By DR SIMON HOCKEN
Customer service eh? Everybody’s at it, or claims to be; those ubiquitous dental website claims of “treatment in relaxed and friendly surroundings” promise customer service by the bucket load.
And a few practices are getting good at it; however, many more are willing to let their ringing phones go through to the answerphone in the middle of the morning…
My two-pennyworth is that in life, customer service is getting worse: all those automated messages (does an automated message apologising for a late running train count as customer service?) and self-serve tills in supermarkets and WH Smiths are pretty much the opposite of customer service… Anyway, all this makes it easy for your business to stand out if you get your customer service right. Better get it right too, because the customer has a raft of social media to vent their spleen on (I should know) if you don’t.
The problem for the practice owner is that even when the majority of the team are delivering truly excellent and memorable customer service, it only takes one saboteur to wreck your client’s experience.
Let me give you an example;
Recently, my wife, my nine-year-old son and I stayed in a hotel near Chichester so we could attend a weekend of motor racing at the Goodwood Circuit. I booked the hotel online (a large business-style hotel just off the motorway) with very little in the way of expectations, just somewhere for us to sleep and have dinner.
However, right from the off, every one of the staff we encountered was truly excellent, the receptionist checking us in was friendly and kind, the room had a cookie with my son’s name on it (he was impressed), the table-waiting staff for a late dinner were very kind and helpful and the next evening, after a cold day in the circuit’s grandstands, we had a swim in the pool aided by nothing-is-too-much-trouble leisure centre staff.
We were already commenting how nice the hotel was when we went to the restaurant to find a table for dinner. Then we met ‘The Restaurant Manager’, suited and booted with contrasting white collar and blue shirt. He would be unable to seat us, he said, because the restaurant was full (despite it being obvious that there were empty tables).
He wanted us to eat in the bar, which was uncomfortable and empty. So we headed back to our helpful receptionist who set about finding us a nearby Pizza Express or similar. While this was going on I went back to our man in the contrast shirt and asked how long would we have to wait to get a table; he explained that he couldn’t let us eat with our son after 8pm as it was against hotel policy.
I reminded him that we had done just this the previous evening and nothing bad had happened! He was adamant and kept repeating the words “hotel policy”. By now there were five empty tables in the restaurant. He went off to see what he could do and, meanwhile, I asked a waiter if he had heard of this particular hotel policy; of course, he said no.
When I relayed this to the restaurant manager, while pointing out the empty tables, he seemed to explode with anger. I was happy to stand my ground, and he eventually capitulated; we were served in the restaurant and just like the evening before we had a perfectly nice meal.
The restaurant manager transformed himself into an unctuous, servile John Cleese, nothing being too much trouble now. Maybe he was worried about the reviews I might leave on Trip Advisor (I didn’t). I don’t know why he got so angry, I don’t know what he thought our nine-year-old was going to do to wreck the dining experience of other guests (paradoxically, my boy was the only person in the restaurant wearing a jacket, apart from the restaurant manager!).
Whatever his motivation, he single-handedly and comprehensively wrecked the goodwill that the rest of the hotel team we encountered had built up.
The parallels with dental practice are obvious and in my many practice visits I get to meet and hear about a lot of really talented saboteurs. For example:
- The business prevention receptionists who, when a new patient calls, relentlessly asks, “Are you registered with the practice?”
- The hygienists who routinely hurt their patients
- The hygienists who routinely tell their patients off for not flossing
- The dentists who routinely run late
- The associates who won’t stay at the end of the day for an emergency patient
I could go on… If I were still a principal I would be very curious about what was being said and done in the name of my practice and I wouldn’t rely on daft CQC-style questionnaires to persuade myself that the clients were being well treated.
If you would like some help with identifying and getting rid of your talented saboteurs, call or email me for a chat.
m. 07770 430576