Today I had a sensational experience at the dental surgery.
It was nothing to do with my teeth. The check-up didn’t hurt (much) and my teeth are in good shape.
What was sensational was this …
The dentist (new to me) sat with me, looked me in the eye, and chatted about my teeth and my general health for a few minutes first.
- He asked me what I’d like from the visit.
- He asked me if I needed information on costs.
- He asked me about my weekend.
- He asked me if I had any questions.
I’ve been to a lot of different dentists over the years. And while they’ve all had different communication styles and personalities, this one was by far the most communicative.
Sure, dentists have been improving their ‘bedside manner’ over the decades and have perhaps an unfair reputation for dishing out traumatic experiences. And I’ve had plenty of dentists who have asked me about my weekend. But this was the first time I felt a dentist had made a concerted effort to provide me with some ‘customer service’ and space to ask questions.
He may have had a communication checklist of some sort. Perhaps the industry is getting better at this sort of thing.
What this communication did for me was:
- Set me at ease.
- Help me get to know him.
- Give me the confidence to ask questions.
- Provide me with the confidence to use this dentist from now on.
Communications as a discipline is often seen as something ‘softer’ than other business practices such as finance, risk management, governance and so on. I wonder if this is linked to the traditional school practice of segmenting humanities, science and maths?
Yet good communications can mean the difference when it comes to staying in business, because it can 1) win new customers and 2) retain customers and shouldn’t be assigned to the ‘light and fluffy’ corner.
Many of my clients don’t have a communications plan. It’s not unusual. But if you can document one, it’s a sensational tool for your business. I worked in public relations for a few years (and corporate communications for many years) and a comms plan can help keep you on track. It provides you with ideas, and also lets you know when something’s not working.
A communications plan can include:
- Your business goals and key messages
- An outline of your target customer /audience
- Ideas for how to communicate with them
- Ideas for the news and content you’ll share
- Ideas for stories you can pitch to the press
- An outline of how you’ll measure results
I have one for my own business which keeps me on track. Of course, a lot of my comms plan revolves around my social media channels. In the case of ‘customer service’ and this dental example, it’s a good idea to think about:
- How you run meetings with clients
- How to stay in touch with clients and encourage them to ask you questions
- What sort of questions to ask clients to encourage them to share
- The communication templates you have to help the process. For example, I have a ‘new client checklist’ for my own reference, to remind myself of the questions to ask and the knowledge I need.
The ironic thing about this dentist visit was this: I had a terrible experience at the reception desk. I was asked to fill in a form which included data they already had on me. Including my (unchanged) contact details. I asked if it was really necessary. They said it was, for insurance purposes. They absolutely had to have me fill in – by hand – details their computer already had filed away. While the receptionist was sympathetic, it was certainly a frustrating waste of time that had me muttering about Yes Minister. I was prepared to tweet grumpy things.
But the demeanour and attitude of the dentist turned things about. It appears he’s recognised the importance of good communication. From a health professionals perspective, it makes for a patient who’s easier to work with. And from a pure business perspective, you know what? I’m returning for follow up treatment on Monday. And this social media consultant – who has been disloyal to dentists and ad hoc with visits – has a follow up appointment for Monday. And I’ll make sure he’s the only dentist I use from now on.