PROACTIVE PRACTICE MANAGEMENT
 

Saying Thank You Before the Thought Fades Away...

Several years ago, I recall a client of mine who was running a very profitable general dentistry practice and contacted me questioning his giving of annual bonus’ to his employees. He based the bonus on length of time served in the practice, overall productivity of the office, and pay scales of the employees. Through all the years he had been paying bonus checks, only two employees had ever said "thank you." Neither was still with the company. One moved to the east coast, and the other retired to a small town within the state where the doctor practices.

My client was so disappointed with this lack of etiquette that he discontinued the incentive bonus program, and if anyone had the guts to complain, he would quickly retort, "I have been paying bonus’ for several years, and no one has bothered to say thank you. When one of you takes the initiative and says thank you, I might consider bringing back a bonus program.”

I sat back and pondered this dilemma and what came to my mind were the gifts I would receive as a child from friends for my birthday or Christmas, and also gifts from my grandparents. It wasn’t the gifts that came to mind, per se, it was the lesson from my mom and dad to send thank you cards and acknowledge the gifts received. Besides, grandparents and others may have wondered, what happened? Was the gift lost in the mail? Did the poor thing lose the power of speech or the use of his writing hand?

I’m sure there are countless stories out there of people who have sent a birthday check and not heard a word back. Perhaps the only evidence that the gift was received is found among the pile of canceled checks returned from the bank! Oh well, the benefactor must think…”hope they bought something nice for herself.

On occasion, I’ll receive exceptional service in a restaurant and leave a larger than normal tip, hoping that the server would realize a larger tip is a sign that I enjoyed the experience and would like to return, particularly if my generosity is acknowledged. This hasn’t happened yet: the server hasn’t followed me out and said, “Hey, I just wanted to thank you for your generous tip, I really appreciate you showing how much you enjoyed my service this evening. When you return next time, ask for me, I look forward to seeing you again!” Right: what world am I living in?

If you're a dentist and have recently completed a large case that the patient either pre-paid, or paid in full, what have you done to make that patient know how you feel about it? It’s great to bank the money and have an above average month in collections because of the huge case you just completed, but what about the patient who received the treatment and is now part of your success story in dentistry?

A thank you just makes sense. A prompt thank you is easy to say, a lot easier to say than “Gosh Mrs. Jones, I neglected to tell you how much I appreciate you as a patient,” or “How've you been after all this time?”

In New York City, several years ago, the police are enforcing the quality-of-life laws and then Mayor Giulianni is even calling for the city’s cabdrivers and waiters to improve their manners, pointing out that rudeness is not a great civic selling point. It seems to be working. Crime is down. Tourism is up. And, the city is on a roll!

Many dental offices wait until the holidays to say thank you. A Thanksgiving card to patients is a common form of marketing this time of year. Nothing wrong with that, but why wait? Seize the moment, and be more responsive by saying the magic words the moment it’s appropriate. Stay away from the “corporate logo” stuff, those are fine for advertising, but it’s not a gift.

I try to tell my clients, day in and day out, the best gift a dentist can give to his or her patients or team members, have no monetary value. They are the hand written cards that say, “Thank you for being such a great patient. It’s people like you that make me proud to be a dentist.” Additionally, a telephone call on the evening of treatment to make sure patients are well is a tremendous way dentists can show how much they care about the well-being of their clientele; although not an outright “thank you”, but a powerful gesture nonetheless.

I recently received a note from a dentist client of mine saying, “Thanks, Fred. I couldn’t have done this (transitioned his practice) without you!” Needless to say, I was on cloud nine for days!

Imagine what would happen if you caught someone who works for you doing something exceptional and you say to him or her, “Thank you, I really appreciate you being here. You’re a fantastic team member in this office!” Believe me, an action of this sort will be extremely well received.

Sure, it’s a two way street. You’d like your employees to do the same when they are given a bonus or rewarded for exceptional performance. Part of leadership is doing those things you would hope your employees would do as well. Lead by example, then. Say “thank you” more often when the occasion presents itself; you’ll see it come back in many ways.