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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.


How Sound Are Your Investments?


Warren Buffett once said “Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” This simple short quote says so much when it comes to the investments that we make. When we make the right investments they will be there for the long haul and years down the road they are going to provide us the shade we are looking for.

Buffett, who is reportedly worth around $76 billion, wasn’t always rich. But it seems his mindset had him on the right path to get there. By the time he was a teenager he was already making more money than most adults were. His plan was to become a millionaire by the time he turned 35, and he far surpassed that, going on to become one of the richest people in the world.

But how exactly did he become so successful? This is a question that everyone wishes they had the answer to, just so they could try to emulate even a small portion of it. But if you listen to some of what Buffett has had to say over the years, he has indeed shared some of his secrets of success. One of the things he said that stands out was part of a speech he gave at the Wharton School of Business back in 1999. He delivered to that audience what he referred to as four rules for investment, and what important rules they were.

One of the rules that he shared that has stuck with me was that he believes a sound investment is one that behaves like a castle, on a hill, surrounded by a moat. This visual image should help you protect your investments and maintain your value as an investor. Following this logic today he still has rock-solid investments that pay off, like insurance and basic goods and services, even if he has felt the pinch when it comes to certain industries having ups and downs.

Another important rule that Buffett shared that day was that he believes you should always understand the business you are investing in. This may be one of the main reasons why he didn’t get caught up in investing in the first tech bubble. It was an industry that was so new that it didn’t yet fully understand itself. He avoided getting mixed up in it, instead keeping his focus on investing in things he understood. Buffett has maintained investing in companies that he understands. His focus is on such things as insurance and the transportation industry. These are areas of investment that he knows, uses, and feels has as strong base for longevity.

This brings me to an important point for this month, which is to consider these principles as you go forward with your planning this month and throughout the year. You want to continuously strive to push forward, but also remain on solid ground, so that you have strong roots invested in things that you know work and that you understand. Don’t stop your internal and referring dentist campaigns and run off with some new-fangled shiny object that promises to solve all of your practice problems. Instead, build on the foundation and then you can test new strategies.

Test new things that will help you become stronger and more profitable, such as our monthly newsletter, attending seminars, getting consulting or coaching, or investing in equipment and human capital that will help your practice grow. Now is a great time to get started down the right path toward investing in success that will carry you through another year.

Get Dustin’s Latest Book

You can get your copy of Dustin’s latest book here:  The Ultimate Success Secret – Build the Orthodontic Practice of Your Dreams


Measure Every Aspect of Your Practice

The Ultimate Success SecretBy Dustin S. Burleson, DDS — WHEN IT COMES to managing a business, there is one name that stands out above all others – Peter Drucker. Although he died several years ago at the age of 95, he left a legacy on the topic of management that will be difficult for others to surpass. Considered an expert, or guru, on the topic, he brought the idea of management to the forefront – a place where it has remained ever since.

Management is the idea behind taking charge of every aspect of your life. This includes your practice. It would be great if we could open the doors to our practice and just kick back and wait for things to happen. Just wait for the patients to begin calling and coming in for their appointments. But as much as we may want that to happen and as nice as it would be, it’s not likely to ever happen. In reality, if you want to be successful, in both your personal and business lives, you have to make things happen. You do that by taking charge, or managing every aspect of your life.

If there is an important lesson that I have learned over the years in practice is that I cannot do it alone. Neither can you. Running a successful dental or orthodontic practice is a team effort. But that team is only going to help you reach your goals if you are a great manager and make the right moves and decisions to begin with. What do I mean by that? Going back to Drucker, in management theory he placed an emphasis on making sure that you lead others and are effective at it. He also believed it was crucial to hire the right people to be on your team.

Hire the wrong people and no matter how good of a coach or manager you are, there is a chance you will never get those people off the bench and into the game. They may never care who wins or pay attention that there is a game going on. They are too busy focusing on a million other things that have nothing to do with your practice or their job. But on the flip side, if you hire the right people, it can do wonders. Hiring the right talent to work in your office can make a tremendous difference in the success of your practice and in how easy it is for you to manage. The right people come together as a team to make your management duties easier. They understand your goals, missions, and philosophy, and they work to help carry them out.

Measuring, Then Managing
Imagine if you opened the doors of your practice and a year later a colleague asked you how it was going and if you were having success. You scratch your head and say that you really don’t know if it is successful. I suppose if the doors are still open there is some level of success present, but that certainly doesn’t tell the whole story. Maybe you are biding time having the doors open. Perhaps you are only doing a fraction of what your business is actually capable of doing in your area.

The problem here is that if you don’t measure things, you can’t really know for sure if your business is successful. Within your practice, it is important to have things to measure. These things will help you determine if you are headed in the right direction, growing as a company, and if you are successful.

So how will you measure success at your practice? Is it the number of repeat patients you have? How about the dollar amount of business you do each year? Or perhaps it is measured in the satisfaction you get out of loving what you do each day. There are many ways to measure, but you have to have something to measure. Only then can you determine if you are reaching goals, as well as the level of success you would like to have in your practice.

