In the Seinfeld episode called “The Frogger”, one of the sub-plots is about Jerry dating a girl who has the annoying habit of completing his sentences.
Before Jerry can complete saying them.
And it annoys him.
It annoys him so much that each time she does start to complete one of his sentences, Jerry goes on to correct her and complete the sentence with dramatically different verbiage that is way more different than what the girlfriend and we the viewers were thinking.
Are you doing this in your Dental Practice?
Are you completing your patient’s sentences?
Before they get to complete their own sentences?
Are you second-guessing your patients?
Are you getting it wrong?
The answer is you *ARE* getting it wrong if you are finishing your patients’ sentences before they have the opportunity to complete them.
Stop doing this!
Firstly, you may think you know what they are going to say.
You may think that you can anticipate your patients’ thoughts.
You may believe you are helping them by finishing their sentences for them.
But some times, we can be wrong.
And being wrong once is too many times.
And that is not really very clever.
Let your patients speak until they stop speaking.
Its not very clever is trying to anticipate what your clients are going to say.
Hear them out.
Let them speak until they are finished.
Stop being the master of your own voice.
There’s a good reason why we were given two ears, but only one mouth.
And that’s because it was intended that we should listen twice as much as we speak.
Don’t be in a hurry to complete your patients’ sentences for them.
Allow them to speak.
And when they finish, ask them a question.
About what they just said.
To continue their momentum.
It’s very difficult to find out exactly what our patients need if we are the ones telling them what we think they will need before we listen to them tell us what they need, completely.
So ask another question.
To ensure complete clarification.
Rather than jumping in because you *think* you know what they are going to say.
Or you *think* you know what they are meaning to say.
Patients who feel that they have not been listened to will leave your practice and go elsewhere.
They will go looking for a dental office where everyone takes time and listens to them.
Rather than lectures them, and talks back at them, or interrupts them
So take some time out and reflect on all the communications that your office has with your patients.
At each interaction who is speaking more?
Is it the patient?
Or is it you?
And are you allowing your patients to finish their own sentences?
So that you can find out exactly what it is they expect?
When you get things right, price becomes irrelevant.
When you get things wrong, then people start feeling like you’re nickel and diming them.
Last week my wife and I took six days off to rest, recharge and reflect.
We’d planned the time off a couple of months ago, but the rest and reflection was even more relevant for my wife who lost her father suddenly only three weeks ago.
Our six nights away included three nights in a remote luxury lodge on Kangaroo Island, South Australia, where everything was all-inclusive, followed by three nights in another luxury accommodation in the world famous Barossa Valley.
On Kangaroo Island we could not fault the operations at the Southern Ocean Lodge.
Although their accommodation was at a premium cost, everything was included, and I mean everything.
I mean breakfast, lunch, dinner, pre-dinner drinks, after dinner drinks, wine, beer, spirits, in room mini-bar, you name it….
Tours were included. Tours to see major landmarks. Tours to see kangaroos. Tours to see fur seals. Tours to see Koalas in the wild. Drop offs for self guided bushwalks. Guided cliff top walks.
Our stay also included $400.00 of credit to be spent on spa or shop products.
And at breakfast, lunch and dinner, if you wanted more eggs, more marron, more oysters or more kingfish, or more of anything, well, nothing was ever refused.
And interestingly, in the twenty-one room lodge, they worked on an open door policy.
Although a room key was provided inside our room, we never locked our room door when we were out during our whole three days.
There was really no need to leave the lodge, and no need for a car, despite the lodge’s location in the wilderness being an hour away from the island airport. The lodge organised all transfers.
There was no corner store.
There was no nearby village, or nearby anything for that matter.
But there was no need for a “nearby anything”.
The only down side was that Wi-Fi internet was really slow. So slow, that we were left to answer emails via our phone carrier rather than via our Macs.
But hey, was that a bad thing?
I know. It’s a first world problem….
And of course there was no TV.
Each evening after dinner we returned to our room to find the bed turned down, the blinds drawn, and the room bathed in a glow of mood lighting and music.
We wanted for nothing.
And the time there was truly relaxing.
In contrast, our time at the Barossa was go go go.
We had Cellar doors to visit, wines to taste, both old favourites and some new discoveries.
We visited quaint little towns and met interesting people and businesses.
We travelled in our hire car over bitumen and dirt roads, with some questionable signage discovered about dry weather roads.
[A sign warning a road was only suitable in dry weather did not report that although it was now a dry dirt road, during previous wet weather a heavy vehicle had created some serious twelve inch deep furrows in our track that needed careful negotiation!!!]
And at night we dined out at three of the finest restaurants in the district.
Each of which was trying really hard.
But maybe overly hard.
So hard that it showed.
Whereas our three lunches in the Barossa were all very gentle relaxed affairs, where everything was far less pretentious.
Or should I say, every thing at those three lunches was far less phony.
Sometimes sincerity shines through like a beacon.
Sometimes a lack of sincerity also shines out like a beacon, no matter how hard we try to appear sincere when we are sometimes way out of our depth.
And I have to say, by the end of the third evening in the Barossa, my wife and I had picked the service and the cooking at each of our three evening meals down to its barest levels.
And the judgments were not good.
Just like Pete Evans, we tried hard to look for the good, but the errors were seriously overpowering the highlights, each and every evening.
Like serving food before wine had arrived.
This happened on all three evenings.
And allowing wine glasses to become empty during the evening meals, without monitoring levels and topping up consistently to prevent this from happening.
And when alcohol sales is by far the biggest profit centre for all restaurants, wouldn’t it make sense to make sure that every diner had at least a half full glass in front of them at all times?
