As I drive around the tri-state area visiting with the practices we are coaching, I am always amazed at the length of the drive-thru lines I see repeatedly at Chick-fil-A fast-food restaurants. I’ve wondered what could possibly make these people want to wait so long for a fried chicken sandwich. The phenomenon is confirmed by industry studies that show that consumers wait in line the longest at Chick-fil-A, typically 9 minutes, when compared to all of the other chains. Chick-fil-A has the slowest drive-thrus in the country. The reason customers line up is that Chick-fil-A has done an incredible job of differentiating itself form all of the other places where you can get a fried chicken sandwich. In every presentation that we deliver to dentists around the country, we emphasize the importance of differentiating your practice from other practices in your area. Your goal should be to have patients say things like “that is the most thorough exam I’ve ever had”, ”the team is the nicest and most friendly I’ve ever met in a professional office”, “the doctor was the best listening doctor that I have ever had”.

One of the reasons the drive-thru experience is so positive at Chick-fil-A is that they add extra employees outside “working the line” to keep waiting customers engaged and to increase efficiency. Think about this in relation to your dental practices. One of the worst things that most practices do is leaving patients sitting alone in treatment rooms. This causes them to lose their patience and it creates extra anxiety. Do not leave patients alone in treatment rooms.

Despite Chick-fil-A’s poor showing in the speed study, they consistently score the highest in the area of customer satisfaction (95%), 10 percentage points above their nearest competitor, which takes into account staff friendliness and satisfying customer expectations. We should always expect good customer service, but Chick-fil-A does the common in an uncommon way.

I recently went to a Chick-fil-A to see how they could impress me. I noticed the cleanliness of the facility and an abundance of smiling employees who all made eye contact and said “hello”. Do all of the members of your dental team pay attention to the small detail of saying “hello” to every visitor to your office with a smile on their face, or do they get caught up in their busyness and ignore the patient?

When I said. “Thank you” (and I tried it several times), each time my comment was met with the team member saying, “my pleasure”, which implied that “it’s my pleasure to serve you”. When your patients say “Thank you” to members of your team, do they answer by saying “no problem” or “uh-huh”? Teaching them the preferred response is just one simple way of making improved service a competitive differentiator.

Dental team members do not get burned out because of the work they do. Providing dental care enables our employees to work in a way that defies boredom. Dental team members get burned out because they forget WHY they do the work they do. Do we strive to inspire our dental team members about having a sense of purpose? Do we emphasize that our care makes a difference in the lives of our patients, and our teams? Chick-fil-A has created a very strong sense of purpose that they emphasize throughout the employment of their teams. Do you emphasize a strong sense of purpose to your dental team members? It is a fact in the business world that purpose-driven companies continually outperform companies that lack purpose.

The manager of the Chick-fil-A that I visited was very gracious in taking some time to speak with me. He described how Chick-fil-A is committed to excellence, but the core values promote excellence as more than achieving financial success. The company shows that they value relationships even more than results. Chick-fil-A is committed to creating a workplace culture where everyone is treated with dignity and respect. I can greatly appreciate this philosophy. The legacy of my own practice, over time, became much more than the great dental care that we provided. I take great pride in the fact that the team members from my practice developed personal relationships with one another that have lasted many years since we all worked together.

Chick-fil-A founder, Truett Cathy, proudly promoted that his organization was not in the chicken business, but that they were in the people business. One of the best ways that he showed this was that he encouraged his employees to give back to the community through participation in community projects. This reinforced the commitment to purpose. I can vouch for the positive effect that this has on a dental team. The dental team in my practice took great common pride in reaching out to help infirmed patients and in the philanthropic dentistry that we provided for numerous patients each year. This unselfishness also boosted the image of our practice in our community.

Chick-fil-A devotes a tremendous amount of time in training their employees on the front end so that they do not need to correct problems on the back end. When we would onboard a new team member in our practice, we would have them only observe an existing team member in their role for their first two weeks. For the second two weeks, the most senior team member in their role would be working over their shoulder to guide them through their paces. At the end of the four weeks of onboarding the new team member could function as if they were a long-standing employee. This system also promoted comraderie. It’s a way of demonstrating that members of our team were not valued for what they did, but for who they were and how they helped one another.

One of the most highly respected periodontists in the country is Dr. Michael Sonick, in Fairfield County, Connecticut. I feel fortunate to have had outstanding training with him in placing implants 20 years ago. His training programs are still among the best in the country. Recently, he published a wonderful book, entitled “Treating People, Not Patients”. The book provides an invaluable look into the principles that have allowed him to create a state-of-the-art patient centric practice. His insights empower you to grow your practice by changing how you view the people you serve and your role as a professional. This approach strongly proclaims that you and your team care about patients and team as valued individuals. This approach to creating a great culture starts with an inspiring leader. Will each of you take on the challenge to lead a culture that is both team centric and patient-centric?

Once upon a time, on a large mountainside, there was an eagle’s nest with four large eagle’s eggs in it. Once day an earthquake rocked the mountain, causing one of the eggs to roll out of the nest. The eagle’s egg rolled down the mountain and settled among hundreds of chicken eggs lying in a chicken farm at the bottom of the mountain. Eventually the eagle’s egg hatched among all of the chicken eggs. The eagle was raised among the chickens. Although the eagle loved his home and his family, he felt frustrated and out of place. One day the eagle looked up into the sky and noticed a group of eagles flying above. The eagle cried out, “I wish I could fly”. All of the chickens laughed and told him that “he had been born as a chicken and chickens do not fly”. The eagle continued to dream that he could fly, but he was repeatedly told it could not be done. After a period of time, the eagle stopped dreaming and continued to live his life as a chicken. Finally, after a long life as a chicken, the Eagle died.

The moral of this story is that you become what you believe you are. If you dream to fly like an eagle, you should believe in your dream, not the words of the chickens. To live your dream and develop your dream practice, it requires that you come out of comfort zones and strive to differentiate yourself and your practice from others. You must trust your core beliefs and develop a sense of purpose that inspires you to believe in yourself and your team. When you take charge like this it will enable you to achieve the practice potential that has always existed for you and your team.

If you would like to find out more about how

Smile Potential Coaching

can help your practice soar,

send us an email at coaching@smilepotential.com

or call us at 516-599-0214.