A reminder of why it’s so important to separate telephony and reception – provided by Starbucks

Yesterday morning Lorraine Shelley, practice manager at Dental 397, picked me up from the lovely Headweir Millhouse hotel to take me over to the practice.

It was too early for a hotel breakfast and so, at my request, she kindly ferried me to Starbucks in Marsh Barton (kind of en route) to grab a quick coffee and a bite to eat.

We walked into the substantial dining area, the first two customers in the building, to be greeted by two Starbucks team members, both wearing headsets as this is also a “drive-thru”.

Having made brief eye contact, the first lady said “just hold on” and proceeded to spend the next 3 or 4 minutes serving passing drivers without any connection with us whatsoever.


It’s 2017 – 3 or 4 minutes of waiting (without information) has become tough for us to bear – even me.

Lorraine and I just stood there, waiting and chatting about how this was a good metaphor for what happens when you answer the telephone at the front desk whilst a patient is waiting.

The problem isn’t the people (these two ladies were doing their best), the problem is the system (the third team member didn’t arrive until later) – they were understaffed to deal with the customer flow.

Long have we suggested that, in the modern age of competitive dentistry, you have to separate the front desk experience from the telephone experience – or run the risk of irritating someone by keeping them waiting.

I get it – nobody died, it was 4 minutes (although it took them as long again to serve Lorraine with a simple filter coffee), we shouldn’t get so worked up about it.

The challenge for business owners is that we, the customers, have been trained by the media and by the Internet-of-Things to expect instant attention and equally rapid gratification, no matter how trivial our desires.

We expect the full attention of those to whom we give our money and our trust.

A lack of focused attention sows the seed of a doubt – will my coffee/dentistry be worth the investment if they cannot pay attention to me?

A shame, don’t you think, to invest in branding, marketing and physical facilities, only to have this weak link in the chain of the customer experience?

Many of my clients have now moved the phones away from the front desk – nobody has regretted it.

Pay attention to the person you are with – they are the most important person in your world in that moment, personally or professionally.


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Chris Barrow

Chris Barrow has been active as a consultant, trainer and coach to the UK dental profession for over 20 years. As a writer, his blog enjoys a strong following and he is a regular contributor to the dental press. Naturally direct, assertive and determined, he has the ability to reach conclusions quickly, as well as the sharp reflexes and lightness of touch to innovate, change tack and push boundaries. In 2014 he appeared as a “castaway” in the first season of the popular reality TV show “The Island with Bear Grylls”. His main professional focus is as Coach Barrow, providing coaching and mentorship to independent dentistry.

One thought on “A reminder of why it’s so important to separate telephony and reception – provided by Starbucks”

  1. Should have gone to Costa or Caffe N, where they serve coffee and not dish-water!!

    Fully agree about the telephone, whether it is moved to the PM’s or TC’s office or to a 3rd party “angel”.

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