Dr. Jacob Berger, practicing dentist at Smiles at Lakewood Ranch in Lakewood Ranch, Florida, had a unique first job. In 8th grade, he started working as a barber to help support his family financially. Working there for nine years, his experiences inspired his spotlight session in the first ever Heartland Dental Talks at the 2017 Winter Conference. It turns out, there are quite a few parallels from being a barber to being a dentist. Here’s a few lessons Dr. Berger took with him.
Chairside Manners Matter
Whether snipping a fresh cut or completing a filling, the interaction with the person in the chair is paramount to long term success. Dr. Berger used the “Four A’s” during his time as a barber to ensure every client experience was world class, and he continues to use this tool in his dental practice towards his patients.
ASK: think of thoughtful questions to engage patients.
- Questions are the best way to get to know patients on a more personal level. There are certainly clinical questions you have to ask to get information you need every appointment, but try starting each appointment with a few unrelated questions to show your interest in the patient as a whole, not just a mouth.
ATTENTION: be present - through eye contact, body language and generosity of time.
- Dr. Berger knew certain cuts would only take 10 minutes, much like he now knows most fillings take about the same. However, he dedicates 15 minutes, so he can avoid the appearance of being rushed. This time also allows him to focus on patient conversations, providing an opportunity to connect.
APOLOGIZE: admit when you’re wrong and could have done something better.
- Be humble. This is so important but often so hard to do. Here’s an example you can model: if appointments are running behind, take a minute to go into the waiting room, sit next to a patient and let them know you’re sorry. They’ll remember that gesture and are likely to not complain about a single thing the rest of that appointment or any of their appointments to follow.
ATTITUDE: have a willingness to do all of the above.
- No matter if you’re an 8th grader cutting hair or a doctor helping patients by providing lifetime care, attitude is everything. With a willingness to ask questions, patience to take time for the patients, and humility, you’ll set yourself apart from other providers in your community.
“Customer service is less about the service offered to the customer and more about how the customer felt during that service.” - Dr. Jacob Berger
Build Relationships (And Referrals)
Chairside manners can be the first impression left on a new patient. It’s necessary to build on that meeting every time a patient comes back. Their loyalty will be tied to the relationship built. Remind yourself of the BLT concept often - not a tasty sandwich, but Believe, Like, Trust. When people like you, it will be easier for them to accept treatment, believing you have their best interest in mind, and then trust you. And not only with their care, but their family and friends’ as well. Investing a little extra time and attention to each individual, pays off dividends in referrals.
Work for Something Bigger than a Paycheck
With a maturity far beyond that of most 8th graders, Dr. Berger went to work fueled by the desire to do what he could to help his family. That unselfishness, in part, inspired his career path to become a dentist, knowing that he’d be in a position to help others. Most humans will spend the majority of their lives not spending time with their families or friends, but at work. Make going to work day after day easier by finding a career that is more than just a paycheck, whether that means it enables you to help those closest to you, lend a helping hand to perfect strangers or fulfill a passion of your own.
Find a career that offers more in a Heartland Dental supported office: https://jobs.heartland.com/.
To view Dr. Berger’s full talk from Heartland Dental’s Winter Conference, click here.