Küster Dental Blog

Posts Tagged ‘customer service’

Gotta Know How to Smile

Posted on: May 14th, 2014 by James Kuester No Comments


There is a woman that works as a barista at my local Starbucks that makes me cringe whenever she is on the cash register when I come in. Occasionally, as I sit contemplating my next blog post, I’ll watch her and the other baristas as they hustle and work hard to serve up the various coffee beverages and keep the morning line moving. This particular woman probably hustles more than most of her coworkers. She is never idle. If there is a lull in traffic she is immediately looking to see what needs to be done next and jumps to it. There is no question that she takes her job seriously and puts tremendous effort into trying to do it well. However, she doesn’t seem to know how to interact with customers.

Being a barista requires one to interact with the customers. A significant part of the coffeehouse culture, and an area where Starbucks normally shines, is that they have consistently warm, friendly baristas that learn customers’ names, take time in spite of crushing lines to banter with them, and always provide service with a smile. This particular woman doesn’t seem to be able to do this. Perhaps it is her personality. Perhaps the manager has not bothered to coach her on her demeanor. Whatever the case, she is diminishing the coffee house experience with her gruff manner and lack of rapport with customers.

We see this same problem when performing Patient Experience Evaluations for clients. Front line personnel that are gruff and terse with patients have an immediate dampening effect on patient experience ratings. Patients want to be treated with respect and dignity and not like they are an annoying interruption to the person’s day. A warm smile and greeting go a long way toward helping to reduce patient anxiety.

For some people learning to smile, laugh, and engage with patients does not come naturally, especially while under pressure. This behavior requires training and coaching and consistent reinforcement until it becomes second nature. We believe everyone has the ability to learn to be warm and engaging if properly coached. As an employer one doesn’t have to hire for “type” – nor should they. But, one does need to understand the roll doing the entire job right plays in creating a positive patient experience and not just the technical proficiency portion of the job description.

You Have them at “Hello”

Posted on: May 9th, 2014 by James Kuester No Comments


Remember the old adage that you only have one chance to make a first impression? Well, we may not have as long as we’ve thought to make that impression. A recent research project has found that we humans form impressions of people from the very first “hello.” Michelle Trudeau on NPR’s “Morning Edition” reported on the research this past week. The way men and women say hello immediately causes us to form instinctive judgments on how trustworthy the speaker is, along with a host of other important attributes that were very important in keeping humans alive over the years.

Think about your dental office and how the receptionist answers the phone or says “hello” to people when they first walk in. I’ve always been shocked at how many offices I walk into to be greeted gruffly or with an irritated tone – like I’m interrupting their day. During our Patient Experience Evaluations this is one of the things we notice right away. If that first word out of the greeter’s mouth isn’t warm, friendly, and welcoming it sets a bad tone for the entire visit. The entire dental team has an uphill battle at that point to salvage the experience and send the patient away happy. Luckily, research has also shown that the way the patient is sent out the door has a very strong impact on how the entire experience is remembered.

Why set the dental team up for this much effort when proper training can avert potential disaster? Evidently, the famous line from Jerry Maquire, “You had me at hello,” isn’t all that far off.

A Walk on the Red Carpet

Posted on: March 3rd, 2014 by James Kuester No Comments
Roll out the red carpet for your patients.

Roll out the red carpet for your patients.

The red carpet.  Conjures up star studded events such as the Academy Awards and other award shows.  The people that walk there are special.  They get noticed. They get treated well.  Is it too much to ask to get a little “red carpet” treatment injected into our everyday lives?  The patients that come to your dental office deserve nothing less.

We’re not advocating that every dental office be designed with red carpeting.  That would be rather dull, wouldn’t it?  No, instead we’re advocating that the experience of walking into one’s dental office should make a patient feel they are the most important person in the world at that moment.  They should be immediately surrounded by colors, lights, and textures that make them feel calm, relaxed, and confident that they will receive excellent oral health care.  They should be greeted by a warm, smiling person that acknowledges that their presence is appreciated and important.  They should be offered a comfortable place to sit, a secure place to hang their coat, and a beverage to warm them or quench their thirst.  While the goal is to never have anyone waiting, one cannot anticipate the patient that arrives early or the unexpected procedure that delays an operatory from being available exactly as scheduled.

