Last updated on November 3rd, 2017 at 01:54 pm
This post is actually part II of my post from last week: The Difference BetweenÂ Loweâ€™s and Home Depot â€“ and How this Applies to Your Dental Practice! ClickÂ hereÂ if youâ€™d like to read it before reading this post.
In a nutshell â€“ at least in my experience, the primary difference between Loweâ€™sÂ and Home Depot is customer service. And, customer service and experience areÂ becoming a very. Big. Deal. As I pointed out last week, according to a study by WalkerÂ Research: â€śâ€¦Customer experience is going to become the driving factor by 2020,Â outstripping price as the main product differentiator by this time.â€ť
With all of this in mind, I left off last week stating that Iâ€™d cover the two primaryÂ issues behind poor customer service in my next post (this one). So, without further adoÂ â€“ letâ€™s jump right in:
Two Primary Barriers to Excellent Customer Service
Based on my experience, the primary barriers to excellent customer service are:
1. Your corporate culture has little or no emphasis on customer service.Â Or your employee(s), while willing enough have not been effectivelyÂ trained on how to provide effective customer service.
2. Your employee(s), have issues with/or are unwilling to provide theÂ expected level of customer service.
Pretty simple, right? Well, letâ€™s take a closer look at each â€“ along with what to doÂ about it!
1. Your corporate culture has little or no emphasis on customer serviceÂ and/or your employee(s), while willing enough have not been effectivelyÂ trained on how to provide effective customer service.
Executives and business owners have become (and may have always been) too reliantÂ upon â€ścommon sense.â€ť
Not to be negative, but â€ścommon senseâ€ť is not as common as you might think.
We â€śknowâ€ť that â€śNo one would take a personal phone call and ignore aÂ customer/patient,â€ť or â€śA staff member wouldnâ€™t treat a patient rudely for no goodÂ reason,â€ť or â€śMy employees arenâ€™t going to leave while my patient is in the chair.â€ť
Until one of the above (or any of a thousand other examples we could think up)Â ACTUALLY HAPPENS. And, from good employees!
Then we marvel, â€śHow could (insert employee name) do something like that?â€ť â€śWhatÂ were they thinking?â€ť
Then it happens again.
And, donâ€™t think that you are anything special. Staff-related issues have been around forÂ a L-O- O-O- N-G time. Want proof? Check out this best-selling (and well written) essayÂ â€śA Message to Garcia,â€ť by American writer, artist and philosopher Elbert Hubbard. (Link here)
It, as Wikipedia states: â€śbemoans the difficulty of finding employees who obeyÂ instructions without needless questions, work diligently without supervision, takeÂ initiative to overcome obstacles, and complete assignments promptly. It bewails theÂ number of incompetent, lazy, thoughtless, obstructionist, employees who impede theÂ work of the good employeesâ€¦â€ť
It was written 117 years ago in 1899!
So, maybe the â€śgood olâ€™ daysâ€ť were not as good as we all thought – Same song,Â different tune.
And, hereâ€™s the real problem: Lack of guidelines or policy on customer service relatedÂ issues in your office can turn a great potential employee into a disaster. Weâ€™re leaving itÂ up to their â€ścommon sense.â€ť And sure, weâ€™ll have those superstar types that seem to beÂ able to handle anything â€“ but these donâ€™t grow on trees. If you want things done aÂ certain way â€“ it helps to spell things out. You have no idea whatâ€™s going on in yourÂ staffâ€™s head, or how they think any given situation should be handled. What they think isÂ a good idea â€“ may very well be â€“ just not in your office! If you donâ€™t teach them how youÂ want things done â€“ how are they supposed to know? ESP?
Add to this that providing guidelines and training your staff on them, is the litmus testÂ that separates the workable from the non-workable employees. The willing, productiveÂ employee will latch onto these procedures â€“ do their best to follow them and correctÂ easily when they mess up. As time goes on, they get better and better.
