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?” mode and 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…..
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