Do you make customer service a priority in your practice? Yes? Really? How much time per day or week do you spend tweaking your customer service system? Oh, you don’t have a system. I see. Everyone just knows that they should treat patients nicely, right? This is what I hear from many dentists (and many business owners). My workshop, Would You Like Floss With That? helps dentist and their teams discover how easy it is to develop “always-do” routines for (among other things) customer service in a dental practice.
Customer service is the holy grail of the success of a practice. Patients are indeed customers, and without them, none of us have jobs. There are six unbreakable rules of customer service (thus, the “cube”) in a dental office. I have collected these rules from 30 years of working in practices, from speaking with amazingly successful dentists, gurus of dental practice growth, and from my own experiences as a customer. Follow these 6 simple rules and you will have very happy patients!
#1 – Customer Service Starts With The First Interaction, Then Every Interaction! Customer service should be omnipresent. It does not begin when the patient walks in the door or is seated in the dental chair. It begins with the first phone conversation. It begins before the first conversation! It starts with a mindset of delivering great service. Make every interaction, from phone-call to recall, a delightful one for the patient!
#2 – Everything Speaks! Every single corner of your practice speaks. With this in mind, take a walk through your practice and see it from a patient’s eyes. Are your carpets clean? Is your bathroom stocked and clean? Are your front desk personnel dressed well? Are they smiling? Is your furniture worn? Are the operatories cluttered? What is on the ceiling above the chairs?? Do the walls need painting? What does sterile bay look like to a patient? Are your windows clean? Think of everything in your practice as shouting out to a patient. What are they saying?
# 3 – The Customer is Not Always Right, But They Are Always First! Patients are often wrong. However wrong or right is really irrelevant. What matters is their experience. Focus on making their experience a good one by concentrating on what patients want and need. Research has shown that a good patient experience includes three qualities; patients want to be COMFORTABLE, they want to feel VALUED and the want their visit to be FRICTIONLESS. Keep them comfortable, show them how much you appreciate them, and make it easy for them to book, visit and pay and you will have gone a long way to keeping them loyal too.
#4 – Customer Satisfaction is the Best Advertising! There is a lot of market research out there about the best way for dentists to advertise. I believe there is nothing, absolutely nothing, like a patient sharing of a good experience to bring new patients through the door. Here’s the catch – statistics have shown that a bad experience is even more powerful advertising! 95% of people who have had a bad experience will tell others about it – usually 5 others! People who have had a good experience will likely only tell 2 other people! Half of the patients who have had a bad experience switch dentists! Yikes! A satisfied customer is an unpaid salesperson for your practice. Think about that.
#5 – Negative Experiences MUST Be Changed to Positive Ones. This takes a little skill and training. I recommend that a good communication workshop for your team goes a long way. However here is a quick and easy formula I teach to enable anyone in the practice to turn around a grumbling patient. HELP!
H – Hear them out, without interrupting.
E – Echo Sandwich. Show you have listened by reiterating their chief complaint. Sandwich that between a thank you and an apology.
L – Lens (try to see the problem, reason for being upset, and perspective of the patient)
P – Promise a solution
The whole conversation might sound like this: (Listen to the complaint without interrupting). “Thank you so much for bringing that my attention, Mr. Jones. I understand that you are upset that your filling has come out. I apologize for the inconvenience it has caused you. I understand why that might have alarmed you and why you are so upset. I will make sure Dr. Bob knows everything you have told me and we will make this right.
To learn more about how to hone this skill, attend one of my workshops!
#6 – Give Them The Pickle! Bob Farrell of Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlours in the US is a bit of a marketing genius. He advocates treating the customer right and giving that little bit of extra service that makes a difference. Watch his video on Youtube (Give ‘Em The Pickle) and see what I mean. Then ask yourself, what pickle can I give to my patients?
Follow the 6 rules of the Customer Service Cube and you will have begun creating a Customer Service SYSTEM for your practice. Follow up on how these rules are being implemented. Make Customer Service part of your discussion at every staff meeting – it’s that important!
And if you want to learn more about how to implement these rules, attend one of my Would You Like Floss With That workshops. Watch for it at the Upper Island Dental Society meeting on October 25, 2014 at Tigh Na Mara Resort in Parksville, BC and at the San Diego Dental Convention on November 8, 2014!