The ones who shouldnâ€™t be around (more on this next) wonâ€™t. Sure there is always aÂ â€śgoodâ€ť reason. But the proof is in the pudding. What someone says is far less importantÂ than what they actually do.
Beyond training specific to someoneâ€™s job duties (i.e. scheduling, answeringÂ the phone or whatever their job entails), there must be training and policyÂ on their customer service â€śhatâ€ť in the practice. This can include thingsÂ like:
a. The officeâ€™s mission or objective.
b. How you expect patients to be treated, i.e. respect, friendliness, etc.
c. The attitude of an employee with relation to patients and their job (i.e. weÂ donâ€™t leave the office until the last patient is gone, etc.).
d. Your viewpoint on resolving issues that patients run into â€“ i.e. we go theÂ extra mile and how this is accomplished.
e. The idea of professionalism, appearance and polish including things likeÂ dress code.
f. The manners you want applied to every patient â€“ i.e. â€śplease,â€ť â€śthank you,â€ťÂ etc.
g. Office cleanliness and appearance.
h. Always keeping your word with patients/customers.
i. Providing levels of attention and service to patients that are recognizablyÂ above and beyond the expected norm.
I could go on, but I think you see where Iâ€™m going. And, notice not one ofÂ these has to do with HIPPA, OSHA, how to schedule a patient or set up aÂ room for a specific procedure. Those things MUST be taught so a personÂ can do their job. The points above are more a reflection of how you wantÂ your patients treated and contribute primarily to customerÂ experience.
You’ll notice that companies that have things like this in place are well regarded and the â€śindustry standardâ€ť when it comes to customerÂ service â€“ brands like Ritz Hotels or Nordstrom. Their levels of customerÂ service and experience are a huge marketing tool for them. And, sure theyÂ hire productive people â€“ but they donâ€™t just expect them to â€śfigure thingsÂ out.â€ť They invest a ton of training into how to handle customers. Thatâ€™sÂ why the experience at a Ritz Hotel or Nordstromâ€™s is virtually uniform (andÂ usually great) location-to- location.
An office full of productive employees, all aligned to your practicesÂ mission and well-trained in customer service will be wildly productive. ItÂ also makes each employeeâ€™s position more than just a â€śjob.â€ť It turns theÂ entire office into a real team.
So, that’s the first issue – along with an idea of how to make thingsÂ better. Letâ€™s now look at the next.
2. Your employee(s), have issues with or are unwilling to provide theÂ expected level of customer service.
This type of situation is a real problem. And, itâ€™s puzzled me throughout myÂ career. I remember speaking to my receptionist at the first business I ran. Her desk wasÂ in a public area (seen by customers), so cleanliness was a must. We had a cleaningÂ service after-hours, but if the trash in reception got full during the day the receptionistÂ was expected to empty it; along with of course keeping a tidy reception space. It wasÂ company policy â€“ and for more than just reception, it applied to any position that wasÂ â€śpublic facing.â€ť
A week or two after she started, Iâ€™m up in reception, and see the trashÂ overflowing and point this out to her.
A roll of the eyes and Iâ€™m told that she â€śdoesnâ€™t do that.â€ť The implication was thatÂ emptying a trash can was â€śbeneathâ€ť her.
So, I took her into my office and let her go.
Then went and emptied the trash myself.
Despite her being too â€śimportantâ€ť to empty the garbage, I â€“ the boss – happilyÂ emptied it. And every one of the other 14 employees of that business including theÂ owner would have happily emptied that trash. She obviously had some issue with thisÂ that we didnâ€™t.
Itâ€™s a â€śno-serviceâ€ť mindset.