In accordance with HIPAA patients should not be addressed by their full names and there should not be a sign in sheet that identifies them or their appointment time where other patients may read this information.  Gone should be the ultra-unfriendly and overly clinical glass window that staff hides behind and cuts them off from patients.

We’ve never walked into a day spa that didn’t immediately make us feel good about being there.  The same thing cannot be said about many dental offices.  While dental offices are not day spas, there is no reason that dental offices can’t take a page from the day spa handbook on how to give patients a “walk on the red carpet.”

Hang it Up

Posted on: December 9th, 2013 by James Kuester No Comments
Hang it up

Hang it up

After my bought with poor customer service while traveling last week coupled with the onset of cold, snowy weather, I’ve really been thinking a lot about the reception dental office provide to their patients when they first arrive at the office.  I really believe the first few moments when a patient arrives at the dental office are critical to setting the tone for the whole visit.  If something happens to upset them, they’ll not go into the rest of the visit in a good mood.  For example, if they are not greeted warmly and with a smile by the reception staff.  Or, if there is no place to hang their coat or place their boots.  The first is a training issue, the second is a design issue.

Unless your dental office is located where it is sunny and warm all the time, your patients probably come to the office with coats at least half the year.  From now until April those coats tend to be heavy and bulky and are shed as soon as they arrive inside.  Affording a place in the design to hang them up not only is courteous to the patients but also keeps them from cluttering up the Waiting Room with them draped over chairs.  We also are aware a lot of patients are wary of leaving their coat in a closet and out of sight during their exam, so having hooks or hangers in each operatory is also a good idea.  Again, this keeps the coats up and out of the way and keeps your dental office looking neat and tidy.  A patient walking in for her appointment is most likely going to have a poor emotional response if she first walks into the office and finds the entire Waiting Room full of discarded coats all over the chairs.


Customer Service – Why is it so Hard?

Posted on: December 4th, 2013 by James Kuester No Comments
The Quintessential Doorman

The Quintessential Doorman

Because I travel a lot I get to observe a lot of examples of good and bad customer service.  I will admit that I am not immune to the expectations that certain brands represent in terms of quality of amenities and customer service.  This is what a good branding program is supposed to do.  Consequently, I am particularly sensitive when a property does a bad job of representing their brand.

For example, yesterday I was checking into a Hilton Hotel and pulled my car upfront.  I had a large amount of bags and was hoping to get assistance in transporting them to my room.  No one came out to meet me, so I parked, turned the flashers on and went in search of a bell boy.  Standing at the front door was a doorman in a long overcoat, top hat, and scarf.  I told him what I wanted and he directed me on how to self-park the car and access the lobby via the skywalk.  I again said, “I have a lot of bags.”  He just repeated the directions on how to self-park the car.  In disgust I hopped back into the car and went to park.

This is not the kind of service I’ve come to expect from Hilton – not a lower end brand, mind you, but the full-blown, downtown property type of Hilton.

As a small business owner, dental offices don’t have the same kind of marketing budget that large companies do to develop, promote, and train staff on the branding message so it is especially critical that they be diligent daily in protecting and promoting the branding message.  This means consistent training and reinforcement on how staff behaves and interacts with patients, how the office looks, and how problems are resolved.  Just like with hotels, there are lots of other dentists that people can choose from and one never wants to give a patient an excuse to go searching.

Before Changing Your Patient Experience Pause and Consider

Posted on: October 2nd, 2013 by James Kuester No Comments

When we go places frequently we develop certain expectations about the experience based upon how we’ve been treated or the level of service we’ve received in the past.  We do this whether we mean to or not.  It just happens.  When we go back and something we’ve come to expect is different we often experience say, “Hey, what’s going on here?”  This can either be in a good way or not so much.

For example, last night while my brother-in-law was in surgery I ran over to Qdoba to get something to eat for dinner.  I go to Qboba frequently but I’d never been to this particular Qdoba before.  One of the things I like about Qdoba is the fresh lime wedges to put in my Diet Coke.  They just make the drink more refreshing.  Well, I was standing at the beverage station looking all around for the container of limes and a Qdoba employee walked up and asked if he could help me.  I said, “Sure! I’m looking for your lime wedges for my soda.”  He said, “We don’t have any.”  I responded, “Oh, the ones I normally go to all do, I’m surprised.”  He responded with a grunt and walked away.

