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Leaning from Zappos: Creating World-Class Customer Service

Jan. 26, 2011
The CEO of tells you how to create world-class customer service in your practice.

by Fran Pangakis and Shari Tastad

Doctor, what would you do if a new patient walked through your door and instead of wanting to know right off the bat what your fees were, what insurance you accepted, what your office hours were, or whether you could validate their parking ticket, this person asked you to describe your practice culture? How would you feel? Surprised? Confused? Excited? Bottom line … would you know how to answer the question?

In his book, "Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose," Tony Hsieh, CEO of (online sellers of clothing, shoes, accessories, and housewares), talks a lot about culture and how it has played — and continues to play — an integral role in Zappos’ phenomenal growth and success.Hsieh identifies three common mistakes small business owners often make in their own pursuit of success: 1. Not building engagement and trust with employees before customers.Would you be comfortable printing everything your employees, patients, and colleagues have to say about your culture? If not, what would it take for you to get to that point where you would be? Your business reflects the culture and values that are already in place, whether you have defined them or not. Wouldn’t you rather take charge of defining and shaping those values? 2. Focusing on networking, rather than creating friendships.Rather than trying to network in the traditional sense, it’s better to build "friendships" where the friendship itself is the reward. 3. Return on Investment vs lifetime value of a customer. Business owners often focus on return on investment (ROI) instead of viewing the lifetime value of a customer as a moving target that can increase if the business owner can create more and more positive emotional associations with the brand, and do it through every interaction a person has with us. Zappos considers its culture to be its biggest asset, and the firm manages accordingly. Almost 50% of an employee’s performance review is based on how well the employee embodies the company’s 10 cultural core values:1. Deliver WOW through service.WOW is a short simple word, yet encompasses many things. WOW requires differentiation ... doing something beyond what is expected. Does your service have an emotional impact on the receiver?2. Embrace and drive change. Learn to not fear change. Embrace it with enthusiasm ... encourage and drive it. Plan for it. Ask, “What is the 1% improvement I can make to change myself/the company for the better”? 3. Create fun and a little weirdness. Laugh at yourself, look for fun and humor in your daily work. This encourages everyone to think outside of the box and be more innovative.4. Be adventurous, creative, and open-minded. If you are not making mistakes, you are not taking enough risk. Are you pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone?5. Pursue growth and learning.Are you a better person than you were yesterday? Are you stretching self/others? Do you understand the company vision?6. Build open and honest relationships with communication.A key ingredient to strong relationships is developing emotional connections. At the end of the day it’s not what you say or do, but how you make people feel that matters the most. In order for someone to feel good about a relationship, they must know the other person truly cares about them, both personally and professionally. 7. Build a positive team and family spirit.The best team members have a positive influence on one another and everyone they encounter, and strive to create harmony with those with whom they interact. 8. Be more with less.Never lose your sense of urgency in making improvements. Don’t settle for “good enough.” Good is the enemy of great. Be innovative, use mistakes as learning opportunities. Ask yourself, “How can we become more efficient?” 9. Be passionate and determined. Passion and determination are contagious. Are you passionate about the company? Are you passionate about your work? Do you love what you do and who you work with? Are you happy/inspired? Is this the place for you?10. Be humble. Are you humble when talking about your accomplishments? Do you treat large and small with the same amount of respect as they treat you?Ultimately, Hsieh say, it’s all about being happy, which comes from being part of something bigger than oneself. In fact, studies have shown that “connectedness” plays a large role in both happiness and productivity. For instance:
  • The number of good friends an employee has at work is correlated with how engaged the employee is.
  • Engaged or connected employees are more productive.
Happiness doesn’t come primarily from within,” Haidt says, “but rather from between.” So what does this all have to do with youand your practice ... or any dental practice, for that matter? To answer that question, consider the following nine ways Zappos instills a culture of great customer service. (Note: Doctor, if it’s underlined and in italics, it applies to you!)1. Make customer service a priority for the whole company/dental practice, not just a department/front or back office. A customer service attitude needs to come from the top/doctor down.
2. Make WOW a verb that is part of your company’s/practice’s everyday vocabulary.
3. Empower and trust your suppliers/dental supply reps. Trust that they want to provide great service … because they actually do!
4. Realize that it’s okay to fire customers/patients who are insatiable, or abuse your employees.
5. Don’t measure call times, don’t force employees to upsell, and don’t use scripts. None of which excuses you from properly training your employees!
6. View each call as an investment in building a customer/patient service brand, not as an expense you’re seeking to minimize.
7. Have the entire company/practice celebrate great service. Tell stories of WOW experiences to everyone in the company/at regular staff meetings
8. Find and hire people who are already passionate about customer/patient service.
9. Give great service to everyone: customers/patients, employees and suppliers.
If you would like help in bringing a culture of world-class customer service to your practice, please contact us today. We can bring our many years of experience in leadership and teamwork to your office, and work with you and your staff in creating and honing your own WOW dental practice!
Fran Pangakis is a certified training and development professional with extensive skills in facilitation, communications, training, coaching, and professional development. She is a certified consultant with the human resource and personnel policy firm Bent Ericksen & Associates, as well as being their lead trainer for Integrated Performance Management (IPM). IPM is a state of the art tool that is used for hiring, team building, leadership development and employee motivation. Fran also coaches other consultants on how to achieve their goals and “make the impossible possible” and is a member of the Academy of Dental Management Consultants.
Shari Tastad RDH, BS, is president of Pathways, and brings energy, expertise, business savvy, and a proven results-oriented approach to her work and her clients. Assisting clients in discovering their individual leadership brilliance is her forte’. Shari has worked with hundreds of businesses nationally as a management consultant and business coach, inspiring teams to solidify their visions and achieve greater successes through the five paths offered in her coaching. Shei has 17 years of clinical dental hygiene and 14 years of experience with consulting and coaching.