What I Brought Back from Napa (and it wasn’t wine!)

February 2, 2024 Robyn Reis

What I Brought Back from Napa (and it wasn’t wine!) 

Robyn Reis, Dental Practice Coach 

A while back, I made a business trip to Napa Valley. I was enjoying lunch on the patio of the Ottimo Café which is attached to a shop featuring wines, gourmet provisions, and culinary tools. It was a lovely day, and I was out in the beautiful California sun by choice. A nearby covered area provided shade, and there were multiple diners inside the shop waiting for those shaded tables. 

The maître d’ had given me a choice of tables and made sure I was comfortable. The food, wine and service were excellent. 

A family of four wandered over and sat down at an empty table in the sun. One of the waiters approached them and must have told them there was a line inside because they got up and went into the building. A few minutes later, they came out escorted and sat with menus at the same table they had left. There was obviously a system in place and it was working. Not long after, the two children became unhappy sitting in the sun. 

Being a parent myself I empathized with the parents as they struggled to keep the kids entertained. The little boy put his shirt over his head to block the sun, and I watched the dad looking at the covered area to monitor those shaded tables. As people from the shaded area got up, the tables were cleared, and the maître d’ seated more people.  

There was a lag between one table being bussed and people being seated because in a flash, the family left their table and sat down at a shaded table. The maître d’ approached them again. The family was speaking a different language and the father was using hand gestures. Obviously, communication was difficult. Ultimately, the family remained seated at the shaded table. There was no doubt that “good” customer service for this family was out of balance with “good” customer service for the people inside waiting to be seated. 

It was fascinating to observe the maître d’ having a conversation with the waiter who had been serving the family. My guess is that he was saying something like, “Hey, stay alert to maintain the seating system.” The waiter only nodded. It reminded me of a dental practice where you may have a patient in the hygiene chair and think to yourself, “Oh, it’s a small filling. Let’s go ahead and take care of that today.” Unbeknownst to you, someone may have walked in the front door hoping to be seen, and the front office thinks the walk-in can be accommodated based on the schedule.  

In both situations, it’s best not to make assumptions and communicate, communicate, communicate! In the back, check with the front to see if that filling can be done now. In the front, check with the back to see if the walk-in can be accommodated now. And in the case of a scheduled patient waiting in reception, you don’t want to keep them waiting unless it is really unavoidable.  

Sometimes we’re going to disappoint someone, however, we want to plan our schedule so no one is left waiting. We’re not in the restaurant business where customers are willing to wait in line for a seat at our table. Despite a fine reputation, if you cannot see new patients within a reasonable timeframe, they are going to call elsewhere.  

Look at your own schedule and converse with your team. Do you have an adequate number of new patient appointments available? Are you allotting sufficient time for each type of procedure? How good is your back-to-front and front-to-back communication? Do you keep patients waiting? 

My meal and business trip were a success in Napa. And while I didn’t bring back any wine, I did bring back the importance of having systems in place to ensure a great experience for every patient at every visit. 

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On Providing a Fix vs an Experience: Part 3

July 13, 2018 Will Kelly DMD

There are three words on my business card that may seem obscure to patients at first. These words, which come to have important meaning later on in their relationship with my dental practice, are: Comprehensive, Restorative, and Esthetic.

Promising and Delivering a Luxury Patient Experience

Comprehensive

We look at the patient as a whole. We observe and diagnose globally. We intend to partner with our patients in a thorough individualized manner. The best dentistry does not happen when we just look at a tooth with a problem. In fact, it isn’t much better when a dentist has a look at ‘teeth’ plural.

Comprehensive dentistry considers the whole system and the individual. How are the muscles and joints that affect and are affected by the teeth and their use considered? How are the structures that support the teeth?

What are the factors unique to a patient’s habits, routines, and systemic health that relate to ideal dental health? What are a patient’s individual goals, desires, and expectations? Will the dentist take everything they can gather about the causes of problems and consider them in the solutions?

The list goes on. This is a highly intentional paradigm of patient care.

Restorative

The focus on restorative dentistry is just as it sounds. In our practice, we want to restore patients to an ideal state of health and function. We put tremendous effort toward continuing education, technology, and our approach to care beyond the average dental setting to achieve this ability.

Esthetic

Esthetic dentistry speaks to taking great care in the art and science of making dentistry beautiful. Yes, it is a nose thumbing at the overused term “Cosmetic Dentistry.”

We believe all good dental restoration is more beautiful if provided in the context of health and function. At the end of the day, we want to create smiles our patients can be proud of because they are beautiful, healthy, and durable.

