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Customer Service Recovery

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably seen or read about the United airlines “re-accommodation” incident where a passenger was forcibly removed from an airplane that was “oversold” so that 4 United employees could board the plane instead. Chalk this up as one more reason why I fly private.

As a serious student of customer service and the companies who practice exceptional service recovery, I was curious what I could learn about United and its history on customer service. It didn’t take long to discover a disturbing trend.

In the 1990s, United sold 55% of the company back to its employees. The buyout was led by the pilot’s union chief who said his goal was, “not to kill the golden goose but to choke it by the neck until it gives us every last egg.” Those are not the words from a leader that understands customer value or how free markets work.

In United’s 2002 bankruptcy filings, they were fined for illegal work slowdowns. On a single day in 2008, 329 flights had to be cancelled when a whole slew of union pilots called in sick on the same day, even though they were healthy. 36,000 United travelers were stranded that day. The union admitted to using such tactics to maintain employee ownership. In other words, they were intentionally harming the customer experience and holding the company hostage for more ownership and control.

The CEO of United came on the news yesterday and said the passenger had been “re-accommodated.” This gave late night hosts like Fallon and Kimmel plenty of fodder for their monologues. But, the joke was on United, who saw its stock plunge over 4% early in the trading day after this PR storm rolled onto the front page of the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and New York Times.

We’ve got American-Russian relations at a boiling point, North Korea threatening to throw nukes at the U.S. and somehow a domestic airline company has managed to steal all of the news headlines. That’s what we call a “very bad week” in the public relations world.

Listen, we all think we provide better customer service than we actually do. I know because I watch more orthodontic secret-shopper tapes tapes than any other person on the planet. I see the difference between what we think is happening and what is actually happening in our offices. Fortunately, I’ve never seen one of our clients forcibly remove a patient from the clinic because they were “over-booked.” There are no excuses for United’s actions, but there are some profound clues as to how it happened and what they could have done to recover from the service failure in a much better way.

Many of you know we do a lot of work with The Disney Institute. If you’ve ever been to one of Disney’s parks, you understand they provide great service, but they’re not perfect. Disney World welcomes over 52,000 guests per day. It’s hard to be perfect with that many guests. Disney comes pretty darn close to being perfect and they do a better job than nearly any other company on the planet. However, what Disney does better than everyone else, hands down, is recover from service failures in a big way. Often, the stories shared by guests when they return home is not about the 99% of their trip that went smoothly, but the 1% that went horribly wrong and how Disney rushed in and saved the day with a big service recovery. They talk about how amazing the service was, even though it was in response to something that went horribly awry.

I’ve seen Disney do this with long wait times for dinner reservations, rooms that weren’t ready upon arrival and with lost luggage. I’ve seen it when the transportation is running behind or when the snack stands or stores are out of a particular item. Disney has a special way of recovering from their service failures and they make it a point to share those stories with their entire cast.

Let’s think about service recovery in terms of the United Airlines passenger who was illegally removed from a plane and assaulted this week. Instead of hiding behind a policy and ignoring the service breakdown that resulted from overbooking their flights, United could have offered the passengers more money to take a different flight. They could have started an open bidding process, where the passengers tell the airline what they would be willing to take to get off the plane. Even then, if everyone refused to take another flight, they could and should have made their own employees wait to take the next flight.

You cannot expect your system or your employees to perform perfectly, but you can instruct, coach and empower them to fix things quickly when they see the things going off the rails. Then, reward them with praise and help them share with their co-workers what they did to resolve the situation. Talk about the results after service recovery. Show, share, learn and repeat.

Of course, it’s easy to be a Monday morning quarterback. Hindsight is always 20/20 and I’m certain United’s CEO is kicking himself for the way this unraveled so quickly. So, what can we learn from service failure and recovery opportunities?

First, empower your employees to do the right thing. Get your team in the habit of asking, “How would I want to be treated if I was in the patient’s shoes?” Do not give them false power by hiding behind policies and procedures. I cringe when I hear orthodontic team members say, “Well, that’s our policy.” Who cares about your policy? Most orthodontists have erected policies and procedures that they think are protecting them but, in reality, are damaging goodwill and flushing referrals down the drain. With everything you do, ask, “If I was the patient, what would I want?”

I would want a spotless office with spotless floors and pristine chairs that don’t have bits and pieces of o-ties, power-chain and wires anywhere in sight. I would want comfortable impressions and quick appointments with competent and efficient employees. I would want my treatment to run on time and I would want friendly people who remembered my name.

You get to determine what the orthodontic experience looks like in your office, but you don’t get to hide behind policies that make no sense to the consumer. Period.

Second, talk about and share examples of excellent service and service recovery. It’s hard to learn how to swing a golf club properly if you’ve never seen it done before. Stop expecting your employees to read your mind when it comes to providing excellent customer service in your office. Talk about it. Share examples. When an employee in our office gets a 9 or 10 rating in our net promotor score survey that asks patients whether they would, “Recommend our office to a friend or not,” the office manager is notified and the employee is rewarded. Both are reminded to share in tomorrow’s morning huddle exactly what the employee did to earn such a great score. Other employees need to see what their co-workers are doing to deliver great service. Talk about those ideas. Alternatively, when a patient records a score of 1 or 2, the site coordinator (office manager) is notified immediately and reminded to make a personal telephone call to that patient or parent that night after work.

We could talk for days about customer service, which is exactly why I scheduled a three-day summit on the topic later this month in Kansas City with a sold-out audience. I look forward to seeing many of you there. In the meantime, spend a few minutes in your morning huddle or weekly team meeting discussing what your employees think about the United Airlines story in the news. How can you learn from everything around you, in order to provide better service to your patients? Talk about the power of company culture that, over time, slowly led to a service environment that was not only poor but dangerous for customers. Come up with 5 things you can do this week to improve your service recovery. Reward your team and share your customer service “wins.”

