I decided to just simply ask. The lessons provided me insight that I could not help but bring to the dental world. It gave me such a refreshing outlook on the foundation to our practices—the employees. So here’s the advice I learned from two fast food restaurants on creating “the dream team,” and how we can successfully put their secrets into action in our own offices.
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By Courtney Roberts, FAADOM

I recently had one of those moments when you go to pay for something and terror strikes as you realize you’ve misplaced your bank card. Well, that feeling of panic crept in as I frantically dug through my purse at the register of a Chick-Fil-A.

“I’m so sorry. I threw it in the dark abyss of my bag. I know it’s here somewhere,” I nervously explained to the freckled-face girl patiently waiting to complete my order. I knew I was holding up the line as I could feel the growing tension from the customers behind me longing for their spicy chicken sandwich.

Then in the most sincere voice, the girl at the register said, “It’s OK. I have all the time in the world for you.” Wow! I was so impressed with this response coming from a high school aged, fast-food worker. The craziest part is that nearly everyone reading this can vouch for the wonderful job Chick-Fil-A does hiring great employees.

I found myself asking, “How do they do it?” Then those thoughts quickly triggered another food obsession of mine, In-N-Out Burger. What is In-N-Out, you may ask? Well, it’s a west coast fast food burger chain that is so good it could make a grown man cry. When an In-N-Out burger and fries come together on a tray, I can hear a choir of angels singing in the distance. But I’m getting off track. Anyway, not only is In-N-Out known for their amazing burgers and secret menu (which is what dreams are made of), they have exceptional customer service. Their employees are remarkable.

As I toyed with my thoughts about how these two fast food companies are able to find top-notch workers, I decided to just simply ask. The lessons provided me insight that I could not help but bring to the dental world. It gave me such a refreshing outlook on the foundation to our practices—the employees. So here’s the advice I learned from two fast food restaurants on creating “the dream team,” and how we can successfully put their secrets into action in our own offices.

Training (Duh, right? Well, keep reading.)
[Native Advertisement] For the past 10 years, Chick-Fil-A has grown roughly 13% annually, meaning the business is essentially doubling in size every six to seven years.[i] This past June, USA Today reported that Chick-Fil-A ranked No. 1 as America’s favorite fast food restaurant. Even more impressive was their customer service satisfaction score. The chain scored 86% in customer service, the highest the survey has ever recorded for a fast food restaurant!

So you bet your top dollar I was all ears when I spoke with Chris, a Chick-Fil-A hiring manager at a San Diego location. Chris told me their skilled employees are the nuclei of their business. He went on to say that ideally, no team members come in contact with customers until they’re fully trained. “We don’t put a person who’s learning in front of customers; everyone attends training classes first.”[ii] Chris also said that each employee goes through two to three days of customer service training before working at a restaurant. This way all new hires are aware they’re expected to provide a memorable experience to every customer the moment they become part of a team. This can really hit home to us in the dental field. How many times were we too busy to train the new receptionist properly, so we let her “start by answering the phones”? Or what about, “Will someone in the back catch that line?” knowing the assistant is not adequately trained to do so?

Just one weak phone call between an untrained staff member and a patient always ends the same. The patient immediately has decreased confidence in the office, and begins to feel doubts about the practice. In addition, every phone call an unskilled person answers makes the office look, quite frankly, stupid. A few other key takeaways I learned from Chick-Fil-A that we can apply in dental offices—Greet patients with an umbrella when it’s raining, place fresh flowers at the front desk to give to a special patient every week, display genuine empathy when expectations are not met, and most importantly, if a person isn’t fully trained for a position, don’t let them perform the tasks.

Take care of your staff or someone else will
Forbes ranked In-N-Out the second most attractive place to work in retail in 2015. A whopping 91% of employees would recommend the popular burger joint to a friend seeking employment.[iii] (I get it, being around those heavenly, freshly cut-to-order, divine fries every day would spike my dopamine too.) In-N-Out is the highest paying fast food chain in the country and offers 401K, vision, medical, and dental benefits for full- and part-time workers.[iv] They also provide vacation, sick days, and paid holidays. Did I mention the average salary for a manager at In-N-Out is $48,000 and can eventually become $120,000?

Now of course most veteran office managers will tell you when it comes to a job, it’s more than just the money, it’s how someone is valued.[vi] Rich Snyder was 24-years-old when he became president of In-N-Out Burger after his father, Harry, died in 1976. He shared Harry’s belief that running a successful fast food business wasn’t about cutting corners or using the right equipment. What it boiled down to was the people on the front lines.

Let me tell you, he took care of his people. For example, managers who met their goals were sent on trips with their spouses, often to Europe in first-class seats. When talking to store managers, he was always careful to refer to the shops as “your stores,” hoping this would help instill a sense of ownership.[vii] By the way, In-N-Out not only holds their employees in high esteem by paying them higher wages than competitors, they call their employees “associates” to make them feel more connected to the franchise. The upshot of treating its employees with special care is that In-N-Out boasts one of the lowest turnover rates in the business.

So how do we apply these lessons to our practices? If we want a dream team, we need to create that dream position. Applicants need to be floored by the environment provided for them. And remember, it’s more than just salary. If your employees feel lucky to be working for you, they’ll do whatever it takes to keep their job. Encourage and empower your employees daily, pay them like they deserve, provide them with the benefits they deserve, and invest for their loyalty. Great employees will stay in great positons.

In closing, I’d like to leave you with my favorite business discussion regarding the importance of employees to any company: A CFO asked his CEO what will happen if they invest in their employees and then they leave. The CEO responded, “What happens if we don’t and they stay?”

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