Aligning the Dental Practice Employee With the Customer Experience

teamwork with identify

By: Trude Henderson


We urge you take a look at Siobhan Doran’s blog post entitled, “The Power’s in the People,” which appeared May 9th on the website of TQMI, a company specializing in employee experience consulting. Doran’s thesis is that organizations should to tear down the divide and strive to align the customer and employee experience. She says that this can result in greater employee satisfaction and retention, as well as improved customer service.


Our takeaways from Doran’s piece:

First, the writer poses the question of how to align the employer and customer experience with the brand. The brand is comprised of company values; incorporating them must begin at the top. Management should encourage team members to convey what they believe to be the customer experience and “model this same behavior in their own decision-making.” We agree: in every organization, people are greatly influenced by those who exemplify and model these values, regardless of whether they have an official title.

Second, Doran argues that management should take brand values into account when recruiting and training. It’s better to recruit people based on the company values than on their skill-sets, which can always be taught. And “branded experiences require branded training”: if senior managers succeed in instilling company values in employees, “this ethos will translate to the customer experience.” Based on our experience, high-performing dental practices have well-thought-out systems in place for recruiting, promoting, training, performance reviews and compensation that are closely aligned with expected behaviors, guiding principles, values and goals. We refer to this as a “True North Strategic Plan” and strive to portray it as a journey rather than a destination. The late Dr. Shigeo Shingo, a pioneer in the field of operational excellence, maintained that the primary role of managers must shift from fire-fighting to designing, aligning and improving systems. We wholeheartedly agree.

Third, Doran says that management should make a point of exposing employees to the benefits the company offers its customers because it helps foster a unique organizational culture. Many orthodontists, for example, do offer discounted or free treatment to employees; however, we recommend taking this a step further by instructing employees and doctors to use their own personal stories about treatment and even show off their appliances, if still in treatment, or, if they have completed it, their beautiful smile. This stirs buyer excitement and confidence, boosting the pace of case conversation for the treatment coordinator and doctor, while simultaneously fostering good teamwork and communication, both critical for a healthy culture.

Fourth, a company needs to provide consistent branding for the benefit of every person, whether employee or customer, involved with the organization. This is true for the first exposure to an organization (the author gives the examples of a job advertisement or the company website), to later on, when adjustments in company processes may be called for.

Fifth, of course, customers are always free to express their views, but management should extend the same freedom to employees – the opportunity to offer feedback. This can easily be accomplished via daily huddles, but only with the expectation that issues will be brought to management’s attention in the form of “positive actionable suggestions” rather than complaints. Complaints can be an unwelcome distraction, causing people to go on the defensive, whereas multiple suggestions for improvement (two or three per issue raised is recommended) can stimulate trust, positive discussion, innovation and teamwork. Employees can easily get caught up in the old routines and forget that complaints are forbidden, but supervisors can quickly get them back on track by reminding them of the expected behavior. We have learned that practices that master the two-way employee as well as patient feedback process experience an increase in retention and engagement from all parties, not to mention a boost to the bottom line!

“The power’s in the people.”  The lesson to be learned from all this is that dental leaders should invest, at a minimum, the same amount of time and effort thinking about how they can improve the lives of their employees as they do about acquiring, treating and retaining patients.  When you add to this a leader who models a culture distinguished by the priority it puts on human beings, you get a combination that’s hard to beat. Be that leader!

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