People are becoming increasingly busy and self absorbed, to the point of forgetting to acknowledge other people. Don't let this happen in your dental practice. Talk to team members about acknowledging patients and each other, even if it's just a simple nod.
Hello. How are you? We’re glad you’re here. I’ll be right with you.
What do all these statements have in common? They’re forms of acknowledgement—that someone has called, walked in the room, or up to your desk. What is acknowledgement? It is recognizing that someone or something exists, and it is the simple expression of gratitude.
Unfortunately, we do not see a lot of acknowledgement in our society. People are too engrossed in whatever is happening on their phones to look up and talk to the person right in front of them. The next time you go into a restaurant, look around. See how many people are glued to their phones. Many do not engage in conversation with the people at their table, much less acknowledge when the waiter brings their food or fills their water glass.
I recently went into a medical office with my father, and the receptionist never looked up when we walked in the door. She was a very nice lady once we got to talking with her, but she did not even acknowledge us when we walked in the door.
Is this happening in your office? I sure hope not, but I do see it far too often. Acknowledgement is the first step in excellent customer service. Our constant mantra to our clients is that the person standing in front of them is the most important. We are not saying that you have to end every phone call when someone walks up to your desk, just smile and nod. The patient now feels “acknowledged.” Isn’t that what we all want, to know that the person in front of us realizes we are there and we exist? Sure it is!
What about the acknowledgement of our fellow team members? Do we take for granted that they know we see, hear, and understand them? I understand that we are all busy, but we need to at least look at the person that is right in front of us and give them a nod of acknowledgement, for instance, when the hygienist brings the patient to the front desk. A nod is a simple gesture to say, “Yes, I see you, and I’ll be right with you.”
The next area where we find that lack of acknowledgment involves texts, emails, and even voicemails. Are you responding to your patients’ communications with you in a timely manner? When your practice receives a message from a patient, it is very important to respond to that patient as soon as possible. This includes and should especially be directed at patients who are upset or disgruntled.
The quicker you respond, the faster you will diffuse a situation. An immediate reply will prevent the communications from getting lost in all of your other emails or texts. Not to mention that we are in an era of immediate gratification. When someone sends you a communication, they expect a relatively quick answer. How do you feel when someone does not respond to you in a timely manner? You might question whether the message was lost or was sent into spam. Keep this in mind when you’re communicating with your patients.
If you do not have time to fully respond to an email or text, simply send something short such as, “I will look in to this and get back to you shortly,” or “Can I give you a call later so we can discuss this?” or a simple, “Thank you” if no response is necessary. You have now let the person know you received the message, that they are important, and that you are not ignoring them.
Acknowledging someone is a courteous and polite thing to do and it takes little effort. In our self-absorbed world, taking a moment to greet someone could brighten their day and make them feel respected. These simple gestures go a long way. I challenge you to talk to your team about making a concerted effort to acknowledge your patients and each other.