Travelling on a “milk run” series of flights, from Vancouver Island to San Diego, I can’t help notice that different airports have completely different cultures when it comes to customer service. They look similar, they sound similar, and the flow of people, the routines, the services are all pretty much the same. And yet….my experience of each airport has been entirely different. Kind of like dental practices……
Let’s start with Nanaimo airport. It’s small. You can’t get lost. Security and where the gates are is a no-brainer. The worry is always that the Pacific coast weather this time of year will stymie your flight plans! It was no different this morning; early, dark, and rainy with low cloud. Nevertheless, we took off as scheduled. Despite it being before 6:00 AM I did not come across one single grumbly person! Next, Vancouver International. The security lines were long, followed by the long US Customs lines in which travellers were herded through the first cattle grid, then another for the automated customs kiosks, then another to show a real person the little receipt the kiosk spit out plus your actual passport. Then a very long walk through to the right gate. All with the knowledge that that customs doesn’t care if or when your flight is leaving so if you have cut it tight, beware! Nevertheless, again I found everyone helpful, cheery and pleasant, official personnel and fellow travellers alike. Even the customs officials were pleasant.
And now I wait for my last boarding in San Francisco airport. This airport is not designed to help travellers or make their experience a good one. The staff are not knowledgeable. No one is interested in you. If you ask for assistance no one even makes eye contact. Quite a few fellow Canadian travellers who were with me on board from Vancouver had connecting domestic flights, as I did. We unloaded into the International part of the airport. Immediately looking for gates for our connections, we were dismayed to find that none of our flights are listed anywhere on the flight boards. We guessed that they would be on a board in the domestic part of the airport, but where was that?? No signs, no directions, no guidance. No one available to help. Courtesy phones that didn’t work. I finally found someone that directed me toward the right place. The domestic terminal is not called ‘domestic’. It’s called Terminal 3. Does it say Terminal 3 on my boarding pass? No! If you are new to the airport, is there any way you know that Terminal 3 means Domestic? No!
All this has made me think about the culture of customer service in a dental practice. The one thing we all want as customers is a frictionless experience. Easy, convenient, without hassle. Think of the times you’ve been stuck in a phone loop, or you’ve had to run around back and forth to get what you need. Can your patients get the appointments they want? Can they see the hygienist they want? Are you efficient in your booking so patients don’t have to wait? So they don’t have to come back for multiple appointments to complete treatment when it’s unnecessary? Do you make it easy for them to pay? To book their next recall? When you recommend products, do you make them available for your patients to buy on the spot? I have one client who recommends Sonicare toothbrushes, then gives clients a coupon for $10 off when they go out to buy one. Why not sell the toothbrushes right in the practice? Do you recommend sensitivity toothpastes or floss picks? Sell them or give them away right there on the spot.
Make your patients experiences frictionless while you are showing them you value them and appreciate them. Don’t make it hard and don’t make assumptions (or “Terminal 3” them as I am going to now call it!).