How Exceptional Customer Service Improves Oral Hygiene

We often dread going to the dentist. I am not an exception. I’ve always had problems with my gums, specifically regarding flossing consistently and then brushing and flossing with the proper technique. These points have been pounded into me again and again over the past years, over many return visits, but for some reason it has never hit home and stuck.

Both dentists and hygienists in the past have tried a variety of methods. Some have joked that my pristine healthy teeth would mean nothing if my gums are too weak and unhealthy to hold them in place. Some tried a ‘tough love’ approach where they threatened me, of how the plaque would get into my blood stream and render all my workouts and exercising meaningless. Others would ignore me or just answer ‘it’s actually not that bad’ when I ask numerous questions and lament at how I can’t seem to get my gums in top shape. One dentist I had came close to offering something that was different and could possibly stick with impact when he said, “You hear the length of the song that is playing on the radio right now? That’s how long you should be brushing.”

This last piece of advice was unique and could have had lasting value but, unfortunately, he said it with no emotion, no intonation, as if we were just pressing ‘repeat’ on his programmed voice. It didn’t sound like he put much stock into this advice and didn’t believe in it much himself. It sort of came out just as part of his exhale and breathing pattern, no different.

My last visit to the dentist, however, I was lucky enough to receive exceptional customer service from a new dental hygienist that, believe it or not, has me excited to return and update her on the progress of my gums. The first thing she did that was noticeable was take off her mask when talking at length with me. Instead of rushing to get inside my mouth with her cleaning tools, she would grab a chair when I had concerns and questions. As you know, it’s difficult to talk while all those tools are in my mouth, so it’s refreshing that she purposely sets aside a bit of time for only discussion where we are fully focused on the concerns at hand.

During this time, she asked about my problem areas (gums, of course) and which parts of my mouth/teeth were most sensitive. Then, when she was doing the cleaning, she would be more gentle and take more care in those sensitive areas. In addition, she was aware during times when I would feel a bit of pain or wince, or my eyes getting teary, and start to hum a calming tune in an effort to counteract the pain and create a mood to help me tolerate the discomfort.

And, finally, upon leaving, I had more questions about brushing. The hygienist again removed her mask, grabbed a seat, and in her explanation not only showed me proper brushing technique but thought about ideas to get me motivated to enjoy brushing. Here, she didn’t just recite something from a manual or just send me away quickly with whatever words would quickly do. Instead, she actually paused, was silent, puzzled, deep in thought, before excitedly coming up with an idea that was colored and memorable because of her unique style. She said: “Brushing. No wonder it can be mundane. You’re doing it pretty much at the same time, same place, every day. It’s pretty dreary in the washroom, isn’t it? We usually don’t want to hang out there too long. How about this? Try, at times, taking brushing outside of the washroom? Try adding a few brushing sessions at nontraditional times and in nontraditional places to spice it up?”

Before this experience, I certainly didn’t really think of a dental office as a place to discover exceptional service. Just do the cleaning, fix what needs fixing, and get me the hell out of there. This was one of the few times when I wanted to stay longer. Also, at home, when I brush and floss, I tend to do it longer, and with a smile on my face, when associating it with this pleasurable experience I had.  I also find myself humming a similar tune the hygienist hummed when cleaning in hard to reach and sensitive areas.

-Patrick Law



Filed under Working

5 responses to “How Exceptional Customer Service Improves Oral Hygiene

  1. Clinton Skakun

    Haha, I wish I had an experience like that at the dentists. Last time I was there I was persuaded to getting my wisdom teeth removed by a surgeon. Because “There is a chance you could get gingivitis if you don’t”, um haha no. I got them out because they’re always a problem anyways.

    Great story & post! Customer service makes all the difference. Besides business is about people, businesses should try to specialize in serving people and giving them a positive experience. People go where they are treated the best.

    Have a great day!

  2. Hey Clinton,
    From this, and the other comment, sounds like you have an interest in business and customer service.
    I find it most difficult to provide good service when tasks start to get monotonous and routine. How to break out of that?

    That’s why I really appreciate the approach by the dental hygienist. She must give out similar kind of advice every day about teeth and gums, but she is able to make it sound fresh and unique.

    You come across some good, or bad, examples of customer service lately?

  3. I read your post and loved it! I happen to own a mystery shopping business and we are starting to mystery shop in the medical industry because of the poor customer service that is currently out there!

    This would be an example of an 100% shop! Those are very few and far between.

  4. Hello Kathy,
    Thanks for taking time to visit this blog and read the post. Yeh, it’s interesting how more and more attention is being paid to customer service in health and medical industries.

    In the Globe and Mail this morning, there was an article written reviewing two books focusing on customer service. One book particularly focused on the Mayo Clinic and the exceptional service you see with the staff there.

    Here’s the link to the article with the reviews:

    Keep in touch and let me know how your mystery shopping business is going, and what interesting customer service stories you hear!


  5. Pingback: Couple of New Books on Customer Service « Procrastination Post

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