Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Take a Seat in the Other Chair

During every patient’s appointment, I usually leave extra time to do some talking. Recently, I had a guy in, about my age, 46, and we started talking.

He said, “When was the last time you sat in this chair and looked around?”

I didn’t know where he was going with this, but I played along. I told him it had been about a month since I actually had sat in the chair and looked around the room to see what my patients see.

He said, “Are you serious?”

I said, “Yeah, why? Is something wrong?”

And this is where he ripped me a new one. I really don’t know what set him off, but he was in some mood. (Keep in mind that, throughout this dialogue, every statement he made was accentuated with a curse word, all of which were graciously omitted for your reading pleasure.)

”What is up with the fountain?” my patient said. “It looks terrible.” (I have a floor-to-ceiling water fountain in this room, and when it looks good, it is really nice). It has terrible water streaks on it.

He continued his rant. “And what is with the lava rocks? “What, did we time-warp back to the ’70s?”

“And you look over there and the cords are hanging out of the base of the aquarium. It looks terrible. The computer wires are all over the floor. I mean, a guy like me doesn’t want to come in here and look at that.”

(The computer is under the open counter.) True story. I can’t make this stuff up.

I told him, “Wow, I will be right back. I have to go and do a hygiene check.”

I came back, and he said, “I hope I didn’t offend you. You kind of got a little quiet.”

“Me?” I answered. “No. I am not upset.”

But I was upset. I was upset for so many reasons. But the main reason was that my patient was right.

I try so hard to make my office look nice. I have always prided myself on having a nice comfortable office. I put in the fountain and an aquarium all to make the experience second-to-none. But you know what? If you take your eye off it for one second, it just goes to pot. And patients see it every time. (I mean, I see it when I go places. I can’t tell you how many times I have gone to a place and said, “Man, they are really letting this place go.”)

I have a chair in the reception area that is worn pretty badly. For the past couple of months, we have been trying to get someone to come out and repair it. We tried a couple of patients … no can do. We tried local establishments. Nobody could do it. But in the meantime, you know that everyone who comes through that door sees that.

If you don’t clean the glass fountain in that room every month, it will start to get cloudy and have streaks. If it is not full, it will splash on the lava rocks and leave residue on the window it sits by — and that will look bad. The cords were out, and they did look bad. Do you know how easy it was to just tuck them behind the aquarium? Do you know how easy it was to tuck the cords behind the computer so it would look much cleaner?

This stuff is so easy to do. But we are too busy with a billion other things that are going on.

It was 90 degrees in Orlando today. My air conditioner is looking like it is on the fritz. My suction is not working quite right. But all these things have to be repaired while maintaining a certain cleanliness that says, “I care about the way the office looks, because I care about you.”

Today was my day off. I am usually running errands, taking the kids to school, taking the kids to orthodontic appointments, stuff like that.

But guess what I did today?

I dragged my blower, my pressure washer, and my fountain cleaner to the office. I pressure-washed the outside of the building and the walkway. I blew all the leaves away from the building. I put the chair that is need of repair in the back of my truck and brought it to a repair place. Then I went into that room and cleaned the fountain. Then I changed all the lava rocks to a more modern rock. Then I tucked all the cords out of sight.

Ugh. What a pain, and I thought about that patient the whole time — because he brought up what I knew in the back of my mind I wasn’t doing.

In the end, when I sent a text message to my patient to see how his tooth was doing, he apologized for his language and told me it was unprofessional. I told him that it was no problem, and I thanked him for being honest with me. I thanked him for pointing out the stuff that I knew to be true. I told him that I, and my staff, needed to hear that.

The last thing any of us wants is to have one of our patients “ripping us a new one” about the things that can easily be taken care of, if only we took the time to do so. So every so often, plop down into the patient chair and take a look at what they see. It just might surprise you.

John Gammichia, DMD, FAGD


Dr. Lawrence M. said...

John, this is a great post and a lesson to us all. Now you need to create a system so that someone in your office checks on these things every day, or every week, to stay on top of the little things.
Our patients notice the little things and that is what makes all the difference. Thanks for reminding us of this.
warm regards, Larry Stanleigh

Unknown said...

Great blog, John...it sounds like we were separated at birth. I've had the same experience, and have responded as you have. As such, I recommend a book to my students, "Broken Windows, Broken Business (http://www.amazon.com/Broken-Windows-Business-Smallest-Remedies/dp/0446698482)." About 30 years ago I saw the bank president walking his parking lot every morning at 7am , before banking hours. I said to myself, there's a man who cares about his business. I've done the same ever since. I tell my staff to arrive at the office every day as if they were throwing a party or dinner for friends at their home. When one does that, they look at their environment in a more critical manner. Nice job! Did AGD edit out expletives??? Larry

Unknown said...


My father, retired Air Force dentist, always told me, "Sit where the patient sits. Reception room, dental chair (leaning back), in the car parking lot. See what they see." 26 years later, it's a monthly routine for me.

Nice post John.

Stan said...

Wow, very interesting post and a very good lesson for everyone to know. Thanks for posting.


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