Fred Joyal, the author of the best-selling book, Becoming Remarkable and CEO of Futuredontics, advises that two principal factors strongly impact whether a new patient will return to your practice:
1. How they were greeted and treated upon arrival.
2. Whether or not they were seated on time.
In other words, simple courtesy and respect for another person’s time equal customer service, which is critically important to our practice’s success.
Planning is key to success
Having owned and operated a general practice for thirty-five years, I understand that dental office personnel may well be too busy to provide a timely, warm, and personal greeting upon a patient’s arrival.
However, that shouldn’t prevent a team member from flashing a quick smile or giving a friendly wave of a hand in acknowledgment. Completely ignoring a patient’s arrival or shoving a clipboard filled with registration forms toward them, in my opinion, doesn’t rise to the level of customer service excellence.
Running on schedule (or nearly on schedule) each day shouldn’t be an issue either since we largely control that schedule. If we time our most common procedures and use dental practice management software with ten-minute intervals, we can generally stay on time.
Allowing an extra unit or two of time for a difficult patient or procedure might negatively impact profitability to a small degree, but the day will be far less stressful.
Finally, cross-training team members and always keeping an empty chair provides needed flexibility to manage that hard-to-numb patient, a hygienist running late, or a patient who needs a temporary crown re-cemented.
It’s my firm opinion that a quality morning huddle sets the stage for a fantastic day. Orchestrating each patient’s care in advance is the real key to service excellence. That’s what Fred is talking about: a practice becomes remarkable only by providing a remarkable patient experience from start to finish.
Customer service fail
Earlier this year, I woke up feeling like I’d been run over by a truck, with aches from head to toe. Although I’d had the high-potency vaccine well in advance of flu season, I felt like curling up in the fetal position and spending the day in bed. That, however, was not an option, as I was preparing to fly out the next day to give four presentations in two cities over the next five days.
I called my physician’s office at 7:00 a.m. only to learn that the office opened at 8:45 a.m. I called again at 8:50 a.m., getting a recording advising me to leave a detailed message, which I did. Receiving no response by 11:30 that morning, I called again, discovering that the office was now closed for lunch.
At that point, I sent a fax detailing my name, date of birth, personal care physician, the nature of my complaint and symptoms, and a request that the antiviral Tamiflu be phoned to my pharmacy since I needed to be on a plane the next morning.
Four hours later, a nurse from my doctor’s office finally called to acknowledge my messages and to schedule me to be examined by the doctor the next day. When I pressed her regarding my travel schedule and reminded her that I was a licensed dentist, she finally agreed to phone in the prescription.
Thanking her, I called my pharmacy to advise them of the pending prescription and asked them to let me know when I could pick it up. That call finally came at 6:45 p.m., just fifteen minutes before they closed.
In the end, I didn’t get the flu, but I DID become thoroughly frustrated by my experience.
You can “choose” success
Imagine if I, in dentistry, ran my dental office management like my physician’s medical practice, which took slightly fewer than 12 hours to authorize a prescription for a long-time patient of record!
The good news, however, is that we don’t have to; because it’s our practice and our choice.
Providing our patients with customer service excellence not only enhances our success, but also gives us the opportunity to practice with less stress, reduce burn-out, have more fun, and find joy in every day. And that’s truly “remarkable”!
Meet the Author
Sharing 40 years of clinical and business experience as a speaker in the dental profession, Dr. Wayne Kerr earned Mastership in the Academy of General DentistryOpens in the AGD website (AGD). He was honored in 2011 with its presentation of the Life Long Learning and Service Recognition Award.
He is a Fellow of both the American College of DentistsOpens in the ACD website (ACD) and International College of DentistsOpens in the ICD website(ICD). State and local organizations have recognized him as Dentist of the Year, Small Business Person of the Year, and Citizen and Professional of the Year.