Train to Win by Andrea Cook

Orthotown Magazine

Create your practice vision and protocols to ensure your staff provides the best customer experience

by Andrea Cook

here are many options for potential patients to get the straight teeth and nice smiles they’re looking for: They could have products delivered to their door, see their general dentist or go to your competition down the street.

In a world filled with competition, providing an amazing customer experience can differentiate your practice and help you capture more of these patients. Although our goal is to ensure that they see an orthodontic specialist, that differentiator won’t always be important to them as they make their decisions. They may not know the difference between Class I and Class?II occlusion, but they certainly know what a positive experience is—which ultimately could make them decide to join your patient family.

These recent statistics reflect that an ideal customer experience is what consumers want:

   • 86% of buyers will pay more for a better customer experience.1

   • 70% of buying experiences are based on how customers feel they’re being treated.2

   • A customer is four times more likely to buy from a competitor if the problem is service-related versus price- or product-related.3

Companies with the highest levels of customer service take such statistics very seriously. When we look at the training processes for such companies, such as the The Ritz-Carlton, Zappos, Chick-fil-A and Nordstrom—we learn that to them, customer experience comes first and foremost.

Chick-fil-A, for example, has a strict recipe for its chicken and how each sandwich is made. But before new hires are trained on the sandwich they must first pass an extensive customer service training program. And just as it has a tried-and-true recipe for their sandwich, the company has a tried-and-true recipe for its service. It starts with four core values: creating eye contact, sharing a smile, speaking enthusiastically and staying connected to make it personal.

Chick-fil-A’s core-values training covers:

   • Being genuine. Actively listening, which includes body language, making eye contact and giving customers their full attention.

   • Being proactive. Anticipating guests’ needs.

   • Being personal. In an opportunity to connect—remembering a guest’s name or favorite meal.

In addition to its core values, the company also has three “second-mile service” behaviors for employees to follow, going above and beyond.

   • Delivering meals to high-needs guests.

   • Performing table “touch-ins.”

   • Carrying large orders to cars.

These core values essentially describe treating others the way that you’d like to be treated. They also provide a great example on how you can develop the recipe for exemplary service in an orthodontic setting.

The concept behind outstanding customer experience is simple, but executing it consistently can be very difficult. Studies have shown that 65% of businesses have a vision, but only 14% of the employees understand it.4 There must be clear expectations and a defined process in place. Setting a culture takes strategy and intent, starting with:

   • Visualize how you want people—both staff and patients—to act and feel as soon as they enter the practice.

• Take this vision and create your core values. Introduce those values to the team and discuss their importance.

• Hire, train and fire based on your vision. When you start to interview people with your vision and culture in mind, you will automatically find a better fit.

• Create a specific onboarding process that includes your values and goals.

The perfect vision

What is the vision for your practice? How do you want patients treated? How are they spoken to? What do they see, hear and smell in your office? You may know what you want, but you must also have a team that understands and delivers at every opportunity. Each of us has a vision of what an “amazing experience” is, but your team members’ visions may be different from yours because of their unique personal experiences.

A practice mission statement can be a starting point for developing your core values, but that’s only a start: The team also must understand it and incorporate it into their everyday work environment. Without implementation, a mission statement is simply empty words.

Training your team to deliver the consistent level of customer experience you’ve developed takes five steps:

1. Welcome. Show that you know the patients and can be trusted. This includes a warm welcome, a personal greeting and friendly body language.

2. Engage. Listen to patients and show you understand. This means a smile in your voice, actively listening and engaging small talk. This can happen on the phone or working with the patient in the office.

3. Solve. Act in your patients’ best interests. Confirm that you understand their concerns or questions.

4. Close. Make patients want to come back! Thank them by name, explain what to expect, give a warm goodbye and ask if they have any questions.

Develop training protocols

We still need defined clinical training processes to make sure team members have an in-depth understanding of orthodontics and the skills to deliver quality patient care. The manual you haven’t updated since the office opened likely hasn’t been read for some time. Protocols and guidelines for the office are changing rapidly and should continue to be updated frequently.

The way work-related information is communicated to employees should be evaluated too. Boomers typically were given a manual that they read and absorbed, but employees from younger generations would more likely keep a manual on a shelf, untouched. Their learning style is much different, and the transfer of information must address this change to be effective.

There are many options when it comes to developing protocols and systems and disseminating consistent information to all team members. Webinars are abundant and cover almost every topic imaginable; some have no fees attached and can be viewed by multiple team members. Online training provides a way to help employees new to the industry learn the basics.

For office-specific procedures, a short video showing the systems and protocols of all clinical procedures can be recorded on your phone and stored in the office clinical training manual. These videos should be short—no longer than three minutes—and don’t need to be perfect but must show the basics needed to complete the process. When new employees are hired, regardless of level of experience, they can watch these videos to learn how your office operates: how to pass the brackets, assist a doctor during banding procedures, etc. These clips are easily updated as procedures or mechanics change.

These videos can also be used for front-office team training. Take a short video as an employee enters a contract or answers the new-patient call. Record the treatment coordinator as a new-patient exam is completed. These videos will help with cross-training, and it’s extremely helpful for treatment coordinators to observe a bonding procedure so they can explain the process to patients. The clinic should also observe the treatment coordinator and scheduling coordinator, so they understand what information is given to patients.


Developing proper training systems before hiring new employees is critical to

the success of the employee and the practice. Consistent, clear guidelines, expectations and procedures will ensure everyone performs to the doctor’s desired level. A good training system takes time to develop but will help retain outstanding team members, which is worth the investment. This will also help improve your customer service and the customer’s experience.

Part of customer service training involves helping each team member see that each customer service touch point—no matter how small—is a golden link in the overall customer experience chain. With good hiring and training processes, your office will build a team that will provide an outstanding customer experience in every touch point

Check it out!

Discover even more about core values—and earn CE credit!
In his online CE course taped live at Townie Meeting 2017, CEDR HR Solutions CEO and co-founder Paul Edwards discusses how ti identify core values to help align your team and lead to exceptional performance, and how to translate values into an action plan you can implement immediately. To watch the course, and take the test to earn 1.5 CE credits, go to

Author Bio
Author Andrea Cook is a clinical consultant for orthodontic offices throughout the country. Cook works with teams to increase efficiency, improve communication and guide the office to a new level of excellence. She has extensive experience with single- and multi-doctor practices, including those that see more than 120 patients per day.
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