I’d like to share with you a story that’s been attributed to Don Burr, the founder of the (now defunct) low-cost airline People Express Airlines. Imagine the following situation: You’re flying somewhere. You have an ideal experience from early check-in to easy security to quick boarding. So far, so good – you have positive feelings about this airline because of the way everything is going right. Then it happens. You take your seat and unhook the tray table in front of you and there it is, a big crusty food stain staring you in the face.
How does this change your perception of everything up to now? If you’re like most people, those positive feelings immediately evaporate and you’re left with questions. You aren’t just questioning the cleanliness of the tray table or even the cabin, but the competence of the pilot and the integrity of the plane itself. All because the tray table wasn’t properly cleaned.
That pilot could have been the best in the business, but because of the passenger’s perception, they were judged to be incompetent.
I believe it’s the same when it comes to dental practices. No matter how skilled the dentist is, if the dental practice fails to maintain high standards at every turn, patients will question the dentist’s ability.
That’s one of the reasons we strive to create a five-star experience for every one of our patients at our practice. This means we answer the phone right away when you call (no automated system to navigate!) and are flexible when it comes to scheduling. When you arrive at our office, you’ll find friendly people behind the reception desk, clean spaces from the parking area to the waiting room to the treatment rooms, and helpful, competent dental assistants and hygienists.
By creating this kind of five-star experience, we help our patients relax and feel confident in the dental care they’re receiving.
It’s easy to see how big things can affect perception, but, as illustrated in the People Express example above, little things affect perception, too. That’s why it’s just as important to pay attention to the small details.
For example, at my practice, we are very particular about the appearance of the staff and doctors. The dentists wear clean, white labs coat over dress clothes, and everyone else wears clean, fitted uniforms. All team members must be well-groomed, with tattoos covered and body piercings removed.
Do white lab coats and visible tattoos have anything to do with the ability my colleagues and I have to provide excellent dental care? No, of course, they don’t – not directly. But I believe my patients value the environment that we’ve created, and I believe it helps them feel more comfortable and secure. I want them to avoid that “dirty tray table” moment when they’re in my practice.
Sending a Message
By showing attention to outward detail, my colleagues and I are also sending a message that we pay attention to detail when we’re reviewing a patient’s charts or X-rays, listening to their symptoms, examining their teeth and gums, and so on. You can believe that if I value something like the quality of the reading material in our waiting room, I value the health and well-being of every one of my patients even more.
The next time you visit your dentist, pay attention to the details yourself. Do they fill you with confidence? Or do they make you question what other details the staff there don’t bother to pay attention to? Remember – details do matter, and perception is everything.