To see what smart orthodontists are doing each week to strengthen their service and grow their practices, join me at where I share with you the “wins” and feedback from our orthodontic clients in 25 countries throughout the world.


Direct Mail and New Patient Attraction


Let’s take a look at some recent direct mail marketing stats that may surprise you:

  • People are not opening emails, but do sort through physical mail.
  • 98% of Americans check their mail every day.
  • Approximately 66% of people have bought something because of direct mail.
  • People still feel that direct mail is more personal than the internet.
  • Physical mail actually leaves an imprint in the brain.
  • People spend at least 30 minutes per day reading their physical mail.

I bet you haven’t heard any of these statistics from your digital marketing or social media agency, have you? Because there is less competition in the mail right now, you have an opportunity to show up where none of your competition is showing up.

In today’s generation of Millennials, they are consumed by digital media. In essence, this means that using direct mail to send a unique and engaging message could be one of the most powerful things you can do for your business. Because of the steady and growing decline in direct mail marketing campaigns, there is now a strong indication that using this strategy could put your business that much farther ahead. Not to mention, research has shown that direct mail marketing is one of the cheapest and most effective ways to go. You want to reach your customers not only this way, but across multiple channels, for the best effect.

Discover the benefits of direct mailing and combining it with those other channels when you Download the White Paper on Direct Mail and New Patient Attraction.



7 Keys to Productive Team Meetings

When was the last time you had a truly productive team meeting in your orthodontic practice? Have you stopped holding regular meetings because nothing ever seems to change?

Through comprehensive study of the most successful companies on the planet and how they embrace team meetings in order to quickly clarify miscommunication and realign the entire company on the same page so that their front-line employees can produce results for the customer, Dr. Dustin Burleson has distilled 7 Keys to Productive Team Meetings in this special report.

Inside this Burleson Seminars white paper, you’ll discover practical templates and take-aways from business management leadership and research produced by Cameron Herold, Ken Blanchard, Dr. Paul Hersey, and Verne Harnish so that you can transform your team meetings from mediocre to one of the most valuable elements of your practice.

Click here to download the white paper on holding more productive team meetings in your practice.

Keys to Productive Meetings


17 Years of Experience in Dental Practice Management


Dr. Dustin S. Burleson is a speaker, teacher, author and business strategist for over 1,900 doctors located in 23 different countries throughout the world. He writes and edits five newsletters monthly, is the director of the Rheam Foundation for Cleft & Craniofacial Orthodontics and operates a large multi-doctor, multi-clinic orthodontic and pediatric dental practice in Kansas City, Missouri.

He is a champion of the private practitioner and has a long track record of helping orthodontists transform their practices and increase their impact on their families, employees, communities and the profession of orthodontics. Last year alone, his orthodontic marketing campaigns generated over $300 million in revenue for his clients. When he is not working, you can find him on his sailboat, jumping out of airplanes, or racing exotic cars through the desert. In tightly-contested vote, he was recently named Best Dad in the World by two-thirds of his children.

•  Adjunct Assistant Professor, Department of Orthodontics, UMKC School of Dentistry
•  Attending Orthodontist, The Children’s Mercy Hospital, Kansas City, MO
•  Director, Rheam Foundation for Cleft and Craniofacial Orthodontics
•  Founder and President, Burleson Orthodontics & Pediatric Dentistry
•  Founder and Senior Consultant, Burleson Seminars


Latest Burleson Seminars Clients



Proven Orthodontic Management Systems and Strategies


Your Team Will Make or Break Your Practice

How much effort do you put into ensuring that you are hiring the right person for each position in your business? If you don’t know the answer to that question, you may be costing your company in more ways than one. Not having the right people in each position can be a problem. A big problem. One that can impact your customer service, productivity, and your bottom line.

No matter how long someone has had their business, it is never too late to evaluate whether you have the right people in each position. Sure, you may like someone and find them friendly to chat with, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are good at what they do. To run a successful business, you need people who are good at what they do. And you need them in every position within your company.

With Burleson Seminars you you will learn proven systems and strategies from an actual orthodontist. Burleson’s teachings are not theoretical “what if” or “case studies” from consultants who have never picked up a dental handpiece nor have they ever actually built and managed a successful multi-million dollar practice. One of the key areas your practice can experience significant growth is in the area of effective delegation to the best team members.

Effective delegation helps your practice accomplish more, grow, and thrive. But that only works
when you have the right people in each position. Whether you get the help of a talent acquisition
firm or you do all the hiring yourself, it is important to get the right people in each position.
Doing so will save your company money in training and turnover, and you will improve

When it comes to getting the right people hired, consider these tips:

  • Don’t base all of your hiring expectations on experience or education. While those things are important,
    what is more important is one’s attitude and learning abilities. Someone who has a great attitude and is
    eager to learn may prove to be just what your team needs.
  • Ask questions that matter, when you are doing an interview. Forget some of the age-old questions that
    people have formulated responses for. Instead, find unique questions that are formulated off the
    individual. “What leadership positions have you held in the past?” and “What do you do for fun in your
    free time?” are two of my favorite questions.
  • Go with your gut, and never settle for someone who doesn’t seem quite right. If the right person doesn’t
    come through the door, keep searching. There is too much at stake to settle for someone or hire
    someone that your gut instinct says isn’t the right one. 

In my offices, I have a great team who all do their jobs well. But that didn’t just happen, all on its
own. Having an effective team of professionals was a goal, and it was something that I wasn’t
going to compromise. As a result, my office runs efficiently, and we have grown 638% in the last
4 years. You can get the same results. It starts and ends with your team. Hire superstars.