June 17, 2013
Those of you who follow my posts know of my passion for delivering exquisite customer service. Clinical excellence is of course an unquestioned requirement for success in dentistry, but our patients are usually not capable of evaluating our performance. But they certainly can make judgments on how they are treated. The need to create nothing short of a fabulous five-star experience for each and every interaction between the dental office and the patient is an absolute. Everyone who works in the practice is equally obligated to try to provide a level of excellence and respect and caring – from the doctor to the clinical team to the business team. Easier said than done. Over the next few months, I’d like to offer my thoughts on how to make your patients happy – so happy that they would never ever think of leaving your practice.
Over the years, I have had my gallbladder removed, my prostate removed, two inguinal hernias repaired and one umbilical hernia repaired. Probably a bit more complicated than a quadrant of restorative dentistry! But never once did I ever get a post-treatment telephone call from the surgeon. Four different doctors–four different surgical practices–each time the same lack of attention. Give me a break – I mean if you cut someone open, don’t you think you might want to call to see if they are okay? I find that behavior unacceptable. But it illustrates one of my favorite sayings about customer service: “It is not hard to be good when everyone else is so bad.”
I recommend that at the end of every day, the doctor – not any other staff member – but the doctor personally makes a two-minute telephone call to check on any patient who has undergone an extraction, endodontic treatment, or even restorative dentistry of two or three teeth in a quadrant or an arch. I made these calls every business day for the 29 years I was in practice. In my opinion, these calls significantly contributed to the growth and success I enjoyed.
After the treatment visit and before the patient heads out to the front desk, the doctor should say something like, “Joe – there is a good possibility you may be uncomfortable when the local anesthesia wears off. Here is a prescription for 600 mg. of Ibuprofin. If you need anything stronger, just give me a call.” Do NOT tell the patient that you will call. It should be unexpected.
A staff member prepares the patient list with telephone numbers so that the doctor can easily make the calls at the end of the day from the office or using a mobile phone on the way home. Usually, with good clinical technique, our patients are rarely very uncomfortable. A typical response to the doctor asking “how are you feeling” is often “I am actually doing fine.” Since you told the patient there was the likelihood of discomfort, this makes you look good. And if in fact they are uncomfortable, you told them this was a possibility.
Patients are blown away that a busy doctor takes the time to call. It is just not something they expect, and they share this experience with others. I was recently discussing my ideas on customer service with a physician friend who feels the way I do. His response was “As I get older, I find I am not surprised by anything, but I still get very disappointed.” I told him how jaded I have become over the years and how I now almost feel that the key to happiness is to have no expectations.
The fact remains that people do have expectations, and people are disappointed with what they perceive to be unacceptable behavior. In your practice, please strive to go the extra yard and do the unexpected. Make that call. You will definitely be rewarded.
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