I was out to dinner with friends last week and as usually is the way the subject turned towards service.
Or more importantly in this case lack thereof.
Here’s what happened.
We were a group of seven.
And we’d asked for a table outside on the verandah.
And as there were none immediately available for us we decided to wait rather than dine indoors.
And so what happened was that the wait for the table seemed to be taking a while…..
And this wait seemed to disappoint some of my friends, who had been to this restaurant before.
To me the wait time wasn’t a bother. I was happy sitting and chatting.
It had been some time since I’d seen some of these friends, and so sitting and “visiting” suited me quite easily.
What did concern me though was that our group was “parked” on a lounge, and no beverages and refreshments apart from water were offered.
Which to me was a customer service fail.
You see, to me, when I’m looking at how to run a restaurant, this is the easy part.
As a patron, so long as my glass is half full, I’d not really be concerned about the delay to eat.
And I’ve seen this sort of situation managed beautifully before at other restaurants.
A good drink, and good friends, and I’m at peace.
Unless I’m famished.
But my friends felt abandoned.
You see, there was little or no schmoozing or concierging going on for our group.
Nobody from the restaurant came to offer us adult beverages.
And nobody from the restaurant seemed to want to come and update us on the progress of our table.
Nobody brought us any snacks to nibble on while we waited for our table.
My friends felt abandoned.
To me it seemed as though the restaurant just did not have enough wait staff working to have someone available to make our party feel welcomed in their establishment.
And in dental we can be guilty of this same thing.
A patient arrives for their appointment and sometimes the receptionist might say:
“I’ve checked you in.”
And that’s all!
Or if they’re lucky it might be an exotic:
“Won’t be too long. Just take a seat.”
Take it where?
Can’t we do better?
Because dental patients are usually likely to be spending hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars at a time, we should be concierging them with care and attention.
We should not just parking them in some “waiting room” or holding bay until its time for us to be treating them.
For only a few dollars an hour, we can employ an extra person to fill the role of concierge at our office, attending to our patients, feeding and juicing them, making them a herbal tea or a skinny cap, or just plain spending some time and visiting with them, in the lounge.
Yes in the lounge.
Not ignoring them.
Not hiding behind some high upstand counter or computer monitor.
Visiting with the arriving patient rather than parking them allows us to maintain the patients emotional status a whole lot better than if we abandon them into some waiting room.
Because we all know, just like in retail, when we’re waiting and unattended we tend to let our minds wander.
And wander into the negative.
We start to look around…
“Why are there not enough staff?”
“Did she really just say that?”
“Is this six month old magazine the best they can do?”
“That air-con vent could do with a clean…”
“That picture looks crooked…”
Whereas the client that we attend to is the client that we distract from these thoughts.
When we are attending to the waiting patient rather than abandoning them and parking them, we’re actually activating two of Cialdini’s Principles of Influence.
Firstly there’s the Principle of Liking.
The patient feels liked, and in so feeling, they also like back.
They like the fact that you like them.
They like the concierge.
And they like your Dental Office.
More than if they’re just parked.
The second Principle we put into action is the Principle of Reciprocity.
The patient feels that if you are giving them time, and attention, and beverages and food, then they can feel a need to reciprocate that attention.
And that reciprocation may be that they feel more comfortable with accepting our treatment suggestions.
More accepting than if they’d been left like a shag on a rock to simply just sit there and wait.
While we waited for our table at our restaurant, one of my friends made the comment that where she buys her shoes, there always seems to be a long line of women, shoes in hand, waiting to pay for their shoes they want to purchase.
And my friend feels a frustration with his sort of situation.
Because although there is always a line of willing paying customers, my friend observes that there are usually only three cashiers working to process the payments, despite there being ten available registers.
My friend and I discussed how many organisations out there feel that keeping the paying customer waiting is acceptable business practice.
Because my friend felt that on one recent occasion, if she’d not been lined up with her daughter, she’d have simply dropped the shoes and walked out, and gone down the road to a different store where the service is known to be better.
And the shoes aren’t that much more expensive.
I reminded my friend that in Dentistry, we often see the shoe line at our front office reception each hour.
Multiple dentists, multiple hygienists, all completing patients on the hour….
This means multiple patients coming out, and often there’s a line up of patients to sign, pay and schedule.
And in just the same way that my shoe shopping friend had a disconnect at the shoe store, our Dental Patients are disconnecting when we make them have to wait to pay for our dental services.
And in exactly the same way as when we park them in the waiting room, we also seem to be parking them in a line at our check out.
And that just makes for another opportunity to disconnect.
“I’m about to give them several hundred dollars, and they’re making me wait here in line?”
Again, for a few dollars an hour we can employ extra staff to eliminate the lines at our checkouts and stop our valued patients, about to give us hundreds and maybe thousands, from being disconnected.
Am I making some sense here?
You see, there’ll always be opportunities for our patients to mentally disconnect from our practice.
It’s our role to reduce the number of those opportunities.
The fewer times we leave our patients to their own devices, the more we stay connected to them, and them to us.
So ask yourself these questions.
Are you abandoning your patients?
When they arrive?
In the treatment room?
At the checkout?
After the checkout?
You see, you can be the best dentist with the gentlest pair of hands ever.
But if you’re disconnecting from your clients when you need to be connecting, it doesn’t matter squat how great your margins are or how beautiful your flaps are or how many lasers and Cad-cams you own..
Children spell “LOVE”, T.I.M.E.
And our patients spell “Dentistry” exactly the same way.
So stop parking your patients.
Start spending time with them.
And they’ll love you.
I guarantee it!
My upcoming in depth two day workshops will be held in London in August.
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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.
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