Prejudging? Stop it!

Last week I went shopping for a new shirt.

It’s not that I needed a new shirt, but the fact was I was going out to lunch on the weekend with my wife Jayne to celebrate our 33rd wedding anniversary, and for sure that’s a good enough reason to get dressed up.

Truth be told, for the past fifteen years at least, Jayne and I have been celebrating each of our birthdays, and our wedding anniversary, with a lunch at our favourite restaurant in Sydney. It’s a degustation menu, and a long lunch, so we usually get a driver to take us there and back.

We want the day to be special. In recent years, because of our relocation to the country, we’ve still continued the restaurant tradition by staying overnight in Sydney after the lunch.

And we do this because we love going to this place so much.

It’s been a big part of our lives.

So much so, that we’ve been going there longer than most staff have been working there.

But we love it, because the food is always great and the service is always truly world class.

But I digress… let me tell you about my experience in purchasing a new shirt.

The reason for the new shirt is that traditionally Jayne and I take a selfie photo at our table as soon as we arrive there for lunch, and I like to feel that every lunch photo there deserves a new shirt.

So for this lunch, I chose to do my shirt shopping at a local store.

Which ended up being a difficult thing for me to do.

Firstly, I choose not to wear shirts with check patterns. I guess the check patterns remind me too much of the old Pizza Hut tablecloths. And although you can get checked shirts in black and white, and in blue and white, rather than the traditional Pizza Hut red and white,  the memory for me still lingers.

Secondly, I’m averse to striped shirts. I just believe they date very quickly. So they’re out too.

Now, for some reason, it seems that shirts with chest pockets are making a comeback.

And yes, I have an aversion to shirts with chest pockets.

I don’t know whether it’s a childhood memory of Amco shirts, or whether it’s simply a memory of accountants with six pens in their shirt pockets, or smokers with a packet of B&H stuffed in their chest pocket… I just don’t want to go back there.

Anyway, with these three crosses to bear, in one store I was able to find three shirts to try on.

And with three shirts in hand as I headed to the changerooms at the back of the store, a sales assistant appeared in front of me and asked me if I needed any assistance.

I told her that I was looking to buy a new shirt, and that I was going to try on these three, which I handed to her.

She immediately looked at the three shirts and remarked back to me:

“You know these are linen shirts?”

To which I replied: “Yes I do”

And then she said:

“You know these are all tapered fit?”

To which I replied: “Yes I do”.

As we entered the change area together, I asked the sales assistant if she could look around her store to see whether they might have any other shirts that I may have missed. I explained to her that I preferred long sleeve, without a pocket, and that although I did not like stripes or checks, I was OK with other patterns, should she have them.

Interestingly, I entered the change area, tried on the three shirts, and left the change area, and never saw this sales lady again.

Had she gone home ill?

Had her shift ended?

I was shocked, because I thought from our discussions that she had opened up a dialogue to try and be of assistance to me.

I found her disappearance to be quite rude, because while I was in the changeroom trying on the three shirts, I was wondering whether or when she might appear with another shirt for me to try on.

I know that at our dental practice we always encouraged any staff who were going home earlier than patients still being treated to come and say their farewells to all other staff and patients still engaged in the provision of treatment.

It’s just common courtesy.

And secondly, at Active Dental, we trained all staff to own their experiences with all patients, and if distracted, to ensure that the patient being served never ever felt abandoned.

The other thing I found strange about this sales assistant was the accusatory tone of questioning she used towards me.

When she said to me:

“You know these are linen shirts?”

And:

“You know these are all tapered fit?”

I really felt as if she was saying:

“You know these are linen shirts, you idiot?”

And:

“You know these are all tapered fit ,and your body isn’t tapered?”

Maybe because I was dressed in a puffer jacket, she thought that underneath I might have had a beer belly instead of my 30 inch waste?

And maybe my puffer jacket was a significant distraction to this sales assistant? Maybe she had never sold a stylish linen shirt to a person wearing a puffer jacket?

Whatever her reasons for prejudging, prejudging potential customers incorrectly can be fatal for any business.

It was a shame that she was not around when I emerged from the changeroom, to see me make a purchase of one linen shirt.

Would you be so stupid as to prejudge your dental patients?

Years ago at Active Dental, a man appeared in my client lounge one morning while I was short staffed and while I was treating another patient.

He asked if it was possible to see a dentist, and I told him that if he was able to wait, I had a vacancy in my schedule and could see him shortly.

The man was dressed ordinarily, in a less than fashionable manner. He was not a patient of record at our practice.

Once I had the man in the chair and in the treatment room, we started to discuss his treatment options.

This man wore a full upper denture that had certainly aged, and he needed some posterior crown and bridgework on his lower dentition.

The man mentioned to me that he was visiting our building to see the hair-replacement studio downstairs, and that he had recently won $10Million in Ozlotto.

I’m glad I did not prejudge this patient on his appearance.

I presented him with best treatment options and he went ahead and accepted all treatment.

Had I prejudged this man, and made him feel anything less than welcome in my practice, the end result for him and for my practice would most probably have been very different.

Customer service is about providing every person, every client, every customer with best options, no matter how they present themselves in your office or place of work.

Prejudging a client or a customer on what you think they can afford, or what you think they might need, and not giving them the option to choose better, doesn’t do you or your business or your customer any favours at all.

Actually, as a behaviour, it’s downright stupid, and downright offensive.

It’s a behaviour that if we have it, we need eliminate from our repertoire.

It’s a harmful behaviour that is not needed.

Ever.

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