We all have things we value enough to invest in. We all make choices that take effort because we want the result, just like my car that I enjoy and is reliable. I invite patients to consider that experience with their teeth through the approach of ‘Comprehensive, Esthetic, Restorative’ dentistry.

What do you do in your dental practice to make dental care a valued experience for patients?

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Dr. Will Kelly attended the North Carolina State University School of Design and received a BA in Communications. He went on to spend two additional years in post baccalaureate studies in Medical Sciences at both UNC Chapel Hill and Virginia Commonwealth University. Dr. Kelly graduated from the top ranked UNC School of Dentistry in 2004. His good hands and clinical abilities led to his being chosen as a teaching assistant to underclassmen in operative dentistry. In addition to clinical time in the dental school, Dr. Kelly had valuable experiences working in both the Durham VA Hospital and for the Indian Health Service in Wyoming. As a child, Dr. Kelly had the opportunity to assist his father on several dental mission trips in Haiti. After completing dental school, Dr. Kelly joined his father in private practice and served on the dental staff at Gaston Family Health Services, where he maintained a position on the board of directors. At this time Dr. Kelly also began his studies in advanced dentistry at the prestigious Pankey Institute in Miami, a continuing journey of learning that has shaped his philosophy and knowledge of the complexities of high-level dentistry. Today Dr. Kelly devotes over 100 hours a year studying with colleagues and mentors who are regarded as "Masters of Dentistry".

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Why Your Team Is Critical to Delivering Exceptional Service: Part 2

June 18, 2018 Mary Osborne RDH

Exceptional service is more than just a set of benchmarks we strive to reach in the dental practice daily. It’s a philosophy that steers the ship, drives everyone on the team to seek greatness. As such, it can’t be a mandate handed down to your team. It has to go deeper than that.

There are three things you can do that will enable your team to embrace and embody exceptional service. Remember, it must be natural to them, instead of forced, if the impression they give is to come across as genuine.

3 Steps to Truly Exceptional Service

1. Be a Good Role Model

This may seem too simple to work, but it’s like magic. Model exceptional service and your team will inevitably follow suit. Set an example that also sets the tone for your dental practice as a whole. Go out of your way to surprise patients with how good your service can be.

It’s easy to expect greatness from others while not putting the same pressure on yourself. Walk the talk. Live an unbridled excitement for patient care that’s completely clear of resentment toward their demands or needs.
Choose quality and excellence in every way you can, whether that be in your stationary, your lab, or even the drinks you have in the waiting room.

2. Hire People Who Go the Extra Mile

During your hiring process, make an effort to find team members who inherently want to go above and beyond. They should have a personality intent on always taking success to the next level. It’s not as difficult to sense this in an interview as you might think.

Ask the interviewee what they consider an exceptional doctor’s office experience. Go even further and ask them to talk about their own experience providing care beyond expectations. Then, ask why they did this. Use your own intuition to decide what their story means about them.

3. Reward Exceptional Actions

When your team members are innovative and responsive to patient needs as they arise, reward them for it. This type of acknowledgment could take many forms depending on your personality. Also, even if it’s not a choice you would’ve made, praise the spirit that led them to it.

How do you promote a positive attitude toward patient care in your dental practice? 

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Why Your Team Is Critical to Delivering Exceptional Service: Part 1

June 17, 2018 Mary Osborne RDH

No dentist is an island, which is why you’re always hearing about the importance of your team. It’s a lesson we all need to be reminded of throughout the years as we grow complacent, things change, or new challenges arise that reveal cracks in our team’s capabilities.

Your Team is Key to Exceptional Service

Because exceeding expectations is an intangible thing, you can’t easily make it an actual practice policy. It’s not a rule, it’s a goal. If you want to make delivering exceptional service part of your practice brand, it needs to be an aim shared by all of the people on your team. They must genuinely enjoy delivering exceptional care. It must be the attitude that drives them.

But like anything, your intention to mandate exceptional service can backfire. This will leave you frustrated and your patients confused. A great analogy of this is an experience my husband and I had purchasing a car. The salesman insisted on taking us to a repair place nearby, despite the fact that we knew where it was. He told us he couldn’t get a ’10’ on the sale otherwise. As it turned out, this task was necessary to fit the quality control expectations of his superiors.

Exceptional Service Can’t Be a Mandate

This transparency wasn’t a good thing. It made it sound like our salesman was more worried about his performance review than our needs. The exact same problem can happen in the dental office. It’s why you don’t want to make exceptional service a strict rule. It has to be genuinely wanted by your team.

So how do you develop a practice culture that makes this happen? It all comes down to three key factors that will encourage your team to embody a true passion for patient care …

Check out Part 2 of this series soon!

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