Hello. How are you? Welcome. We are glad that you are here. I’ll be right with you. What do all these statements have in common?
They are forms of acknowledgement; acknowledging that someone has called, walked in the room or up to your desk.
What is acknowledgement? It is the recognition of the existence of something or someone, as well as a simple expression of gratitude.
Unfortunately, we do not see a lot of acknowledgement happening in our society. People are so engrossed in whatever is happening on their phones to look up and talk to the person that is right in front of them. The next time you go into a restaurant, take a look around. See how many people are glued to their phones; not engaging in conversation with the people at their table, much less acknowledge that the waitress has brought their food or filled their water glass?
I recently went in to a medical office with my father and the receptionist never even looked up when we walked in the door. She was a very nice lady once we got talking to her but we were not even acknowledged when we came in to the office.
Is this happening in your office? I hope not…but we do see it far too often. Acknowledgement is the first step in excellent customer service. Our constant mantra to our clients is that the person standing in front of them is the most important. We are not saying that you have to end every phone call when someone walks up to your desk, yet merely smile and nod. That patient now feels “acknowledged”. Isn’t that what we all really want? To know that the person in front of you realizes you are there and that you exist? Sure it is!
What about the acknowledgement of the other members of our team? Do we take for granted that they know we see them, hear them, understand them? A hygienist or assistant escorts their patient to the front and the person at the check out desk doesn’t look up; or a receptionist walks in to the doctor’s office to ask a question and the doctor never looks up from his/her computer. We are all busy…I understand that, but we need to at least look at that person that is right in front of us and give them a nod of acknowledgement. This is a simple gesture to say, “yes, I see you and will be right with you”.
The next area that we find the lack of acknowledgment involves texts, emails and even voicemails. Are you responding to your patient’s communications with you in a timely manner? When a message is received in your practice it is very important to respond to that patient as soon as possible. This includes, and is especially directed at, patients who are upset or disgruntled. The quicker you respond, the faster you will diffuse the situation. An immediate reply will prevent those communications from getting lost in the mix of all the other emails or texts you receive. Not to mention that we are in an era of immediate gratification.
When someone sends you a communication they are expecting a relatively quick answer in response. How do you feel if someone does not respond to you in a timely manner? Unimportant? Questioning that the message was lost or maybe when into spam. Keep this in mind when you are communicating with your patients.
If you do not have time to fully respond to an email or text just send something simple like “I will look in to this and get back to you shortly” or “can I give you a call later so we can discuss this?” or a simple “Thank you” if no response is necessary. You have now let the person know you received the message, they are important and you are not ignoring them.
Acknowledging someone is courteous and polite and really takes little effort. In our world of self-absorbedness, taking a moment to greet someone could brighten their day and make them feel respected. These small, simple gestures go a long way. I challenge you to talk to your team about making a concerted effort to acknowledge your patients and yourselves.
Janice Janssen, RDH, CFE, Consultant
At age 14, Janice Janssen got an after-school job working for her dentist. Twenty-something years later, she is the co-founder of Global Team Solutions and an expert in practice consulting. Besides hands-on experience, Janice has gained professional recognition for her hard work and commitment to excellence. She is co-author of OMG! Office Management Guide, the “bible” used in GTS training workshops. She is a member of the Academy of Dental Management Consultants (ADMC), and is a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE), which positions her as an expert in educating dentists to deter fraud and embezzlement in their practice.
Janice can be reached at: email@example.com