Last Sunday morning just passed I had reason to visit my local supermarket to collect a handful of groceries.
Well, actually five things.
The visit provided me with some thoughtful reminders about Customer Service, that as business owners and employees we sometimes overlook during our day-to-day running of our operations.
And we should not be overlooking anything.
Because it all matters.
Every tiny little piece matters.
I heard an observation yesterday that Disney Imagineers are trained to look at every scene and every picture from three perspectives:
It would pay everybody in business if they looked at every step or stage of their business from the Customers’ Point of View as well as from the Business’s Point of View.
Here’s what happened at the Supermarket:
The Locked Front Door.
I drove down to the supermarket after completing my one hour dawn walk around my local suburbs.
When I arrived at the glass front doors of the supermarket they were locked closed [they are usually automatic opening] and an employee inside looked out to me and raised his hand towards me gesturing that the store would open in five minutes time.
I had arrived early.
There were two other shoppers already outside the doorway, and in the following five minutes that we waited for the doors to be unlocked a further three shoppers arrived.
Now, I wrote about this “accommodation factor” last year in discussing a restaurant in Northern England that closed off its kitchen at a specific time despite the fact that travelers were still arriving and searching for a later lunch. You can read that article here.
And it’s the same sort of thing here.
It wouldn’t do any harm to be able to open the doors for business five to ten minutes early as a gesture of goodwill to customers.
After all, the staff needed are already inside the store anyway, and with self-serve checkouts now, it’s not as if customers are going to be lined up at the cashiers’ register [Real live cashier. Not a robot.].
There is Lesson #1. Is it easy to do something that encourages customer loyalty?
You see, I was in a bit of a hurry, so during that five minute wait, I debated whether to drive to another nearby market that I knew was open, or whether I should use the five minutes to run my car through the carwash next door to the supermarket. [I was going to the carwash straight AFTER collecting the groceries anyhow].
Any message that your business sends intentionally or unintentionally to your customers that has the customer questioning their loyalty to your business and whether it is more convenient to do business elsewhere in the future, is not a really good message.
Who Does What?
I’m a pretty straight up and down sort of guy. I know what I eat, and I know I don’t eat much.
I don’t stray away from my staple, core supermarket items.
So, I had to pick up six items on this trip to the supermarket. Some of the items were for my children.
So, I was a little lost looking for the margarine. I’d just located the chocolate milk [for my son] which had now twice been relocated inside this supermarket in recent times.
But I could not locate the margarine.
There were several employees working around the aisles, stocking and restocking shelves and also sweeping floors.
So I asked for directions.
Sadly, the employee I asked, was a floor sweeper who let me know that he did not have a knowledge of the location of food items in the supermarket, and that I needed to seek out another employee to help me find the Lurpak.
To his credit, this floor sweeper did go out of his way to locate another employee to help me with my directions.
Lesson #2. All floor employees should be trained in assisting customers with the location of products.
Supermarkets should take a lesson from Disney. The number one employee type who is sought out for directions at Disney parks is in fact the rubbish collectors and the street sweepers.
And all these employees at Disney are also trained to stop what they are doing and to walk the Park guests right to the attraction for which they are seeking directions.
Walk This Way.
Back at the supermarket, the floor sweeper located another employee to help me locate the margarine. Here’s what happened:
Me: “I’m looking for the margarine, thanks.”
Floor employee: “It’s down the end of this aisle.” [Motions with hand and arm.]
I walked the twenty metres to the end of the aisle and located the margarine. There was no Lurpak. Only an empty shelf space. I left.
Lesson #3. If a customer needs assistance, give them assistance and ensure that a result is achieved.
Passing off a directional wave as a “task completed” is really an incomplete task.
What does this all mean for dentistry?
Could we open our front door early to allow patients to sit inside? I hope so…. I used to see a neighbouring dentist of mine who had a queue of patients waiting to enter his office after lunch because he locked his front door at lunchtime.
Does everyone in your dental office have the skill and the knowledge to discuss possible treatments and sequelae with patients, so that the patient is better informed?
And are the team members instructed to lead the patient to areas in the dental office where they could find out more about what they are asking?
I hope your dental patients aren’t being given the virtual “brush off” at your dental office….
Last week I wrote a very interesting blog article as a response to the question raised on a Facebook Dental Chat Page about the value of providing extra service and the value or cost of providing gift bags to patients.