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” – Peter Drucker

Get Dustin’s Latest Book
You can get your copy of Dustin’s latest book here:  The Ultimate Success Secret – Build the Orthodontic Practice of Your Dreams


Magnetically Attract More of Your Best Patients

by Dustin S. Burleson, DDS

I work with business owners across a wide spectrum of fields and nearly all of them misunderstand the power of magnetic attraction, how it impacts their business and how to put it to use for the mutual benefit of all parties. The average business owner, orthodontist or cosmetic dentist erroneously believes that any customer is a good customer. Insurance companies have led us to believe that any patient is better than no patient at all. But, the insurance company isn’t waiting for you at home when you arrive back from work so frustrated, so defeated and so worn down by treating high volumes of patients who only chose your office because you were on their “list of providers.” You’ve been relegated to the commodity level when you allow volume thinking and discount-based pricing to rule your practice. The look on your face after days like this is so telling that even the dog knows you had a bad day.

Compare and contrast these days to the ones where you arrive home after a full schedule feeling energized, refreshed and renewed. You actually get that feeling you had way back in dental school or when you first opened your business. These are the days when your best patients filled your schedule. These patients are referred to your office from a friend or neighbor, not from a discount insurance list. They treat your employees nicely. They show up on time. They pay their bill and they refer more patients just like them. Wouldn’t it be nice to work with these types of patients all day long? It is possible and hundreds of my clients, spread over 10 countries (Including Iraq, where you might correctly assume that building a practice is a bit harder than it is in your town. Hint: it is, but don’t miss the point. These principles even work there, of all places.)

The power of magnetic attraction, or deciding whom you are for and then creating a message, an environment, a system for delivery of care and an atmosphere of customer service that matches that message – all serves to bring patients to you who love your office, love what you do for them and receive exceptional care without the burden of seeing massive volumes of insurance patients.

Your system for magnetic attraction might hinge on a specific service, skill or talent you have. Most of my best coaching clients have a very specific area of practice that they love. If they could just “do this one thing all day long” they would be perfectly happy. My question to them is always the same. “Why don’t you start doing that?” The answer almost always involves a lack of patients in that particular niche area of the practice. But, with magnetic attraction setting a system in place that allows more of your patients to find you, it is not only possible it should be your primary goal and objective to achieve until you figure out how to achieve it. Unfortunately, most doctors fail to realize this power and instead revert to marketing and business promotion strategies that pursue the patient with discounts or “buy now” mentality. There is a (much) better way.

Consider, for example, how you feel when you go shopping. You probably know that I love Apple computer. I’ve been using them exclusively since 1994. For those of you too young to remember, in those days being an Apple fan wasn’t cool like it is today. You really had to be an Apple “geek” to love Apple back in the days when the likelihood of them going bankrupt was far greater than the likelihood that they would become one of history’s largest companies. Even for me, as much as I love Apple (and as much as I would love to buy everything in the store, and sometimes it feels like I have) when approached by a sales representative (Apple wisely doesn’t call them by that title) and asked “how can I help you today?” what do most of us say in that situation? Most of us reply “I’m just looking.”

Now, ask yourself why we all have said something similar to “I’m just looking” when approached by a sales representative. Is it because we all hate to be sold? Research says “yes!” In study after study from the Journal of Consumer Research and the Journal of Marketing, we have discovered that being pursued by a retailer or business of any sort is not preferable to the consumer, even when the trust level and familiarity with that brand are high. How in the world can we expect patients who have never heard of us to respond to an email or Facebook post that encourages them to “get whitening for 50% off today.” No thanks, I was just looking.

Building a system for magnetically attracting more of your best patients and establishing the new norm of going home feeling energized, refreshed and renewed for you love of dentistry, orthodontics or any other business is not rocket science. It does take hard work and it does take dedication to implementing tested systems appropriately. One of the world’s top business strategists and the highest-paid copywriter in the country, Dan Kennedy, has directly worked with billion dollar companies and created more from-scratch millionaires than anyone I know. Dan’s work includes Miracle Ear, Weight Watchers, and Pro-Active the world’s #1 acne treatment with billions sold. Mr. Kennedy created the largest dental and chiropractic consulting and coaching firms in the 1980s and has been responsible for more massively successful dental practices than anyone on the planet.

In an exclusive interview, Dan Kennedy invited me to join him and discuss dental and orthodontic practice marketing, how to leverage the power of magnetic marketing, and much more, including:

  • How to overcome the chronic issue of decreased consumer spending?
  • The power of being for a very specific “someone”
  • How to systematically find more of your best patients?
  • How you must determine the profitability on each case and determine if you are being busy or actually being productive? The insurance companies want you to believe busy and productive are one in the same, but Dan and I prove otherwise.
  • The magical power of intentionally delaying the buying cycle.  Nearly everyone gets this wrong.
  • Why you should market information and not your prices, products or services.
  • How to create a loyal herd of followers and future patients who are willing to buy without discounts.
  • Why and how you should completely transform your conversion rate.
  • Step-by-step details on how to fully implement an internal marketing referral program.
  • Why driving up internal referrals is the #1 way to build your practice.

All of these topics (and more) are covered in the exclusive interview I did with Dan Kennedy, the Millionaire Maker. Grab your copy of the Dan Kennedy interview with audio transcripts here.

Dan Kennedy Interview Product Mock Up (small)