The Second Mile Patient Experience
During a recent road trip, we happened upon a Chick-fil-A. With growling tummies, we crossed two lanes, in just enough time to make the exit.
We justified our decision because we don’t have a Chick-fil-A in our city, and although they’re a bit more expensive than McDonald’s or Burger King, the food is worth it. Besides, when traveling, Chick-fil-A doesn’t seem so fast food-ish. Right?
We approached the drive-through. They were running two packed lanes. Outside, a young employee personally greeted each vehicle. “Welcome to Chick-fil-A! How are you folks today?”
We talked about what a nice touch that was as we awaited our turn to order. Before we knew it, we had our food. We thanked the employee, and he bid us farewell with the iconic, “my pleasure’. The food was hot and the order precise. Make no mistake, Chick-fil-A provides an experience that keeps us coming back again and again.
Looking for ways to improve patient retention? Let’s take a page out of the Chick-fil-A customer service manual.
When patients enter our practice, not only the first time but every time, they should be greeted cheerfully. A warm and friendly greeting sets the tone for a great experience. It doesn’t matter if the hygienist is running behind, or the schedule is double-booked, we should never project chaos onto our patients.
Provide cheerful decor and current magazines for patients to peruse as they wait. Outdated reading materials suggest outdated practices. It is important to set the patient mindset on the right course.
Periodically it’s a good idea to enter the front doors and view the waiting area through a patient’s eyes. It’s easy to lose touch with the patient’s first impression. Provide current magazines and entertainment options, making sure the area is clean and tidy. Outdated furnishings suggest outdated practices.
This is one time it’s a good idea to let your right hand know what your left is doing. Keep the clinicians in the back informed of the status up front. They need to know when their patient has arrived. This will help the doctor and team keep tabs on the schedule, and gauge their next steps. The doctor will realize he can’t sit around and talk football with his patient at the end of the procedure, and the hygienist will realize this might not be the best time to start texting.
Administrative team members should be excellent communicators, and able to calm potential frustrations, if the team is running behind. “The hygienist is finishing up her patient right now and she’ll be with you shortly. She’s been looking forward to seeing you! What have you been up to since we last saw you?”
The same applies while performing treatment. Communicating before, during, and after the procedure quells patient fears. Allowing time for questions helps them feel in control. This will also build their trust, and improve overall patient satisfaction.
Above and beyond
Did you know that Chick-fil-A employees will walk you in and out of their restaurants with an umbrella when it’s raining? Talk about a five-star experience! In addition, every Chick-fil-A restaurant has fresh flowers on their tables. It’s an unexpected detail that elevates an otherwise ordinary backdrop.
Surprise your patients with the unexpected. During treatment, allow them to watch a movie they’ve selected or listen to their favorite music. Acknowledge a recent birthday or their glowing review. The smallest subtleties can have a tremendous impact.
The table touch
Restaurants use a term called table touching. Put simply, it’s the practice of servers stopping by your table, for no other reason, except to check on things. Your order has been taken, and perhaps your food already delivered, but possibly there’s one more thing that might make your meal more pleasurable. Fast-food eateries are not known for this practice as it’s generally reserved for finer establishments. Not surprisingly, the table touch is a routine part of the Chick-fil-A dining experience. They’ll be happy to refill your drink or bring you more sauce.
Checking in with patients throughout treatment could give you the opportunity to surprise them with a blanket or neck pillow. These are unexpected courtesies that will keep them coming again and again.
The second mile
Over the past decade, Chick-fil-A has nearly tripled its annual sales, and experts predict there is no slow-down predicted in the foreseeable future. Their marketing consultants cite the chain’s distinctive “second-mile service” as what drives its iconic customer experience. “The first mile is the foundation—good customer service, hot food hot, cold food cold. The second mile is what we do that’s remarkable. . . “
Looking for opportunities to provide the extra mile patient experience? Ask yourself, what sets your practice apart. Do you have “WOW” factors built into your everyday processes? Think of places you’ve experienced a surprisingly positive occurrence: hotels, airplanes, salons, restaurants, even retail chains. What keeps you coming back? Evaluate what made those experiences memorable, and seek out ways to incorporate them into your practice. Patients, when truly satisfied, will return again and again for an above-and-beyond experience.
Exceptional service leads to exceptional experiences. In dentistry, exceptional care and service lead to an exceptional patient experience, and the fully satisfied patient will be a fully committed patient.
Stephanie Baker RDH BS
Stephanie Baker, RDH BS is a coach, consultant, speaker, writer, business owner (Volume 52), singer, and a Registered Dental Hygienist. She is affectionately known as The Singing Hygienist. Her clinical and support team experience are the inspiration for her writing and the motivation for coaching clients to success. She is a regular contributor to various publications within dentistry and beyond. In addition to feeding the homeless, starting a non-profit, and being involved in her church and other community organizations, she sings professionally and enjoys several creative outlets. She resides in Florida where she enjoys the company of her husband, three children, and four beautiful grandchildren.
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