It’s about the relationship – a visit to the dentist

It’s Monday and the first appointment on my agenda was a visit to the dentist. Not my favorite day. Not my favorite place to go.

In finding a dentist I went through all the steps I would take to research a potential employer. In my world view, when a degree of competence is required and my smile is at risk. It’s about the relationship and trust.

Imagine my surprise when I arrived at my dentist’s office this morning and the dental assistant kept referring to the dentist as ‘he’ when my dentist was a ‘she’. Apparently my dentist had left the practice after giving two weeks notice and the administrative staff failed to communicate. So I left. And I think they were surprised.

I explained the reason I chose their practice was initially the credentials of my dentist, and over time, the trust I experienced in the relationship kept me connected.

Often businesses view their product as a commodity; easily exchanged for an alternate when the original is not available. This approach probably results in the view that clients are interchangeable as well. And in the case of this dental practice, they may be right. But I don’t think that’s a sustainable view.

We’re all managing relationships in our workplace; with colleagues, leadership and customers.

Today, on the last page of The New York Times sports section there is a photo essay: ‘Standing Till The End’ about the employees who have worked at the Nassau Coliseum as ushers for the NY Islanders Hockey Team. This is the last season the team will be playing on Long Island. They move to Brooklyn and the Barclays Center next season. Reporter Allan Kreda described the scene at a recent game: “Standing at ice level and facing the Islander’s runway, Mike Artusa smiled broadly and had a handshake for all the familiar faces. And there was a seemingly endless supply of those…Like so much at the arena, which dates to 1972, Artusa and his fellow ushers, ticket takers and security guards are fixtures. And they revel in their roles, treating the jobs more like a family reunion that work.”

These are people who will be out of work in a few weeks. But they understand and continue to demonstrate the fundamental values of their workplace and manage the relationships with their customers ‘as family’.

Is there a connection between the expectations we have visiting a dentist office vs. how we are treated at a sporting event? Going to the dentist, my expectation is not to have a good time, as I would at a hockey game. I don’t expect the staff to be ‘fixtures’, lacking career mobility. But I do expect professionals who value their patients.

When it comes to customer service, we can all improve with experience and observation. Maybe the dental office staff should go to a hockey game.



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