Friday, March 13, 2009

Constructive Crticism

I am going to put the kid thing on hold because this came up yesterday and I wanted you to see this.

I got an email yesterday.
It was constructive criticism.
Lets get right to it.

Hi John,

My friend, Sally, shared something with me at church tonight that I thought you would want to know. She's been looking for a new dentist for a while and I've highly recommended you several times. I told her how impressed I was with the handwritten note you sent us after my son and I had our first visits to your office and how you said you hoped we saw the light of Christ reflected in the office.
Anyway, I guess she had an emergency this morning and called your office, went in and ended up having a root canal. She said you were great and put her at ease, but she was really shocked at the attitude and language of whoever was assisting. She said the woman kept complaining about the office and was just very negative, but what shocked her was that she kept saying "hell" and I guess just the whole way she was talking. It made Fran very uncomfortable and did not at all reflect the atmosphere of the office that she expected. She just kept telling me she was so shocked by it and I could tell she was really turned off. She's not the kind of person who complains or judges others, so for her to share that with me means it really bothered her.

I really wrestled with whether or not to say anything to you, but I thought you would want to know because I know you do care about your patients and want them to be comfortable, and I know that the impression Fran now has is not the impression you want to convey.


Well what do you think?
I can be totally honest with you and tell you that I wanted cuss someone out when I got this (and use a lot nastier words than "hell").
So many emotions go through your mind. Anger was first but then it becomes doubt.
Maybe I am just not doing this thing right. Maybe when I think people like this office they really don't. Maybe I turn more people off than I think.
Then it is self loathing.
But after I calmed down from my bipolar disorder and started thinking rationally it wasn't that bad.
I appreciated her constructive criticism.

First, I want to tell you how we do it here. You all know I am a jokester. I like to play and having new people here doesn't stop me.
My assistant and I have been working together for 13 years. She jokes too.
We banter back and forth all day long. We genuinely like each other and constantly bounce things off each other.
The topic all depends on the day. I might just ask her, "Why do woman always do X?"
Then it is on. She will say it is because men do Y. Then it is back and forth.
We get the patient involved in the conversation. You can see there eyes go back and forth as we are arguing/playing/discussing.
There is absolutely nothing sacred. We talk about office politics, religion, women stuff, men stuff, we talk about other patients (without names), current events, bratty kids, our kids, tuition, college... ANYTHING.
Is there cussing involved? Well....yes. Sometimes. Not all the time but yes there is.
Is this stepping over the line? Probably.
I am not going to beat myself up about this (and I don't want you to either), I mean my wife sometimes gets on me (she really is looking out for the office's best interest) about this.
Also she talks about a Christian looking different than the any other regular person.

We do it to have fun, learn more about everything, and make the patient comfortable. We do it to look real to the patient.
I am a person, a husband, a dad AND and dentist.

So, I showed my assistant the letter.
We had a nice talk. We will try to be better about not scaring people on their first visit. Make them feel comfortable but not to over do it.
And about the "hell" thing. My assistant loves her job. I mean to tell you she tells me all the time.
Now she has freedom to talk to me about what she doesn't like the office that day.
That day it might of been hot as "hell" in the office. Or she might of asked me, "what the hell is Susan doing at the front desk." It is all in her wheelhouse.

Now, we have had so much positive feedback that we know that we have to do it. It is part of the job. "The show".
The feedback is mostly, "You guys are so funny." or "You guys are just plain crazy, you made me forget I was at the dentist." or "I love coming here to hear what you guys are talking about."
Sometimes patients can't talk back (because there is work going on in their mouths) so at the end of the appointment they says, "Okay this is what I think...."
So it is effective.

I thought about what she said in the letter.
I remember Sally and that she was scared and that another dentist just pulled her teeth.
I remember telling her we are going to try to save this tooth and I remember putting her mind at ease about the procedure.
I remember talking to her about money and how we were going to try to make this part as painless as well, by working with her and not charging her for the xray and the Limited oral exam.
I remember giving her injection that didn't hurt at all. I remember removing all her decay getting into the nerve and then doing a pulpectomy. I remember her not feeling a thing.
Do I remember saying or hearing the word "hell" ....No.
Maybe she forgot all the above things and remembered only the last line. I remembered the top part of this and forgot the last is all about perspective isn't it?

I wrote her back.

I am so glad you wrote to me. I know that it must have been very hard. To put you mind at ease, I can handle constructive criticism.
Now about Sally....
Most of the time this is not people's favorite place. It has been our experience that coming to an office for the first time is even worse for people.
And this is kind of making an excuse but...we kind of try to talk in a way that would make people feel more at ease.
We have always tried to erase people"s fears of this over bearing, strong armed dentistry they may be keeping them from the dentist. In our effort, admittingly sometimes we may go overboard (if you hang around here longer you may hear a lot more than the word "hell").
As you know that my primary objective is to honor our King and sometimes (okay most of the time) I fall short. I will indeed work on making people comfortable and doing it in a way that is okay for everyone.
I appreciate you "iron is sharpening iron". And lastly I am sorry that your friend did not have a great experience here. I know you put your name on the line for me and I kind of "blew it."

Thanks for writing,

This patient and her son have cleaning appointments coming up this month.
Paybacks are hell. I mean heck.

I have so much more to say, but it is Friday.
Have a great weekend


Anonymous said...

I know every office has their own unique "personality", in our office I tell my staff "no conversations that don't either relate to the patient in the chair or include the pte in the chair". When I go to a grocery store and the cashier and the bagger are having a nice conversation and ignoring me it just feels wrong. I also like to maintain a certain level of decorum in the office and swearing (even mild) I will not tolerate. Works for us.

gatordmd said...

You are so right. If my assistant and I are bantering and it seems like we have been going on for a while without the patient, I will stop our conversation. Then I will say to the patient, "Let me tell you some background information on this topic..." just to keep them involved.
I treat people like I want to be treated.
I appreciate your input.

ps I have to be honest with you. I have not been to the grocery store for more than one item in about 7 years. I guess my wife is right when she says, "I don't appreciate her."
I hate the grocery store.


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