I have written and read many articles, hypotheses and strategies related to customer experience. Most of the time I am thinking about larger business applications when we try and apply our CE Strategic Framework to helping B2B or B2C level companies and their executives. At the same time every day I have these small moments of customer experience revelation that in a way are as profound and impactful to small business as they are to bigger ones. Some moments are good and some of them not as good.
One such positive instance hit me just the other day when I went to my dentist. Dentist? This might be the last place anyone might expect to have a positive customer moment! I have been going to this particular dentist for a couple of years on the recommendation of my wife who has been a patient for several years. I never really thought about it much but for some reason this day I began to reflect on this well run successful practice and that I was not complaining about going to the dentist. I started thinking about what this dentist was doing in his practice and with me as a patient that made such an impact on my positive feelings about a Dentist, of all things. In addition I began reflecting on other medical care providers I have used over the years, many of them recently, and those that provided not only good care but also made me recommend them to others. I could only think of two in all of my years of existence that I would recommend. All businesses and in particular small local business depend on customers / patients recommending them to a friend. . What separates the practice Dr. Hohenstein and Dr. Swartz, is that as business leaders, not just doctors, they establish a culture that reflects their expectation of providing not only good dental care but also a better than expected experience. They have a business strategy and they are active leaders when it comes to assessing the patient experience and implementing that strategy. They survey their patients continuously and they conduct morning operations meetings with staff to review the input they receive from patients as well as an assessment of the previous day’s results. These are very similar to a morning meeting in a manufacturing facility. They have told me that they set expectations for the practice and hold people accountable but also empower them to effectively implement the strategy they have for the practice. Every aspect of the organization from website development and management, scheduling, dental hygiene and assistants and the doctors are aligned to insure not only a good experience but the best outcome.
A few years ago I had to have a crown put in. Mouth numbing, drilling and putting in the temporary crown were not something I was looking forward to but they made it the best it could be. My mouth was sore when I left due to how invasive the procedure turned out to be. The next day the phone rang in my house and I saw it was Dr. Hohenstein’s office. I picked up the phone and it was the good doctor himself checking on me to see how I was doing. I told him it was a little sore but otherwise fine. He suggested some treatment and gave me his cell phone to call anytime if I was having a problem. How many doctors give you their cell phone these days?. The great overall experience made me forget about the pain and expense.
The other day he told me that when he moved his practice he specifically laid out the office to be open and bright. He puts new, not 2 year old, publications in the waiting area including the latest morning papers. His employee break areas and offices are in the back of the building away from the patients. He has a great website for information and scheduling, reminders and surveys of patients are a part of the site. So as a business he is well managed with a great culture and he employs sustainable practices with regard to his information systems, his use of new technology (digital X-Rays), patient engagement and a real focus on operational excellence. His goal is to have the patient in the chair on or before their appointment. He believes his patience time is important and he ensures that their time is not wasted.
So I asked him what made him set up this practice this way and has it been beneficial to not only sustaining his business but growing it. First, he said it just seemed logical to him. Second, his practice is flourishing and he was named one of the top dentists in our area. I said, “If it’s so logical why doesn’t everyone do it?” He was not sure.
So why do some businesses whether it be the local dentist, the restaurant chain owners, the retail shop keepers as well as businesses like Southwest airlines, Zappos and others get it while others do not? It is clear that successful businesses create the culture of customer experience through the establishment of clear leadership focus and strategy, organizational alignment and employee engagement/empowerment. They bolster that culture with measures/metrics, technology, customer engagement and operational focus. But the fundamental question is why some get it and others do not. Is it part of a person’s behavioral make-up that causes this to occur? People like Herb Kelleher, Tony Hsieh and Dr. Hohenstein have it. Can others acquire it or is it something you either have or you don’t have?
I don’t think you have to be born with this behavioral characteristic to be a successful leader. I believe this can be learned through experience, successes and failures. I have learned you don’t have to go far from home to find these examples of leadership application. My dentist has it and is successful as a result of his leadership. I plan to keep going to his practice and recommending him to family, friends and associates.