I’ve worked in the dental service industry for over 10 years and one thing I’ve learned as a Practice Coordinator is that first impressions matter. As a culture, we invest an exorbitant amount of time and thousands of dollars perfecting our image so we can make an everlasting impression on the ones we cross paths with. In the professional world where services are rendered, I strongly believe that the same concept applies and the person how you interact with your customers can make or break your business.
In the dental industry, our front desk personal are whom the customers first see and interact with when they arrive and they are the last before they leave. They not only serve as the voice of the organization, they are also the face. In other words, they are fundamental to the success of the practice and if they aren’t provided with the right training, the right tools and support along the way, they can hinder the growth of the organization.
So if you’re running a business where you engage with your customers, whether it’s face to face or online, it’s important to master the “first impression” etiquette. Not only is it critical to the success of any organization, it will help you leave an everlasting impression on your customers and keep them returning for years to come!
GREETING. If you want to make a great first impression on every person who “enters through the door”, the way you greet them is an essential part of the process. Your team should welcome the customer with a smile and the tone of their voice should be pleasant and inviting. In addition, it’s important that they make direct eye contact as they talk to them. It will convey that you are paying attention and have acknowledged their presence without the use of actual words.
Imagine walking into an establishment (coffee shop, restaurant, or store) and the person behind the counter just sits there, paying zero attention to you. There’s no “hello” or greeting of any sort. Or, they welcome you, but the tone of the greeting is morose, is uninviting. How does that make you feel? For me, that would be a huge turn-off. I never want to feel like I’m intruding, especially when I’m paying for a service. I’m not looking for someone to jump me when I walk in, but I do want to feel acknowledged. I want to feel like I belong.
So GREET your customers – smile and make eye contact. Make them feel safe and like they belong. The worst thing you can do is make someone feel unwanted or lost. They came to you for a reason so make them feel welcome.
COMMUNICATIONS. I manage a dental practice that’s heavily dependent on two modes of communications: phone calls and e-mails. One way for patients to schedule an appointment is by calling us directly, so my girls are trained to answer the phone a certain way because they are the voice of the practice. The manner in which the call is answered will form an impression and convey the competency of the entire business.
Additionally, what is said on the phone is just as important as how it is said. We have our girls follow a script and are trained to answer the phone with a smile. You must understand how important this is! I urge you to experiment with it – go ahead, hold a phone to your ear and say something while smiling. I bet it’s really hard to sound like an asshole. Smiling really transforms how the greeting sounds, making the tone with which you answer more positive and friendly. And, it also acts as a mood booster! Lastly, if you need to put someone on hold, get their permission before you do so. Don’t just cut them off abruptly – putting someone on hold without a warning will disrupt the flow and taint the relationship building process.
In addition to phone calls, we rely heavily on e-mails to correspond with our patients. For those who are new to the practice, we make sure they receive a welcome e-mail! I can’t stress the importance of establishing an introduction as part of the “first impression” process. You’re building a relationship and one way to do so is by making someone feel welcome.
We use Outlook and I’ve created a signature template that the girls use when a new patient schedules their appointment. I’ve designed it to be personal yet informative. One thing to be mindful of is that you want to sound like a person (not a robot) when corresponding with your customers. The e-mail has a beginning, a middle and an end. It begins with a warm introduction to the practice, continues with important information about the appointment and ends with a signature that has the name of the person corresponding, their title, and other relevant information about the business we want our patients to be aware of.
THE END. Making a good impression is an ongoing process and shouldn’t stop after the greeting or in the middle of an interaction. Remember, you are creating an experience for your customer and the ending is just as important as the beginning!
At the office, my team is responsible for the check-out process to run as smooth and pleasant as when the patient has first arrived. They are trained on how to answer questions regarding treatment and other concerns about the visit. If issues arise (and they do – it’s the nature of the game), my girls are trained to remain calm. There will be times when your customers are upset or don’t agree with how something is done. This is expected and how you approach it is key!
You know the saying “Stay Calm and …”? Same applies to sticky situations that appear when running a business. And what I’ve learned over the years is that the best way to deal with a those situations is to kill them with kindness.
“Remain calm and stay friendly” – said ME.
And, don’t take any of the shit personally!! This is not about YOU. This has saved me time and time again when dealing with unhappy customers. Deal with the issue, not the person. Trust me, there is always a solution.