Are Millennials a waste of time in a customer-focused business?

In October 2004, researchers Neil Howe and William Strauss called Millennials “the next great generation.” They define the group as “as those born in 1982 and approximately the 20 years thereafter.” In 2012, they affixed the end point as 2004.

So my question is “are Millennials capable of delivering the clinical care, customer service and teamwork that are necessary in the contemporary business of dentistry?”

The reason I ask is that Millennials in dentistry seem to be getting a lot of bad press, certainly within my ear-shot.

I’m listening to owners and managers describe their frustration with Millennial team members who don’t follow protocols, who don’t show up on time, who excuse themselves from morning huddles (or pay scant attention when they attend), who are incapable of repeating routine procedures in surgery, who show a lack of respect for patients, for their managers and for their seniors.

Is it really that bad?

A possible answer presented itself to me yesterday lunchtime in Glasgow.

I was in-between meetings and my afternoon clients (a first date) had asked me to wait for them at a restaurant on Nithsdale Road, just south of the city – introducing Ollie’s.

In the event, I was there for about 45 minutes before my hosts arrived to pick me up and take me to their home – time enough to sample the menu, take in the ambience and observe the customer service experience.

To quote from Ollie’s web site:

Chefs, front of house, barristas (sic).
We are passionate about what we do – food, wine and coffee

That was quite evident from my observation – the place was busy with Glaswegian baby-boomers, the tables were being served by one (just one) Millennial manageress and one (just one) Millennial waitress.

Nothing was too much trouble, everything was on time but most of all, the level of eye-contact, engagement and appreciation of the customers was absolutely on the money.

It’s hardly surprising that they have accumulated over 1,300 followers on Facebook and 79 Facebook reviews averaging 4.9/5.

So I’m going to sweepingly generalise and change my question to:

“If Millennials can get it right at Ollie’s, why can’t they get it right in your dental practice?”

You won’t like the answer.

It was provided for us many years ago by the late Stephen Covey who, in his book “The 8th Habit” suggested that “if there’s a problem with your team – the problem is you.”

If your Millennials are underperforming – the problem is you.

It’s a performance problem in that

  1. they don’t have the protocols and brand standards;
  2. they have them but they are not following them;
  3. they are not being trained and then rehearsed;
  4. they are not being held accountable.

It’s also a behavioural problem in that

  1. standards of behaviour haven’t been established;
  2. they have them but they are not following them;
  3. they are not being trained and then rehearsed;
  4. they are not being held accountable.

I’ve mentioned before in this blog that if you need new team members, you should recruit from catering and leisure (recruit the barista!). The competition is fierce, the customer is king, the pressure is on and there is no hiding place.

Millennials can do the job just as well as any other demographic, provided you follow that old saying from Harry Beckwith:

There is no performance without accountability and no accountability without measurement

Well done to the team at Ollie’s – you nailed it.

If you are reading this and you have a problem with Millennial team members – fix it.


Published by

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.

3 thoughts on “Are Millennials a waste of time in a customer-focused business?”

  1. The Howe and Strauss Generation theory has been mentioned by some very serious economists at lectures that I attended last year – I was familiar with Generation X (I met Douglas Coupland while doing my ortho training) but this was the first time I had heard about it in context. They looked at more or less every “generation” since US Independence (they identified 13 distinct groups to Gen X, and there’ve been 2 since).

    Anyway, the thing with their theory is that the world has a major crisis every 4 generations or so. We’re now up for the first big crisis of this century, it’s fair to say the “war on terror” and global recession was the beginning of it.

    If past form is anything to go on, things improve when Generation Z come of age in about 10 years or so (which is good news, I hope, for an X-er like myself as we’ll be contemplating retirement), and the Millennials hit their 30s. In other words, we’re depending on the grown-up Millennials to deliver us from oblivion.

    My crew are all Millennials, and I think we’re in good hands.

    Stephen Murray
    Swords Orthodontics

  2. 100% agree… we have some great millennial working in the team!
    and get rid of the bad ones!

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