow grass better than the course’s head green keeper.
But ask those members to look after one hundred acres of manicured fairways and you’ll see them dissolve into a puddle of indescribable goop right before your eyes.
Beware of opinion laced with Tall Poppy Syndrome.
Runs on the board do count.
Opinions are like tailbones.
Everybody has one.
Like I said, whenever you choose to follow a leader, first make sure they are headed in the right direction.
And make sure that they’ve been there and done that…
“It Is Better To Be Alone, Than In The Wrong Company.”
Tell me who your best friends are, and I will tell you who you are.
If you run with wolves, you will learn how to howl.
But, if you associate with eagles, you will learn how to soar to great heights.
“A mirror reflects a man’s face, but what he is really like is shown by the kind of friends he chooses.”
The simple but true fact of life is that you become like those with whom you closely associate – for the good and the bad.
The less you associate with some people, the more your life will improve.
Any time you tolerate mediocrity in others, it increases your mediocrity.
An important attribute in successful people is their impatience with negative thinking and negative acting people.
As you grow, your associates will change. Some of your friends will not want you to go on.
They will want you to stay where they are.
Friends that don’t help you climb will want you to crawl.
Your friends will stretch your vision or choke your dream.
Those that don’t increase you will eventually decrease you.
Never receive counsel from unproductive people.
Never discuss your problems with someone incapable of contributing to the solution, because those who never succeed themselves are always the first to tell you how.
Not everyone has a right to speak into your life. You are certain to get the worst of the bargain when you exchange ideas with the wrong person.
Don’t follow anyone who’s not going anywhere. With some people you spend an evening: with others you invest it.
Be careful where you stop to inquire for directions along the road of life.
Wise is the person who fortifies his life with the right friendships.“
Received an email from a Dentist client last week about a misunderstanding between a paying patient and his front office person.
The misunderstanding was concerning the out of pocket cost to the patient for a crown the patient had just received.
And the answer is simply that the problem arose because the patient did not have total clarity as to what they were expected to pay.
Now this may have been a misunderstanding between the patient and the practice.
It may have been that the patient chose not to hear what they were being told.
It may have been that the patient chose to “try one on”.
Or it may have been that the patient was not informed at all.
Sadly, deciding who is at fault after the fact is like debating who let the chickens out.
The answer is not who is at fault.
The answer is to save as many chickens as we can gather…
The correct answer is damage control.
Minimalise damage and then review later once the dust has settled.
When I was in practice I was once called to my front office by my receptionist when a new patient, who I had just finished treating, was questioning the fee for my treatment.
And so he said to me, when I arrived at the reception office, that he had not been told about how much his treatment was going to be.
As the treating dentist, I had assumed that he had been given costing options and fee estimates when he had made his appointment over the phone.
And when I had asked him whether he wanted to save his tooth rather than lose it, he had answered that he wanted to save it.
And so as his dentist I extirpated the pulp, dressed the tooth and temporized the cavity.
And the patient left the treatment room with the understanding that the next step was a visit to the endodontist.
Anyway, when I arrived at the front desk, the patient said he had not been pre-informed of the cost for treatment.
And so here is what I said to him:
“I apologise. Normally every patient that I treat has an idea about what our fees will be, and it appears that in your case our process has let you down.
“So here’s what I’d like to do for you.
“I’d like you to pay me whatever you believe my treatment for today is worth….
“AND PAYING ME NOTHING IS OK…..”
The patient was surprised.
This is because the patient was looking for an argument…
And so I repeated to him exactly what I had just said:
“I apologise. It appears that our process has let you down.
“Pay me whatever you believe my treatment is worth.
“AND PAYING ME NOTHING IS OK…..”
And I left it with my receptionist.
By doing this, I dropped the rope.
I was not going to compete in a tug-of-war over fees that I could not win.
Because even if I had succeeded in having him pay me my fee that I billed, I would have lost.
I would have had one very unhappy customer.
Because the way I figured it, I was on a hiding to nothing to win this.
Patient was not given, or did not acknowledge receiving these three magical words:
CLEAR. NEXT. STEP.
And when that happens, you’re pushing the proverbial up hill…
It’s a battle you cannot win.
And so it’s all about damage control.
Thirty years ago, as an assistant dentist, I became involved in a rather “heated” and awkward discussion with a patient, [who I had gotten on well with prior to this], about the fee for a unilateral chrome partial lower denture.
And although I stood my ground for the practice, and the fee, and received full payment, my boss came to me later and said:
“If I was you, in that situation, then I’d have just given him what he wanted”
And although there were times following this, and in my own practice, where I completely forgot about my employer’s advice and wisdom that day, as I think about it today, he was telling me, or teaching me, the exact same lesson.
And that was, that it’s better to let go of the rope.
In this day and age, with social media and review sites, unhappy patients are in positions of even more power than ever before to leave indelible imprints in unfair circumstances.
And so, as you embark on a journey of who is wrong and who is right, sometimes it pays better, to be wrong, and be a loser, for some of the time.