The Magic Question

June 17, 2024
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We’re on a cruise. This is our 9th, but the first on one what is billed as an “ultra luxury” line. So far we’re not impressed, as our expectations have not been met. How can you avoid disappointing your guests (patients)?

We’re not huge fans of cruising for the sake of cruising. We do love seeing the world, and cruises offer an easy and comfortable way of doing so. You unpack once and wake up the next morning somewhere wonderful. To us, that’s the allure of cruising.

We chose this cruise based on the ports and destinations. And, at this point in our lives we want things to be as “easy” as possible, so the cruise line’s motto of “we’ll take care of everything” appealed to us.

But, no one on this ultra luxury cruise asked us about our expectations. They made assumptions, which so far, has resulted in disappointment.

I’m sure, there was a huge effort to make the meals as appealing as possible. The food-related staff were well trained and attentive. The entertainment is also not our thing. Were used to Broadway productions. Nor is the casino or an unlimited bar.

The excursions did not reflect that same level of attentiveness. Of the 3 must sees on this cruise, I personally had to arrange (and pay extra) to see them. The cruise didn’t deliver. Moreover on the excursions we did take, the guides were not up to our expectations. One actually gave my wife attitude when she asked about a restroom.

The cruise line outsourced, what was for us, the most important part of the cruise. But they didn’t know that. Apparently, they thought other things were more important for our cruise satisfaction. They were wrong.

How can you avoid making the same mistake this ultra luxury cruise line made?

It’s just a matter of asking a question?

What question should you ask your patients to assure that you can meet or exceed their expectations?

“What do you expect from your care here?”

First, asking the question itself will set you apart from any other healthcare provider. Have YOU ever been asked that question at a healthcare facility?

At best, you might have received a post-care survey. But by that time, it’s too late to fulfill any expectations. It’s a post mortem, not a forward looking expectation and performance tool.

Most people might not know how to respond to the question. If anything, they’ll say something about the treatment, not the service or care.

Aside from the shock of being asked, they might have never thought about what they want. In such a case, it might help to add a second question such as:
Why did you leave your last dentist?
Have you ever had a bad experience which you would like to avoid?

I asked every new patient who hadn’t relocated, why they left their previous dentist. The answers were illuminating.

An older woman told me that she loved her dentist who made her a set of dentures. After she received them, she required several adjustments, which took minutes to complete. One day, she happened to be near the dentist’s office and stopped by because she had felt a slight irritation. When she came in unannounced, she was met with an angry staff member who “yelled” at her because she showed up without an appointment.

I won’t get into why a staff member would get angry here but the point is that this person had an expectation that was unmet. And so, that story was told to my team so that:

  1. If this woman ever just showed up unannounced, she would be met with grace and welcomed.
  2. This is an example of why people leave their dental offices despite “loving” the dentist.

Another patient was referred to me by their cardiologist because he had a pain and his dentist wouldn’t see him for 2 weeks. I saw him immediately and removed a small fish bone from his gum. This person who had run for President of the United States was now a patient for life.

This story too was told to the team so they would appreciate that when a patient has an issue, the speed of resolution is important.

While learning from others’ mistakes is valuable, if you don’t ask, you’ll never know. Being proactive is better than being reactive.

Had the cruise line asked me what my expectations were, they would have known that, for me, it was having the best experiences while seeing the destinations. It wasn’t about the food, the entertainment or the shops on board. Those were tertiary and not the primary reason I chose this cruise.

Had they properly vetted their excursion operator, curated the excursions better, and communicated with me, they might have been able to meet my expectations. Instead, so far, the trip has not met my expectations. But, it did serve as fodder for this blog, for which I am grateful.

I’ve just spent another 30 minutes explaining to the “guest relations” representative the issues I’ve had. Let’s see what satisfaction I’ll receive, as that too is a measure of exceptional customer service. Everyone makes mistakes. It’s how they’re dealt with that can make or break a relationship.

I’ll let you know next week!

To curating happier patients experiences,

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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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