Customer Service in the Dental Practice

Positive customer service: the waiter at a restaurant you frequent greets you with a smile, remembers your favorites, and serves you wonderfully every time. Negative customer service: Your flight was delayed; you finally arrive at your destination but discover that your luggage did not. When you report your missing bags to the airline representative, she doesn’t seem to care at all that you’ve been wearing the same clothes for almost 24 hours. She smugly hands you a form to fill out and tells you to step aside. By the feelings these two scenarios evoke, I’m sure you can tell which would be best for your dental practice.

In dentistry I believe that we need to offer service beyond expectation. Dentistry is so much more personal and permanent, unlike a good meal. When you’re dealing with a patient’s dental health, appearance, and well being, your staff should strive to do everything possible to deliver superior service.

A Habit of Positive Service

Providing exceptional patient service should become habitual. The service begins the moment a patient walks through your door. I’ve received mixed quality of customer service when I visit dental offices unannounced. Many welcomed me with a smile and asked how they could help me. Others at least said, “Hello.” But some never even looked up from their computers. Every person on your dental team should make it a priority to let the patient know they really matter. When patients feel that you care, you begin building relationships. When patients have a good relationship with you, they are less likely to shop around for a new dentist.

Building relationships can start by simply changing your greeting. Many people greet each other by asking, “How are you today?” While nothing is inherently wrong with that, the response is usually “I’m fine,” and that’s where it ends. Instead, try saying, “It’s so good to see you.” This sends a positive, affirming message to the patient and begins building that relationship.

Hotel Hospitality

I met Julio several years ago when I was a guest at the Courtyard by Marriott in Sandy, Utah. I stay there just three or four times a year, but no matter how long it’s been since my last visit, Julio always greets me by name and with a welcoming smile. While I’m preparing for a seminar he makes sure to meet all my needs before I even ask. The meeting room is set up perfectly, and Julio has fresh iced water and sparkling glasses ready. He takes care of the sound and technical setup and always goes out of his way to make sure my day runs smoothly. Most gratifying of all, he brings warm, melt-in-your mouth chocolate chip cookies at just the right times.

Last fall, Julio had his wedding reception at the hotel. He saw me walk in from a business dinner and invited me in to meet his bride, family, and friends. He insisted that we have our photograph taken together. It was such an endearing moment to share with someone who had become a true inspiration to me. Julio is my friend and customer service hero.

Unlike Julio, who pours himself into his work and into the lives of the people around him, many just show up to work, do their job, and go home. When you encourage your staff members to provide the level of service and hospitality Julio gives to me, your patients will stay and enjoy coming to see you again and again.

Tawana Coleman is a practice development trainer with the Dr. Dick Barnes Group.