ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

Online Edition - March 2002


Issue Highlight — Restoration
Peter Block's musing about a home restoration project serves as an excellent metaphor for issues in the cellar of our mind: “In our larger communities, we treat the inner city as a cellar that we do not want to enter....To enter this world, we would have the conversations that we have been avoiding.”

Denta +: A Case Study in Exceptional Customer Experience

Most people think of Russia as the land of bureaucracy, and poor service and quality. However, the Denta+ team, Omsk, Russia, has much to teach most businesses about how to “wow” customers. Denta+ is more than a dental clinic, Denta+ provides clients with not only exceptional service but also a “memorable experience.” The firm is not just world class in providing dental care and interventions, it is also world class in providing a dental experience—very different from the typical dental facility around the world. Most lack a sense of “Wow! This is an enriching place.”

Discovering the Virgin Air and Starbucks of Dentistry

I discovered Denta+ while working with nonprofit and small enterprises in the far east of Russia for an international aid group. I was asked by my host, Ira, to do a consultation with the best friend of the family I was staying with, a dental clinic owner, Nadya Kiseleva. We thought I could provide customer service and client experience improvement recommendations. We were wrong. After I arrived, I was “wowed” within five minutes. I thought, “I’ve discovered the Virgin Airline of dentistry”— a model of experience enterprise.

Denta + provides various services but also offers an experience. The customer pays for a set of intangible activities, services, that are performed for him or her but also experiences a series of “wowing” and enjoyable events that the firm stages. These events engage the customer in a personal way.

I requested that my experience be that of an actual client or patient. We were greeted by a smiling receptionist who, since our shoes were dirty and wet from snow, presented us with foot covers. Then she asked if she could hang up our coats and if we would care for something to drink and/or eat. (We were provided with choices of food and drink.) We were then escorted to the waiting room. I wasn’t asked the “Do you have the cash” question before I sat down and was given coffee and tasteful pastries and cookies. I felt caring as a health care provider ought to make you feel rather than “getting the cash is our first concern.”

The waiting space was a dental and art museum. The furniture was tasteful and comfortable. It contained plants, as did most of the rooms. (Such plants improve air quality by removing potential office pollutants, and they can also improve people’s moods.)

Experience offerings involve four dimensions: education, escapist, entertainment, and esthetic. An exceptional offering involves all four. Denta+ has done this—exceptionally well:

It’s educational dimension involves its merchandising, informative posters, and staff informing clients about interventions and products.

The escapist dimension takes the form of being in an enriching space and having the option to watch TV, watch a video, or listen to music. The waiting room and dental furniture are comfortable. This allows the client to escape from the problems of Russian life. He or she can also escape the normal waiting boredom.

Also entertaining is the artwork and the waiting space that contains various dental items that Nadya has collected during her global education and training.

The clinic is filled with artwork. It ranged from humorous to tasteful. These are esthetic dimension examples as is the tasteful furniture, plants, and furnishings. These are esthetically pleasing for Russian women.

The work spaces also contains art and plants, as well as charts, exhibits, models, and professional certifications to enrich the patient’s knowledge of staff competencies and skills. Then I was given a performance of how I would be educated if I were a customer/patient. The performance was exceptional.

Your experience at Denta+ can be customized in that you may choose music, video, or TV for your entertainment while waiting for service.

Denta+ also offers customer surprise. Most people expect high quality dental services but they don’t expect a “memorable experience.” They don’t expect to be able to watch their favorite TV show at the dentist. They don’t expect to wait for their appointment in an interesting and comfortable space. I was expecting uncomfortable seating and a boring space that I find in most American dental clinics and even alternative health care practitioners who speak about treating the whole person. Nadya understands that it’s important to transcend expectations.

Denta+ is not just in the dental business, it’s also in the entertainment, education, and “escape the everyday problems of Russian life” business. Nadya recognized that people hated going to the dentist. She recognized that just providing good service wasn’t the answer. She hit upon the theme of a dental salon. She designed the clinic to be a relaxing, entertaining, and enriching place where the customer would feel better leaving than before entering. She recognizes the importance of props in conducting a great performance and work as theater in her use of the model, graphs, and exhibits. She also understands a great performance engages the senses to improve the experience. Props engage the customer visually, thereby augmenting the verbal and enriching the performance.

Nadya is continuously improving her professional knowledge, thereby allowing her to improve the educational experience realm. She shares this knowledge with her associates and treats customers as if they are dear friends. She educates her employees in how customers are to be treated. She is entertaining in her educational performances. Finally, she had an intuitive sense of the value of drama.

Denta+ has refreshed its experience through customer suspense. This can be characterized as changing something that the customer remembers. The firm wants the customer to wonder what will be added and/or changed. Denta+ didn’t begin, for example, with its full entertainment experience menu of video, CD, tape, and radio. It has added these items through time. There have been additions to the art, product displays, and museum items. This staging through time has supported customers in expecting refreshing experience and yet, not being actually sure what forms of enrichment will appear. I experienced this sense of suspense before my return consulting trip and Denta+ visit. Natasha, my interpreter, also felt this way. We couldn’t wait to experience Denta+ again. We wanted to discover what new additions were being offered or planned for.

Using the experience economy idea requires thinking about the business as theater. The key questions are:

How can we provide customers with an ongoing unforgettable experience?

How can we refresh the experience so customers won’t become bored?

How can we customize our offering so the customer does not experience customer sacrifice?

Finally, team members must consider themselves actors in a performance.

Theater is not a metaphor. It is a way of doing business.


  1. Learn about creating exceptional spaces in my article, “Creating a Learning Room that Works: Space and Learning,” The Journal for Quality and Participation
  2. Pine and Gilmore’s site:

You may reach Bob Holder at .

What is an experience enterprise? What makes an experience offering different from a service? In The Experience Economy, Pine and Gilmore suggest there are five economic offerings that make an experience offering different from a service. The following bullets illustrate them. The final is transformational. The customer is the product. He or she pays the firm for a specific change or a result.

  • Economic Offerings
  • Commodity
  • Manufacturing
  • Service
  • Experience

Denta+ has an exhibit of the firm’s products and dental interventions, artistic office layout, entertainment during dental interventions, and education about dental interventions.

  • Transformational

March 2002 News for a Change Homepage

  In This Issue...
Making Change Stick
AQP “Quest for Quality” Chapter Keeps on Going and Going and …
Denta +: A Case Study in Exceptional Customer Experience Your Employees Know More Than You–So Listen!
Contact Center Employee Satisfaction and the Bottom Line
Funky Business and Taming Talent
Upcoming AQP Courses at a Glance...
What’s Up?

Peter Block Column


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