Customer Service

September 9, 2021
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This is adapted from my friend Keith Lee, another Dan Kennedy accolade.  He’s a customer service coach.

Woody Allen once said that 80 percent of success is just showing up. In customer service, 80 percent of success is treating the patient like a welcome guest who just showed up.

When guests come to your home, you greet them, right? You say “hello,” or “hi there.” You certainly give them a sincere smile. You might hug them.

In the Disney Vacation Villages, they greet everyone with “welcome home”.  Nice touch, eh?

Yet we’ve all had the experience of being totally ignored by service people in some businesses, especially in Healthcare.  A friendly greeting is one of those little things that mean a lot.

                         Greet your patient promptly

A study clocked the number of seconds people had to wait to be greeted in several businesses. Researchers then asked customers how long they’d been waiting. In every case, the customer’s estimate of the time elapsed was much longer than the actual time.

A patient waiting 30 or 40 seconds often feels like he or she’s been waiting three or four minutes! Time drags when you’re waiting to be noticed, especially if you’re nervous at the same time.

Any of YOUR patients nervous?

Speak up. Verbally greet a patient within 10 seconds of the time he or she comes into your office.

The same is true for phone service.  How many rings should a patient wait until the phone is picked up?  Studies show that people feel that after 3, it’s excessive.  

So why not have a policy that the phone should be picked up before 3 rings?

Even if you are busy with another customer or on the phone (another line), pause to say hello and let the patient know with a shake of your head and eye contact that you’ll be ready to help her soon.

If you’re on one line, and the other one rings, politely ask “may I put you on a brief hold?”  Then wait for the person on the other end to say yes.  

Covid restrictions present another barrier and also an opportunity to stand out.  Much of communication is non verbal, with cues being taken from facial expression, which is partially covered by the mask.

Even when a smile cannot be seen, it can be felt through voice and seen by the eyes.  That’s why eye contact is so important.

If you’re wearing a mask, raise your voice just a bit louder than normal.  It will help the person you’re talking to hear you better.

The “patient experience” can mean more than just happy patients.  It can mean the difference between a constant flow of new patients and empty treatment rooms.

It can mean the difference between having to spend thousands of dollars on external marketing and spending very little.

Crafting an outstanding patient experience can mean the difference of a patient leaving when their insurance won’t cover your services or not.

It can generate resistance to other practice’s marketing and cheaper prices elsewhere.

And each of these wonderful things can happen with greater intensity and frequency when the experience rises from good to excellent to “I’ve never been treated like this in a doctor’s office.”  That’s what you should be aiming for if you want to reap the rewards listed above.

These things do not happen by chance.  They happen by training, coaching, repetition and by first, breaking bad habits.  It’s not easy but it’s worthy of the effort.

Don’t spend a dime on marketing until the experience the patient has in your practice is worthy of the expenditure.  Otherwise, you risk spending lots of money for little reward because marketing gets them in, but the patient experience keeps them coming back and referring others.

The good news is that customer service in the health professions is so poor and the bar is so low, that almost any positive experience will make your office stand out.

But why settle for mediocre?


The patient experience is so powerful that it can even cover for someunforeseen mistakes and mishaps.  You know what I mean.  The crown is a little high the day after it’s cemented, the hygienist had a bad day and was a bit rough, you ran a little late, the lab case didn’t come back on time and the appointment had to be rescheduled.

Little faux pas can build up and make a patient upset.  When you bank positive patient experiences, they act like reserves and can negate the little minuses.

Don’t settle for mediocrity.  Please share this with your team.

To your excellent clarity and success,



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Dr. Michael Goldberg is one of the leading educators on dental practice management in the United States.

Michael ran and sold a prestigious group practice in Manhattan and has been on Faculty at Columbia University and New York-Presbyterian Medical Center for 30 years including Director of the GPR program and Director of the course on Practice Management.

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