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a blog by Chris Barrow

A moment of TLC is worth more than a thousand protocols

The Smile Spa in Stockton on Tees was sold to Portman Dental Care about 3 years ago and founders Simon and Sue Andrews delivered their last days of dentistry in January this year.

I’m still completing a coaching assignment with the management team, advising on their marketing activity and attempting the delicate balance between the freedom of owner-managers to innovate and the constraints placed as a result of the careful development of a national brand.

It’s all too easy to fall into the cliche of suggesting that “when Elvis leaves the building” the business will slowly trend towards ordinary as middle-management “smooth” the systems and processes to comply with head office standards.

However, I observed something as I arrived at the practice on Wednesday this week that genuinely was my stand out moment in what has been an eventful and enjoyable week of client meetings.

First, let me say that on arrival in the building, the new receptionist Natalie (I think – my apologies if I get that wrong but she’s not on the web site yet) made my arrival a pleasure. She was professional in the extreme and, given that it was the first time we had met (all the existing team probably now see me as part of the furniture) and I doubt that she was warned that “CB is arriving”, the welcome and greeting could not have been better. Full marks.

As I waiting for PM Michelle to pop down from the upstairs admin suite, I watched an old friend, hygienist Lizbeth Paynter talking to an elderley couple in the patient lounge.

Liz had clearly just completed a hygiene visit and was chatting to the couple before they left the premises.

The male patent had challenges with his mobility and was going to take some time to get to his feet and exit – but Liz had to move on to her next patient.

Offering her farewells, she leaned over to the elderly man and gave him a huge hug and a light peck on the cheek.

There it was – my moment of the week.

It was a gesture of such simple affection and appreciation.

Maybe I’m getting soppy in my old age but that moment has been revisited in my mind over again in the last 2 days.

(I’m not jealous by the way – I got my Liz hug later).

It reminded me of my days working with IDH between 2008 and 2010 – even though at Board level the corporate machinations were sometimes hair-raising, as I travelled the portfolio of practices for 2 years, I continuously met what Colin Campbell described in his excellent podcast this month as “ordinary people doing extraordinary things”.

Here at The Smile Spa, even though there are some big shoes to fill, there are still ordinary people like Natalie and Liz doing extraordinary things – not the least of which is to acknowledge each visitor as a unique human being and deliver a memorable and personal experience to each of them.

Natalie – thank you for being an outstanding receptionist.

Liz – thank you for reminding me this week that a moment of TLC is worth more than a thousand protocols

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