So impressed was I with the perspective that I had presented in that blog that, because of the relevance it created, I posted it as an answer on that thread on that very same Facebook Dental Chat Page.
And my blog was well received.
Not only did it stimulate further debate, it received glowing comments and was shared by other readers of that page into other groups and onto their own personal pages as well.
Here are some of those comments:
“AlrightDavid Moffet! ….. super blog!”
“Well Said and Thought provokingDavid Moffet.”
“Thanks for sharing so much master David Moffet!! This group has been there and done that and enjoy fresh content…. Most are positioning themselves for the 5 million plus practice…with most having excellent business skills but always looking for new fresh and unique pearls which you always give…thanks for sharing!”
“Excellent pointsDavid Moffet!”
I also posted the blog onto other Facebook pages as well, where it was also well received.
Interestingly, I did seek out another page in particular where I thought that my content would be relevant, but before I posted I checked with the admin there because the page had a list of rules about posting that was longer than the those on the security sign at the Statue of Liberty checkpoint.
I’m glad I checked because the admin came back to me and replied that his page did not accept any blog posts whatsoever, but I was welcome to post any tips that I had about saving money.
Now, this really started me thinking.
You see, I’d always considered throughout my business life that it was easier to make money and took less effort to do so than it did to try and save money.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not one for wasting or burning money, but I do feel that in most cases it’s a lot easier creating more profit by adding to your income than painstakingly spending time trying to trim your expenses.
Here are three examples of what I mean:
In 1998, as I was heading out of my practice at lunchtime for an off-site meeting that Monday afternoon with my practice coach, I bumped into the dentist who owned the dental office in the rooms next door to mine and asked him, in an off the cuff manner, whether it was his dental practice that had been advertised for sale in the newspaper on the weekend just gone.
And he answered “Yes”.
When I told this to my coach that afternoon, he told me these words:
“Whatever price he’s asking, just pay him, because no matter what it is, you’ll make it back in spades”.
And so I did.
The sale went through seamlessly, and the selling dentist worked on with me for another year transitioning his practice in with mine.
The $130K that I paid for that practice paled into insignificance really when I think that that purchase provided me with over $1M of income over the next ten years, and continued to provide income on and on and on.
Secondly, I remember back to 1986 when I was negotiating with Dr. Martin to buy his dental practice in Parramatta for $80K. [this practice was the practice I then owned then sold and managed for the next twenty-eight years].
I had found out about Dr Martin’s practice sale through a broker who was then entitled to a commission from Dr Martin on the sale. At the same time, another dentist had approached Dr Martin privately about buying from him, but was haggling him down in price some $5,000.00. in reality, this was not much more than the commission that Dr Martin was due to pay the broker on the sale to me.
History will show you that Dr Martin did indeed sell his dental practice to me for $80K, and that twenty-one years later, in 2007, I sold that dental practice, or what it had become for cash and shares that ended up being more than $4.1M.
It kind of makes you think that the other guy haggled his way out of a gold mine….
So thirdly, I would ask you this question:
You feel your dental technician is charging you too much per unit for the indirect crowns he’s making for you.
You’d like him to charge you $50.00 per unit less.
Do you call him and ask him to drop his price threatening you will take your business elsewhere?
Even if he does drop his price, how will that affect your relationship with him and what he thinks about doing business with you from this day forth?
Will he begrudge doing crowns for you at that discounted rate?
Will he do urgent cases for you rather than other clients’ work where he is collecting his regular fee?
Or will he be forever grateful to you for showing him some mercy and not taking your business away from him, even though you are now paying him less?
Ask yourself this:
Wouldn’t it just have been easier to improve your case presentation skills so that you were able to have one or two more patients per month go ahead with a single crown that in the past they’d been allowed to “think about it”?
Is it easier to make a little bit more money on the production side of your dental practice ledger so that you can keep a healthy working relationship with your lab, rather than him feeling that you are squeezing him down?
Now I’m not one for flagrant wastage and sure, there are times when overhead can be trimmed and needs to be trimmed, but in most cases it’s a lot easier creating more profit by adding to the income of your business than continually spending time trying to shave pennies off of your expenses ledger.
There are always two sides to every coin.
Sometimes one side is far more logical than the other.
I do like hanging out on those Facebook Dental Chat Pages that think about growing the pie.