What do you think of when you hear the words “client experience”? The client experience is defined in various ways, but a simple way to think of it is how the client feels.
The term client experience is becoming the focus in health care as it has been shown to increase client satisfaction, staff fulfillment and health outcomes.1,2
As a dental hygienist, how can you provide a great client experience? Let’s hear from some hygienists across the country to get some ideas on how to create exceptional client experiences.
Oral Health Care Provider
Haida Gwaii & Bella Coola,
In my opinion, the client experience is defined by the client. It involves the client feeling respected, seen and heard. A good experience allows for meaningful communication and service, and makes them feel empowered.
At the heart of the client-centred experience are the four following core values.
Respect clients’ autonomy over their own oral health. Acknowledge that we all have our own experiences that affect how we react and respond to a situation. Show respect by not imposing our values on clients, but instead support and empower them to advocate for themselves and their choices, even when their choices do not align with our values.
- Instead of telling clients what we are going to do, we invite them and ask for permission at each step of the appointment, including entering the operatory.
- Check in with the client throughout the appointment to gauge their comfort level.
- Acknowledge that not everyone knows what they need to feel comfortable – they just know they are feeling uncomfortable.
- Never take silence as consent or dissent.
Everything Depends on Everything Else.
- We take responsibility for our own energy in how we show up for our clients. Before entering the client’s space, we take a slow deep breath, and ensure our energy is in check and that we are not bringing in negative energy such as agitation, frustration, impatience, or even self-importance.
- We create a space filled with positive energy and things from the natural world, such as natural light and fresh air. We play calming meditative music or sounds from nature to distract from sounds of the dental office. We use calming essential oils to eliminate the dental office smells.
Make it Right
- Mistakes happen. When they do, acknowledge them, without excuses or blame. This includes not blaming or shaming the client for their oral condition. We don’t assume we know our clients’ why. Instead, we try to empower them and provide access to the tools, resources and treatment the client feels will help them on their healing journey.
I noticed how providing a good client experience positively affects the community. Some of our clients said they have struggled to access dental care in the past because they did not feel respected or heard by their dental professional. Now that they have a voice and are comfortable in our clinic, they regularly come to appointments. After living with decay and infection for years, they are now decay free. A positive dental experience for a respected family member or elder is the most effective tool in breaking the cycle of intergenerational dental trauma.
Self-Employed Dental Hygienist
I believe the client experience is the clients’ perception of how the treatment went and includes how they felt before, during and after the appointment. During the appointment, lighten the mood with friendly conversations and laughter. Laughing is a great way to connect and relax. When doing preventive counseling, I compliment them on what they are doing well and advise them on what they can do better. This sets a positive tone and doesn’t make them feel criticized. After the appointment, the client should feel like they were respected and cared for.
I like to learn more about the client: their personality, why they are here, their job, their interests, how they feel about their oral health and what they would like to change. I use this information in providing client-specific education and treatment planning. I make notes of what I learn about them and ask them about their interests at the next visit. Clients feel like you really care about them when you remember these personal conversations. Most importantly, I treat everyone like I would a family member.
Speaking of family, one of the ways I have improved the client experience is by listening to my mom. When she is my client, she is very straightforward and gives me honest feedback about what she doesn’t like. Her input makes me a better clinician and allows me to treat my clients with more compassion and patience. I wasn’t joking about treating my clients like family.
Clinical Development Manager, dentalcorp
To me, the client experience is a large umbrella that covers a range of interactions between clients and their dental professional. It means that the client feels heard, fully understood, valued and cared for. The client experience means the client and dental professional are collaborating together to develop an individualized client-centred treatment plan.
These are some ways I provide a great client experience:
- I approach the client with a warm, friendly demeanour
- I meet clients where they are at
- I always involve the client in the decision-making process
- I use motivational interviewing, asking open-ended questions
- I use visual props to help educate the client such as a wellness scan to help the client understand and see what we are seeing
An example of how I used these ways to create a positive client experience is a client I met years ago, who literally never brushed his teeth. At first, I judged him as I couldn’t understand how someone does not brush! Then I thought, he’s here to get help and I can make a huge impact in improving his oral health by the way I treat him. I met him where he was at and suggested simple oral health instructions, such as brushing once a week and coming back in 3 months for his next hygiene appointment. To my surprise, he returned, requested me, and told me he was brushing once a week. I asked him why he never brushed before and he responded, “I was never taught to brush my teeth; my family never even owned a toothbrush.” He also told me that his wife has dementia and he spent his evenings visiting her in long-term care after working at his full-time job. Afterwards, he went home to walk their dogs and then fell asleep on the couch, exhausted emotionally and physically. Taking care of his teeth was the last thing on his mind. After hearing his story, I knew I had to develop a customized dental hygiene treatment plan that could work for him. I gradually improved his oral hygiene habits and was amazed to see his progress. Building a rapport with him where he felt valued and heard resulted in a better client experience and better clinical outcomes.
As you can see, the client experience is about caring for the client in addition to the clinical care you provide. Think about ways you can improve the client experience. Not only will it make clients healthier and happier, it will make you happier, too!
- Health Leaders Media Staff. (2009, December 9). Patient experience: Four benefits and five priorities. HealthLeaders Media. Retrieved October 19, 2022, from https://www.healthleadersmedia.com/strategy/patient-experience-four-benefits-and-five-priorities
- Gelinne, K. (2020, January 20). Patient experience: Benefits, Strategies, and FAQs. Jumo Health. Retrieved October 19, 2022, from https://www.jumohealth.com/2020/01/patient-experience-benefits-strategies-and-faqs/
About the Author
Dr. Sanjukta Mohanta graduated from the University of Toronto, Faculty of Dentistry in 1999. She is a general dentist practicing in Brampton, Ontario. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org