My dad is a dentist.
His older brother was as well. So was my grandfather. I broke the family tradition. I knew pretty early on that I would not be a dentist when I cringed at the sight of blood.
I’m not sure if it’s my family history or something else, but unlike most people, I do not hate the dentist. In fact, I kinda like going there. I have to admit, I feel a bit like a traitor every time I go to a dentist whose name is not Dr. Waldow, but often I don’t have a choice.
Last week I chipped my tooth. I freaked out a bit. Out of instinct, I called my dad who was in Rochester, NY at the time. My dad’s reaction was pretty simple. He told me it was not a big deal, welcome to “getting older,” and to get it fixed in the next few days. He’s my dad (and a dentist), so I listened to his words. Being new to the area, my wife and I did not yet have a dentist. With her help, we scrambled to find a local dentist. My criteria was simple:
- Proximity: The office needed to be close to our house.
- Local: The practice could not be some big dental chain or anything. “In the family” was a plus.
- Timeliness: I had to be able to get an appointment for that week or the deal was off.
- Gut: My “instincts” had to tell me it was good place (think: initial conversation).
**Update (11/05/09): My wife finally read my blog! Yeah! Yeah! A couple of clarifications. I may have exaggerated a little on the 4 points above. She actually called me and suggested Dr. Stohl’s office based on the first 3 bullets. I still had a good feeling after my initial conversation with Britnie.
The first office I called, Dr. Stohl, met all 4 criteria. A lovely woman named Britnie answered the phone and immediately treated me like a human being (a friend?) instead of a patient or $$. I told her that my wife and I had recently moved from North Carolina and that I had chipped my tooth. 5 minutes later, I realized I had yet to make an appointment as Britnie and I were chatting away about NC and she was empathizing about my chip (she also had a chipped tooth!). It was also clear that Britnie loved her job and was a big fan of Dr. Stohl as she said, “you’ll love him.”
I immediately knew this was the place for me. I booked my appointment for later that week and tried not to use my chipped tooth for a few days.
Dr. Matt Stohl and Britnie
From the moment I walked in the door at 7AM through my 28 minute appointment, I was treated like a friend of the family. The only somewhat awkward minute was when I asked Dr. Stohl and Britnie if I could take their picture. I explained it was for my blog and I wouldn’t do anything weird with it. They trusted me. Ha ha. K-Dawg (my wife) later told me I was odd for asking them. (But hey, she knew I was odd when she married me!)
So what made my visit to the (dreaded, oh my) dentist such a positive experience?
- Human vs. Patient: Both Britnie and Dr. Stohl called me by my first name. Both asked me about me – how long I had lived in Salt Lake, what I did for a living, who my favorite sports teams were, etc. We chatted it up for several minutes before we even looked at my chipped tooth. After the procedure was finished, we shook hands, joked around a bit, and talked about the next visit.
- Set Proper Expectations: Dr. Stohl told me exactly what he was going to do every step of the way. Statements like, “This may hurt a bit” and “You’re going to feel a bit of pressure for a few seconds.” Questions such as “How would you like me to rebuild this? A or B or C?” I felt at ease through the entire procedure.
Thanks Britnie and Dr. (Matt) Stohl. You guys are the best. Would it be odd to say I’m looking forward to my next appointment?
How This Experience Fits Into The Big Picture
While this post is about my experience at the (dreaded) dentist’s office, it’s not really. What I’m hoping you’ll take away from this is more about how treating people like human beings wins – every single time. Everyone wants to feel accepted, to feel like others care about them. It’s all about setting proper expectations, loving what you do, asking about others, giving more then receiving.
Think about how you – as an individual – or your company treats others. Do you make your personal/professional life an inviting place? Do people want to be around you? Do you take a possible negative experience and turn it into a positive one? If not, what the heck are you waiting for? Now’s the time.
I’d love to hear about your positive experiences. Please tell me what you think (below). Or…call/IM/tweet/email/fax/stop by in person.