Just the other day, Iâ€™m at a gas station, and I go to the counter to pay for someÂ water. The two people behind the counter are discussing how to set up direct deposit forÂ their paychecks. Beyond this being an unacceptable discussion (in my opinion) in frontÂ of customers, it continued as I stood there saying nothing (againâ€¦always game forÂ human organization/efficiency experiments) for close to a minute. Finally, theyÂ acknowledged I was there (close to 90 seconds had passed). How in the blazes couldÂ anyone think that discussing their paycheck is more important than servicing the personÂ that supplies the money for said check?
Iâ€™ve seen instances of this on display from people from any walk of life and everyÂ educational and socio-economic background you could imagine; from a high-schoolÂ dropout to an MBA or PhD. This idea that providing unselfish service to another humanÂ is â€śbadâ€ť or maybe makes them feels â€śbeneathâ€ť the person they are serving. I donâ€™tÂ know. Not sure where or what it comes from â€“ but what does it matter. What thisÂ attitude spawns is annoying at best. More often â€“ itâ€™s a customer service and morale killer.
Ultimately, what youâ€™re looking at is the inability to assign the proper level ofÂ importance on things. The person cannot prioritize in a way that actuallyÂ translates into a positive outcome.
Letâ€™s take a dental receptionist. They have:
- A patient whoâ€™s just arrived and is standing at the front desk, and
- The phone is ringing and
- A number of charts (assuming they are still paper charts) are unfiled.
Now, with all of this going on, letâ€™s say this receptionist isâ€¦
Ignoring the patient and the phone and is busy filing charts!
This would be funny â€“ unless it was happening to you!
Weâ€™d look at them and say â€śWow, that receptionist does not have his/her head onÂ straight!â€ť
Sadly, Iâ€™d be lying if I told you I hadnâ€™t seen (many) things like this in my travels.
Ultimately, this person is placing the importance on the WRONG thing. It should be onÂ the patient and the phone â€“the charts can wait!
And, this is what youâ€™re looking at when your front desk person is making a patient waitÂ or avoiding work to talk to their fellow employee about the party they attended this pastÂ weekend.
Now, anyone â€“ barring training â€“ especially if they are new to the workforce may reactÂ this way.
Training is what tells the tale. Properly trained, most people straighten out easily. IfÂ despite training, they still do these things â€“ well then you might have someone whoÂ shouldnâ€™t be employed in your office. They canâ€™t get their importances straight. The frontÂ desk person in my example above is there to provide service to your patients and theirÂ fellow staff. Thatâ€™s why they are there. Thatâ€™s why they are being paid. Not to discussÂ their weekend â€“ do that on a break! Butâ€¦some people just canâ€™t get over this and thinkÂ youâ€™re a jerk for even bringing it up! OK then. They probably should find an employerÂ who wants them â€“ as a part of their job description â€“ to tell cool, personal stories toÂ fellow employees and get paid for it.
Itâ€™s the essence of a team â€“ if youâ€™re in a tug-of- war contest, youâ€™d expect everyÂ teammate to be pulling in the same direction â€“ not refraining to pull to tell a â€ścool storyâ€ťÂ during crunch time!
Funny thing about â€śimportanceâ€ť – Some of the most important people Iâ€™ve met â€“ i.e.Â busy corporate executives, CEOs and celebrities are some of the most attentive andÂ service-oriented people Iâ€™ve met. They never reflect the attitude â€śHey â€“ Iâ€™m important â€“Â leave me alone.â€ť Instead â€“ you are the most important person around!
To sum it up â€“ customer service is just that â€“ service. Every employee â€“ and youÂ included â€“ have a job in your organization to provide service to your customers andÂ each other. If everyone there is willing (and trained on the subject) work is a breeze andÂ success is virtually guaranteed. If, on the other hand you have people around that justÂ canâ€™t get over the idea of providing unselfish service â€“ maybe they donâ€™t belong in yourÂ organization!
With customer service and experience becoming a more prevalent issue as we moveÂ into the future, itâ€™s something to think (and do something about) now! You owe it toÂ yourself, your staff and your customers/patients.
I hope this helps!