Well, I was a bit taken aback and was disappointed that I didn’t get a lime wedge for my Diet Coke.  Now, mind you, I don’t always drink my Diet Coke with a wedge of lime, but it is something I’ve come to expect at Qdoba and it wasn’t there.  The lack of the wedge diminished the Qdoba experience for me.

Now, let’s look at a visit to your dental office.  If your patients are used to walking in and being greeted by a warm welcome and a smile and perhaps even being addressed by name, I am sure this is something they enjoy and is one of the reasons they continue to return for their oral health care.  However, if they walked in one day and were greeted by a frosted glass window and a sign that said, “Sign in here,” they probably would be like I was at Qdoba, completely surprised and taken aback.  The dental experience they’d come to expect had changed – and not for the better.  Before making any changes in one’s dental office it is important to spend some time thinking through the dental experience from the patient’s perspective and consider how the change is going to impact their experience and expectations.  If the change isn’t going to enhance the experience I highly recommend you pause and reconsider whether the change is necessary.

How Well Does Your Dental Office Due at Delivering An Excellent Patient Experience?

Posted on: August 2nd, 2013 by James Kuester No Comments
Be Amazing!

Be Amazing!

My sister and I were comparing notes recently about how poor customer service in grocery stores is getting.  She lives in Wisconsin and shops at an entirely unrelated chain of stores than I do in Indiana, but so many of our experiences are the same: rude cashiers, insufficient number of cashiers to handle the volume of customers, lack of baggers that are trained how to do their job.  One has to wonder what is going on in the world of grocery stores that the same problems are occurring across the industry.

Unfortunately, the customer service complaints we hear about dental offices are quite similar.  We hear patients complain about rude receptionists – both on the phone and in person; waiting for 30 minutes or more past the appointment time to be called in for service; waiting on hold when calling to make appointments.  These are just a few examples – none of which produce a positive patient experience.

Why is it that dental offices seem so content to deliver such a poor patient experience?  Given the fact that there seems to be increasing competition and soft demand for dental services, one would think that dental offices would be striving for ways to improve their practice management in order to deliver an ever better patient experience.  Often the problem stems from both poor procedures – or the lack of them – and poor training of the staff on how to interact with patients.  A practice management coach, such as Gary Takacs can assist with getting the offices’ procedures in shape, and a coach like Starla West can train the staff on how to improve their interactions with patients.

In this age of heightened competition no one’s practice can stand to be turning patients away due to a lousy patient experience.

Do You Value Your Patients’ Time?

Posted on: July 3rd, 2013 by James Kuester No Comments
Our most precious resource,

Our most precious resource,

Earlier this week I took my father to the doctor for a follow-up appointment from his emergency retinal surgery in May.  We arrived at the office a bit early and were surprised when they called us in right away.  The eye tech performed a series of preliminary examinations and asked Dad how he was getting along.  Then she directed us to an inner waiting room and said the doctor would be with us shortly.  One hour and forty minutes later we were finally called to see the doctor.  I find this outrageous, and as a professional that makes my living billing for my time really want to send the doctor and invoice for wasting it without any apologies or explanations.

The doctor and his staff walked about the office, coming and going, with sour looks on their faces like keeping people waiting for hours was routine.  This was the first time I’d taken Dad for one of his follow-up appointments.  Mom usually does, but she wasn’t feeling well that day.  According to Dad this was a typical visit.  Seriously? No wonder they all have such sour dispositions.  If the office has no better time management and control over the schedule than was demonstrated during our visit I can understand why working there would be miserable every day.

As service professionals we owe it to our patients and clients to show them the same courtesy for their time as we expect from them for ours.  I see signs at reception desks all the time saying patients will be invoiced for missed appointments and please call ahead if running late.  I never see anything about how the office will compensate the patient if the office gets behind in its schedule.  Why not?  Don’t patients deserve to be treated better than we expect them to treat us?

Adventures in Appointment Scheduling

Posted on: May 15th, 2013 by James Kuester No Comments

I was working to make an appointment the other day to take my car in for a service appointment.  When I called the dealership their voice recording touted being able to schedule one’s appointment on-line via their website.  Being fond of web scheduling, I immediately hung up and went to the website.  The site was clean, neat, and easy to read.   I easily stepped through to selecting my date for my appointment.  Suddenly, no dates were available.  As far out as I could go on the calendar all I got was an NA for the date.

