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"Wow!"

Four Secrets of Exceptional Practices

Last month we took the majority of our team to the Delivering Wow Summit in Montego Bay, Jamaica.  Dr. Anissa Holmes started this event two years ago out of a community that she built online of like-minded practices who no longer wanted to be average.  They wanted to “Deliver Wow” to their patients and their communities.

She has done an amazing job developing the brand, and the Summit was no different.  She overdelivered and surprised everyone with amazing speakers, a Jamaican steel drum brand, and a live DJ at the Saturday night party.  

“Delivering Wow” isn’t a new concept.  It’s just one that hasn’t been applied to dentistry.  The shoe company Zappos has made this the core of their mission.  Their stated purpose is “To Live and Deliver Wow.”  On their website, Zappos states, “We are not an average company, our service is not average, and we don’t want our people to be average. We expect every employee to deliver WOW.” If you’ve ever made a purchase with Zappos you have probably felt this throughout the transaction.  They provide a level of customer service that includes fulfilling basic customer expectations in a creative and unexpected way.

So how can a dental office “Wow!?”  Let’s take a look at four secrets I’ve observed from exceptional practices.  


1. Surprise.

We recently ordered a bunch of t shirts for Studio 8E8.  The company we ordered them through always prints an overrun to make sure they account for any errors or imperfections. Since there were none, they sent us the extras. They overdelivered and we were pleasantly surprised.  

When our new clients start working with us, one of the first things they receive is our “Box of Awesome.”  We decided that instead of sending a long email about all the things that they needed to know to get started, we would make it fun by including it all in a surprise package.  Clients post it to social media because they are “Wowed!” by it.

Where’s one area in your practice that you would like to add surprise?  What’s a place you really want to overdeliver?  My recommendation is to start with one area.  Then add another.  Then another.  After a while you’ve begun to create an “experience map” for your practice.

An experience map is a coordinated series of little “Wows!” and big “Wows!” that overwhelmingly convince your patients that you are not the average dental practice.  Experience mapping is about providing surprisingly remarkable service in an industry that has been perceived as cold and clinical.  It’s more than just correcting small flaws or oversights in your day-to-day routines, it’s asking “Where can we Wow?”

Do you unexpectedly follow up with new patients, post surgical procedures or unexpected treatment outcomes?  Does your office run on time?  Is your environment clean, calm and peaceful?  Does the patient feel listened-to and not rushed?  The big “Wow!” moments are important for sure, but don’t miss the little ones.  It’s surprising how fast they add up.

“Wow!” is the surprise of something unexpected.


2. Communicate Your Why.


Many businesses can trace their origin to a personal frustration of the owner or even something that makes them angry.  They see a need in the world and feel compelled to fill it. These are amazing reasons to start a business.  

Now… tell that story.  Embrace your “Why.”

Why did you start this business?
Why were you frustrated?
Why did you decide to solve this problem?

Every business has a story.  Sharing yours will do more to connect to patients than anything else you do.

For me, I remember the moment that I looked around the dental industry and wondered, “Why are dental websites so bad?”  I was new to the industry so I thought maybe there was some rule about it or certain guidelines that needed to be followed that made them so bad.  But after spending years working for a national practice management firm, I realized that the reason dental websites were so bad was because nobody truly cared.  Lots of people inside dentistry believed the profession was innovative, inspiring and beautiful, but nobody stepped up to do something about it. That’s when I raised my hand and volunteered to take it on.

That’s my “Why.”  And hopefully it connects with you.  

Once you define your “Why,” communicate it through every part of the practice.

The physical environment is “speaking.”  What does it say?

The staff uniforms “speak.” What do they say?  

The operatory chairs “speak.”  What do they say?  

Your team is “speaking.”  What are they saying?

If anything is out of place, it “speaks” about the entire experience. On the other hand, when everything consistently tells the story of your “Why,” you create confidence and trust.

3. Stand out.


When was the last time you verbally said, “Wow!” out loud?  

I was visiting a new startup practice outside of Austin, Texas called Perch Dentistry.  Some of my team and I were there for a photo/video session and we were touring the new practice.  I think I said, “Wow!” out loud eight different times.  The white oak wall in the entry; The crazy soft leather on the chairs; The inspirational quote in custom tile on the floor of their bathrooms; The hotel-inspired sconces outside each op.  The attention to detail throughout the practice was astonishing.  

Perch created a practice that stands out.  It catches your attention and is designed to make you say, “Wow!”


Coco Chanel, the iconic French fashion designer said it best:

“In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.”

To “Wow!” you must be different, which means doing something unconventional and innovative. I’ve got news for you: you’re not going to find that kind of inspiration inside of dentistry.  Don’t be afraid to look to other industries and then integrate those ideas into your practice.  

So, how can your office be different? What can you include in your practice that doesn’t normally belong there (like white oak or crazy soft leather or hotel inspired sconces)?  What can you do to stand out?

4. Create Space to Breathe.


“Wow!” requires space to breathe.

Zappos runs at 60-70% agent occupancy rather than industry norm which is somewhere in the 80’s (Agent occupancy is the percentage of time that agents spend handling calls).  So why does Zappos overstaff on purpose?  When your bottom line is to make an emotional connection with each caller, it creates variability in call length.  You cannot template an emotional connection into a pre-decided block of time.  That connection could take just a moment.  It could turn into a longer discussion and contain a personal tragedy shared by the customer.  Overstaffing creates the margin that makes emotional connection possible.

I have found that breathing space is necessary for practices who exist to “Wow!” their patients.  They create margin throughout their day to allow emotional connections to happen.  They create breathing space in the hiring process so they find the right people.  They slow the training process so team members feel confident in their ability to assimilate into the practice and treat patients.  And they create breathing space with meetings to allow team culture and communication to grow.

At the end of a successful day, it’s all about making personal connections with empathy, generosity, and gratitude.  It’s having the awareness that all humans deal with common concerns.  When we prioritize time for those, it makes a difference.


Unexpect the Expected.

Creating a dental practice that “Wows!” is certainly easier said than done.  And while we addressed four topics to help you on your way, the journey to “Wow!” really never ends.  It will take a daily commitment from you and your team.

In fact, if you really want to create a practice that “Wows!”, you’ll have to forget the old adage, “Expect the Unexpected.” Instead, what if we flipped it around and told patients to "Unexpect the Expected"?  What if we acknowledged some of the shortcomings dentistry has had as an industry?  What if we took responsibility for some of the disappointing experiences patients have had?  What if we addressed negative stigmas head on?

What if we designed an environment that lets patients know they can safely unexpect those things because you decided to do it different?

That would make them say, “Wow!”

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