February 28, 2013
My wife and I and two other couples recently went out for dinner. The dining experience was horrendous. 7:30 reservation–seated at 7:50. Another 15 minutes before we got drinks. Our server finally takes our order. We obviously had plenty of time to study the menu! Someone requested swordfish blackened. The waiter says “not possible.” But right above the swordfish on the menu, there is a selection of mackerel blackened. “Sorry–that is the way the chef serves it.” I wanted garlic mashed with my tuna rare. Sorry–there is no replacement for the fries which come with the tuna, even though mashed are clearly available with other selections. You get the picture. No one ordered an appetizer, yet our meals were not served until 9 PM! At that point, nobody enjoyed the meal. The food was decent, but nothing to write home about.
The manager finally came over to apologize as we were eating, and offered all kinds of excuses. We certainly expected some kind of courtesy discount on the bill to mollify our obvious displeasure with the restaurant. Unfortunately, that was the next disappointment. On the way out of the restaurant we saw the manager, and let him know in no uncertain terms that we would never return because he had missed his opportunity to at least do some kind of damage control–some complimentary offer to get us to come back–to show off his restaurant in a more favorable light. Later that night I wrote a blistering Yelp review–it was all true.
What has this story got to do with dentistry? Hopefully a great deal. This restaurant failed miserably to make me feel special. The customer service was abysmal. Hopefully your dental practice never has a bad day like this. But in my consulting experience, I often see so many examples of behavior that are guaranteed to turn patients off:
- A potential new patient calls asking for an appointment for a teeth cleaning, and finds out that they must come in first for a separate appointment to see the doctor before they can make the cleaning visit. Why not give the patient what they requested?
- The phone is not answered over lunch. Why not rotate staff so the phone is always answered during the business day? For many people, lunch time may be their only opportunity to call.
- The phone is not answered by a person but by a very complicated message machine–press one–then press two, etc. So it takes you forever to get to speak to a real person. Very frustrating – very impersonal.
- There is a lack of customer friendly business hours. 8:30 to 5 – Monday through Thursday – just won’t work for a big part of the population.
- There are very rigid financial arrangements. If you wish to do more comprehensive dental treatment plans, you need to offer user friendly payment options.
- The doctor runs behind schedule on a regular basis. This is flat out unacceptable. Patients will respect your time in direct proportion to the way you respect theirs. If you are running late, at least do something concrete to apologize – like free movie tickets or a Starbucks card.
- The “wrong” person is answering your telephone. She doesn’t smile–often says “no” to requests–and may actually even be uninformed and certainly not helpful. The person answering your telephone is the “face” of your practice – and may in fact be the most important person in your employ.
People today tend to be more demanding, so you have to be up to the test and the task. But if treated with exemplary, consistent, over the top “the customer is always right” service, people will really respond and make it a point to go out of their way to tell others about their positive experience. And that, of course, is what you want to happen. Motto -do everything possible to avoid fish stories.
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