Not to be deterred I logged off and re-entered the site.  Again, everything went smoothly until it came time to select a date.  Again, only an NA would appear.

Needing to schedule an appointment I resorted to 20th century technology and dialed the service number.  This time I waded through the menu options and arrived at a message asking me to leave my name and number and they would return my call to schedule.  I did this.  All of this activity took place right after Noon.  As of 5:00 p.m. the same day, the time the message said the service department closed, I’d yet to receive a return call.  The next day I waited until 10:00 a.m. before calling.  This time I maneuvered through the menu to a live person and was able to schedule an appointment, but I was left feeling that spending money with a business should not be this difficult.

I am a frequent advocator of on-line appointment scheduling.  In my experience fewer and fewer people like having to dial the phone to buy something or make an appointment.  I’m bewildered why more dentists are not moving to on-line scheduling.  The excuse I’ve heard is that the patient can’t know how much of the doctor’s time their procedure will require.  I understand this; however, even though I own a car I have no idea how much time changing the oil or replacing the timing belt requires and yet dealerships seem to be able to move to on-line scheduling for their service departments.  I continue to believe that the delay in moving on-line is merely procrastination and not founded on any viable argument. Any business, or dental office, that wants to offer a truly client oriented experience needs to be adopting the technology that their clients use every day.  Failure to do so will cause their business to be left in the dust.

Bring Your A Game

Posted on: May 13th, 2013 by James Kuester No Comments

Yesterday I took my mom out for Mother’s Day.  To start our day we went to brunch at the little local breakfast place that I frequent virtually every Sunday when I’m in Indianapolis.  I know almost the entire staff and often feel more like family than a customer while I’m there.  They have amazingly good food and great customer service.  It doesn’t hurt that I’m also very fond of their clean, contemporary décor.  My mom had never been there so I was really looking forward to sharing one of my favorite places with her.

As yesterday was Mother’s Day, I expected the restaurant to be busy.  Well, it is always busy on Sunday mornings, but busier than normal.  What I didn’t expect was for none of the regular staff to be working.  Chris, the manager, is a really nice guy, but there have incidents in the past that made me question his decision-making skills.  While I can appreciate wanting to reward some of one’s best people with a holiday off with their mom’s, I question the wisdom of having the entire, regular Sunday crew absent.  After all, Mother’s Day is a really big deal in the restaurant biz, and often times the only opportunity a restaurant has to make a good impression.

Now, I’m not saying the replacements did a poor job.  They didn’t.  Actually, if I hadn’t known better I would have said they did a good job.  Unfortunately, I know how spectacular of job the regular crew can do and the replacements haven’t had years of working together to generate that seamless flow that propels one’s performance to World-Class status.  Not their fault, but I was disappointed in the experience Mom received yesterday.  She didn’t get this establishment’s A Game.

In a dental office what is the equivalent of a really high-profile, Mother’s Day holiday event?  Off hand, I can’t think of anything.  The closest is when a new patient comes into your practice for the first time.  Undoubtedly, you and your team want to make a good impression so this new patient will tell all his family and friends about his amazing new dentist and will not find an excuse to cancel his next appointment.  To me a dental office team needs to bring their A Game each and every day.  This is hard.  It is a difficult thing to always be “up” and firing smoothly on all cylinders, but that doesn’t reduce its importance.  So, what do you do, as the team leader to help the staff always put their best game face on?  One thing is to provide a work environment in the form of the dental office design that is conducive to a positive work experience.  Make sure the front office is efficiently laid-out and ergonomically designed to reduce work-place fatigue, frustrations, and bottle-necks.  Make sure there is a clean and comfortable place for staff to escape from the rigors of the day occasionally and vent frustrations away from where patients can see or hear.  There will always be challenging patients and giving staff a place to regroup build camaraderie is critical.  Lastly, make sure the operatories themselves are efficiently and ergonomically designed.  Again, this will reduce fatigue, frustrations, and the likelihood of work-place injuries.

One’s dental office design cannot ensure that one’s dental team always brings their A Game to their job each and every day, leadership and coaching play a big role in that, too. However, having a great place to work certainly helps.  If you question this, just think about the demand for newer and better stadiums and arenas at all levels across the country.