A friendly voice answered the phone only to find the person on the other end was shaking, partly out of nervousness, but mostly out of frustration. The words that flowed into the conversation were panic driven. “When on earth will my website be FINISHED?! I need my site up and running, to book all the new patient appointments before our doors open. Our construction timeline is delayed AGAIN, which changed our opening date, and I’m stressed the community doesn’t know we’re coming. To top it off I hate the color I picked out for the walls!”
Dentistry is beautiful and inspiring, but the business of dentistry can be extremely difficult. In the dental industry, one of the most challenging endeavors is starting a new practice from scratch or acquiring a failing practice and turning it into something new. At Studio 8E8, our project managers are equipped to practice empathy with our clients and this phone call was a great opportunity to do just that.
The project manager listened first, and then calmly reassured the overwhelmed, startup dentist that EVERYTHING was running on time, and EVERYTHING was going to be okay. Sometimes clients need to hear a compassionate “yes” on the other end of the phone. It can make all the difference to know that someone truly cares first – before even knowing what the problem is. We don’t call this hand-holding, we call it empathy.
Let me take a moment to introduce myself. My name is Joanna Scott and I serve as the Development Director at Studio 8E8. New, big, strategic dreams fuel my daily energy. The best part? Bringing those ideas to life in practical, profitable ways that make sense for our company. I am proud to be a native of Columbus, Ohio, which is home to some of the best restaurants in the country. Eight years ago, I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease, an autoimmune disorder which has changed the way I view food and impacted where I can eat safely. Fortunately, my hometown is known for multiple restaurants owned by one of the most inspirational business leaders in the food industry, Cameron Mitchell. Last year marked the 25th anniversary of Cameron Mitchell Restaurants, which span coast to coast, employing over 5,000 people and generating over $300 million in sales annually. One of the biggest impressions guests take away after visiting one of their restaurants is not only incredible allergy-friendly food, but also exemplary customer service. I know that when I visit one of their restaurants, they are not only going to accommodate my dietary restrictions, they’re going to over-deliver. Cameron recently wrote a book called, “Yes is the Answer, What is the Question?” In this book he captures the essence of their company culture.
“We see ourselves as great people who deliver genuine hospitality; therefore we treat guests in our restaurants the same way we would treat guests in our own homes. It is so natural to us that when a guest asks us for something, we say yes. We go out of our way to care” (Mitchell, 2018).
Regardless of my food allergies, every time I sit down at Martini Modern Italian downtown or Cap City Diner, the servers go above and beyond to ensure an amazing dining experience. Their people-centric culture is highlighted in how their associates are trained to respond to every individual guest’s needs. What if we could create a business which strikes the right balance between profits and people? What if there was a marketing company with a strong focus on producing an excellent product, but also valued its customers deeply?
Empathy: This word has become popular in our American culture. For us, empathy means that we intentionally put ourselves in the shoes of others and seek to understand their point of view. Empathy means choosing to believe the best possible explanation for others’ behavior. Simply put, we choose to think the best, believe the best and speak the best about others. Whether you are a dentist or a patient, we are all human. We have good days and not-so-good days. Some of those not-so-good-days for a practice owner might involve: a favorite hygienist quitting, inflated monthly overhead numbers, construction delays, or employee fraud. A not-so-good-day for a patient may involve ongoing financial stressors, a family member losing their battle to cancer or a failed marriage ending in divorce. Every person in your practice has a story, and consistently evaluating how you communicate empathy on a regular basis will greatly impact what your brand is known for in the community.
Three (simple) Ways to Practice Empathy in Your Practice:
For us, we choose to begin every conversation with empathy, without assuming we know what’s going on behind the scenes. We choose to say “yes” to our clients through communication that exhibits a high level of compassion. We practice empathy, because we practice it internally first. We have to, because we’re all human. In the same way clients have “life stuff” happen, so do we.
Creating an environment at work where team members feel heard, respected and cared for has a trickle-down effect to client interactions & communication. We love it when our clients become raving fans, but we love it even more when our team members do. Team members with a raving-fan mentality end up giving incredible care and attention to our clients. The same will hold true for your team, and their patients.
Bottom Line? Saying yes, and showing empathy has the power to diffuse tense situations, establish relational connection, and earn trust from your patients. Take a moment this week to consider how your practice can move towards “saying yes” and choose to be a brand known for empathy.
“Yes is the answer because it is who we are and the right thing to do”
– Cameron Mitchell
Studio 8E8 is a company willing to say “yes”. Yes to your story, yes to your brand, yes to your ideas, yes to your needs. 9 times out of 10 we can find a way to say, “yes”. If you hear the word “no” then just trust that there is a really good reason behind it. So next time you call, don’t expect an impatient tone on the other end, but someone who is willing to speak human.