Lessons in Dentistry … from an ATV Excursion?


IMG_0197As someone who lives and breathes dentistry, I’ve been known to apply life events to the dental experience on an occasion or two. On a recent family trip to Sedona, AZ for Spring Break I happened upon another opportunity. Let me share our story.

It was our first ATV excursion in a four-person vehicle.  It had been a highly recommended activity, we studied online reviews and read the promotional literature.  Everyone said they had a great time.  We felt this would be an awesome experience for all of us (Two adults, two teenagers).  While we did enjoy ourselves for the most part (the views were amazing and the trails pretty adventurous), many of our expectations fell short and what could have been a fantastic experience turned into an ‘okay’ experience.  I know many new patients go through the same process – getting a recommendation, reading reviews and visiting a website to learn more – and then it’s up to the dentist and the team to deliver a memorable experience regardless of how the patient found them.

Here are 3 ways you can ensure your patient’s visit is nothing like our ATV excursion:

  1. Communicate before the arrival – not only does this ‘wow’ the person who made the reservation, it also allows the office to share any additional information that may be relevant such as construction to avoid, an elevator that isn’t working, where to park, etc. The ATV company did not call us, however, we still felt confident we were prepared.  Turns out, we weren’t.  A cold front came in and cooled the day considerably.  We didn’t bring any blankets or extra jackets.  A prior phone call could have helped us prepare differently to have a more enjoyable experience.
  2. Avoid autopilot ~ always treat your guests’ visit as if it is their very first visit – Even though you do something a hundred times a day, your guest doesn’t, so it’s important to anticipate questions that new patients might have, offer assurance they chose the right place and allow time for people to ask questions. The ATV people were courteous and professional but it seemed like they were also on auto-pilot; they obviously had a system to follow and performed it day in and day out. When I asked about goggles, I was told ‘your vehicle has a windshield, you don’t need goggles. We only give goggles to those without a windshield.’ On the surface, that made sense for the front driver and passenger, but what about my daughter and me in the back seat…in the open air…with no protection?  I figured they rent these out all the time, maybe I was overthinking it, so I simply trusted their advice.  I wish I hadn’t.  My daughter and I had our eyes closed a majority of the time against wind and debris, and ALL four of us were covered head to toe in red rock trail dust by the end of our excursion (as evidenced in the photo).  Goggles and a handkerchief across our noses and mouths would have easily solved this issue.  Since it was our first ATV ride, we didn’t know what we didn’t know. Don’t let this happen to your patients!  If the doctor likes it cool in the treatment room, be sure to provide blankets.  If music relaxes someone, encourage them to bring headsets and their favorite listening device if you don’t offer it.
  3. Be clear about written (and unwritten) expectations – the promotional literature/website said “easy to follow directions with a map” and “a cooler with ice and water bottles provided.” We were also encouraged to pack a picnic lunch or snacks. So, we got sandwich making items and planned for a picnic lunch.  We thought it would be fun!  Not so much. The picture book with map was a good reference, however, there were numerous times we’d wonder if we were on the right trail (no markers whatsoever) and several times we had to backtrack because we missed the unmarked turn.  The “cooler” turned out to be approximately 10” x 8” and held six water bottles with a few handfuls of ice cubes.  There was no room for our lunch.  Our instructor offered a larger version, which held some of the food but I still had to hold the rest between my feet in the back seat.  It made for an uncomfortable ride, as I was constantly worrying it would fall out.  None of the reviews I saw or the promotional literature mentioned the cooler size nor did I think to ask for the dimensions.  Based on what I read about packing a picnic lunch, my expectations were that the cooler would accommodate more than it did.  This can apply to your patients’ visits as well ~ don’t assume they know how long a procedure or a visit will be because they’ve been to another dentist.  Showcase how your office is different.  Help them plan their day by setting expectations with a time range ( Mrs. Jones, you can plan to be here for about 60-90 minutes) and communicate clearly if things change so as not to disappoint your patient. Or something like, Mrs. Jones, some patients do experience sensitivity after this procedure for a few hours, so as a precaution, I want to be sure you have your coffee before arriving.  This way, you eliminate potential questions or concerns ahead of time.

There’s nothing more precious to me than time with my family, and we had a fantastic trip despite a few hiccups.  Would I still recommend an ATV excursion?  Yes, I would … as long as you packed blankets, goggles, handkerchiefs, bite-sized snacks and a good sense of humor.

Help set your team up for success with a free New Patient Visit Checklist that offers steps to ensure your patients have the best possible experience.

Robyn Reis

Robyn Reis

Robyn began her dental career in 1998 as a marketing and communications director for a large group practice, and instantly fell in love with the world of dentistry. She has spent every waking moment since learning, growing and collaborating with dentists and their teams utilizing her expertise in all aspects of dental practice management, marketing, communications, HR, continuing education, and laboratory sales. Robyn's personal goals are to make a difference in someone's life every single day and to give the best of herself to those around her. Robyn and her family live and play in Northeast Ohio.