Topping up the wine glasses is also the best way for the restaurant to be checking in with it’s customers as many times as it can.
“How’s this wine tasting?”
“How was your first course?”
“Can I bring you more bread?”
Filling up the wine glasses is the restaurant’s equivalent of checking in with the dental patient during treatment.
And ignoring the diners’ wine glasses can have a similar detrimental effect on the diner in the same way as failing to ask our patients if everything is going OK for them during their treatment appointment.
Diners and patients who feel ignored start to pick holes in the operations of their respective establishments.
And rather big ones.
And although our accommodation in the Barossa was very nice, and expensive, it was less than half of the cost of the accommodation on Kangaroo Island.
And yet we took to the services in the Barossa with a fine-toothed comb, making verbal and mental notes that “they could have done this better, and done that differently….”
Yet at Kangaroo Island everything seemed far more appropriate.
Despite the fact the freight at the Southern Ocean Lodge was more than double the price of the Barossa Valley accommodation.
That fact seemed irrelevant to us.
What mattered more to us was the way that Southern Ocean Lodge took care of us.
From the moment we arrived to the moment that we left, Southern Ocean Lodge simply got it all right.
You see, when they rolled everything up into an all in one, one price for everything, it simply took all the worry about what to do away from us, the guests.
Because we felt like we were in safe hands.
We were home…
In my Dental Practice, I rarely if ever offered patients an itemized laundry list of their treatment plan.
Because what we wanted them to do was to have it *ALL* done.
So rather than have the patients turn up with these time-worn paper lists of things to do, our patients preferred to know only about how much is this all going to cost, roughly, and what are you going to be doing next time, and for what reason.
And just in the same way that my wife and I felt more relaxed and comfortable on Kangaroo Island than we did in the Barossa, I feel that this was exactly the same feeling we captured at our Dental Practice.
Our patients felt safe.
Knowing that we cared, and we had their best interests at heart.
And they could feel that care.
And it was palpable.
So that price, meaning our charge for their dentistry, really was irrelevant.
Can you create that ultimate caring environment in your Dental Practice?
Are your front office people just putting names into slots?
I hope not.
Sadly, this phenomenon recently happened to a dentist I know really well.
Here’s what happened.
My friend had a thirty-minute space in his schedule just prior to his 1:00pm lunch break.
He also had a forty-five minute time available straight after lunchtime at 2:00pm, before he began seeing his scheduled afternoon patients.
When his last patient before lunch arrived and was brought down at 11:15am, the 12:30pm slot prior to lunch was still empty.
So here’s what happened.
At 12:25pm, while my friend was still completing the retraction for what had been a difficult single tooth crown preparation, the phone in his treatment room rang twice, much to his and his assistant’s surprise, to indicate to them both, that their next patient was outside waiting.
This is how the next patient is announced at his practice. It’s done by using the phone, rather than by someone walking down to let the dentist know.
What was surprising to my friend and to his assistant both was that neither of them had been advised by the front desk that a patient had been put into the vacant 12:30 slot.
So the two-ringing phone was quite a surprise.
And although my friend likes to think that he has mythical super powers, he knows for a fact that he is not Nostradamus.
And therefore he is unable to predict the future.
So while he was simply cruising along, taking his time to ensure that his crown prep and impression were truly world class, what would have been nice, he thought, was if someone from the front desk had gotten up and walked down to ask him where would have been a good spot to put the emergency patient.
[And a true emergency it really was not. The patient appointed had an inflamed wisdom tooth, and could easily have been put in, under advisement, into the vacant appointment time after lunch.]
So my friend, assuming that the pre-lunch spot was still vacant, had been taking his time. And as a result, had now put himself and his patient, as well as his assistant, and his waiting patient, under the proverbial pump.
But for no good reason.
Because had he been asked, my friend would have directed the front office lady to schedule the wisdom tooth patient in at 200pm, straight after lunch, and then everyone would have lived happily ever after.
And nobody would have been the wiser.
And nobody would have been unnecessarily stressed, all of a sudden.
My dentist friend pointed out, and rightly so, that his monitor in his treatment room was displaying radiographs of his patient being treated, as it should have, and therefore did not display the appointment book.
When different compartments of a business start to operate as silos, and not as integrating components, then these sort of faux pas will occur and keep occurring.
And it’s purely and simply because of the technology being available to allow this operation in isolation to occur that it does occur.
A situation like this would never have happened at my practice, because we encouraged verbal communication over digital communication within the practice as much as possible.
Despite the existence of a digital alternative…
So, at my practice, even if the appointment had been slotted in at 12:30pm, as it had been for my friend, what would have happened is that when the receptionist had come down to let me know of the booking, she would have been advised by me that the booking needed to be moved to the 200pm slot to fit in better with what was happening at that time.
But really what would have happened at my practice is that my receptionist would have slotted the wisdom tooth patient in at 2:00pm anyway, and then let the patient know that there was a possibility of coming in sooner. She would have then informed the caller that she just needed to check on a couple of things, and would get back to her if the earlier time did become free. Then the receptionist would have come down and checked with me to see if the 12:30pm slot was more suitable.
It’s everybody’s role in the Dental Office to think about everybody else there, and what would work best for everyone.
Miscommunication, as well as missed communications, create lose-lose situations in our practices.
Breaking down the silos, and taking a step away, back to the good old days when people actually spoke to each other rather than texted and emailed, might just be a good thing in some instances at the Dental Practice.
And here is one of those instances, where two rings was not worth a thousand words…