Don’t you just love Pintrest?
I get a regular feed of inspiring quotes, relaxing images and it makes me feel good about the world.
Then I saw this one. It reminded me of Karma; the concept of how good intentions and good deeds contribute towards good karma and future happiness.I quite liked it, and it resonated with me – especially as I had just had a rather sharp letter from my NHS dentist due to an appointment which I had missed.
I’m one of those people who is happy to visit the dentist, in fact I go every six months. I even try to make conversation with the dentist whilst he’s working his magic inside my gaping mouth. I don’t have a single filling, I floss every day and my dentist has even told me what a ‘delight’ I am (yes, really!).
AND I have never missed an appointment.
So imagine my surprise when I receive a harshly worded letter about a missed appointment; of which I had no record and had not received a reminder for.
Missed appointments must be a real problem for my dentist – I imagine him sat there twiddling his thumbs whilst he waits for me, anxiously checking his watch every few seconds. When the reality is, he punches the air, does a celebratory ‘moonwalk’ and calls the next patient in. After all, each missed appointment means the sooner he can get to the golf course.
I wanted to ask my dentist why he sent a letter to his ‘delightful’ patients requesting payment for missed appointments and ordering them to book another appointment. So, I wrote to him. I told him how much I appreciated his skills, experience and knowledge; but I also told him how he made me feel like disobedient child and that his approach was far too heavy handed. I also mentioned how the tone of his letter had riled me, had brought my stubborn nature to the surface, and how I had begun search for another dental care provider.
I’d really hoped that he would respond; be apologetic and offer the dental equivalent of an olive branch. Alas, it was not to be. It seems that I have met my match in the ‘determination’ stakes. So I had to follow-through in my threat and find a new dentist.
So, what are the morals of my oral story?:
- Tone of voice. Try not to be confrontational, disrespectful or threatening; talk to your customers how you would want to be spoken to. Be confident, assertive, approachable, positive, calm and knowledgeable. Try to avoid strong, negative or threatening language. I trusted and respected my dentist, but he had upset me and so I became reluctant to comply with his requests.
- Call to action. Make it clear and simple what you want your customer to do. Try not to mix messages. In the case with my dentist, he requested payment for my missed appointment and wanted me to book another appointment. You should decide which is the most important outcome. If you have more than one call to action, you could send another communication later on the other subject.
- Two wrongs don’t make a right. Just because your customer may have done something which you didn’t appreciate (i.e. in my dentist’s case, I missed an appointment), doesn’t give you the right to become dictatorial. No one likes being ‘told off’ – and that includes your customers!
- Dangle the carrot. Consider implementing a sliding scale of severity-based communications. After all, we’re all human and living busy lives; mistakes do happen sometimes. You don’t want to damage customer relationships due to a small oversight. However, persistent offenders may require a different approach to get them to do what you want them to.
- Suck it up buttercup. So your customers keep doing something you don’t like? Are they missing appointments? Why not consider SMS reminders? Embrace technology and consider what you can do to relieve the issue.
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