Nearly all of the doctors I speak with believe that if they are excellent clinicians, they will be successful. Unfortunately, excellent patient care and clinical skills is just the ante. You need much more to truly win the game, because the patient is paying more attention to their experience than anything else.
I recently spoke at the AACD’s annual event, and had a sold out Partner Pearls session about how to compete with corporate dentistry. And what it boils down to is that you must differentiate your practice from your competitors, and the easiest way to set yourself apart is through training your staff in customer service and the patient experience.
The uncomfortable truth is that few patients will notice the quality of a restoration or crown, but WILL notice how well you and your staff treated them. Customer service has a tremendous impact on growing your patient base.
Why customer service?
The world is becoming smaller and experiences are becoming more and more standardized. This is especially true in corporate practices. In and of itself, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Many patients get treatment from low cost providers that may have not been able to otherwise. But, it makes standing out from the crowd critical – especially if you and the practice around the corner offer (in the eyes of the patient) exactly the same services. Luckily, dentistry is an industry where you have a chance to develop a personal relationship with your “customers” and your patients can return your personal investment with loyalty and referrals.
BUT, yesterday’s customer service isn’t quite enough anymore. It’s just not enough to be friendly and have a clean office. You have to go beyond and exceed your patient’s expectations.
Consider experiences that your patients have that are truly memorable. A visit to The Ritz-Carlton stands out because of the investment the organization puts into each client. And it goes far beyond the physical state of the facility. It really depends on how the hotel staff interact with the client, and the depth of the engagement that results. A shallow relationship results in a less-than-memorable stay. A deep relationship results in a long-lasting memory.
We call this relationship “rapport.” Begin building great rapport with your patients from their first exposure to your marketing or website, as those touch-points establish expectations for how the entire experience will unfold. Accelerate rapport on their first phone call to the office with an engaging conversation that helps your team and the patient identify specific needs and sets up your practice as the logical and emotionally satisfying choice. Continue building on that foundation throughout their visit to the office, and you will find that your patients are much more likely to accept treatment recommendations. And finally, they are sure to return and refer friends and family.
Ultimately, though, none of this comes naturally to dentists or their teams (or to anyone really). Consider The Ritz-Carlton. They don’t allow a new hire to answer the phone until after they have had ninety days of training. This may seem extreme. But how much revenue is lost when an untrained team member answers the phone, fails to engage the caller, and they move on to the next office? And how many times a day does this happen?
This means training like The Ritz-Carlton and other customer experience standouts. Onboarding gets your team up to speed quickly with the basics. Next is intensive and specific training in high yield areas such as call conversion and scheduling. And then ongoing training to refine those skills until they are second nature for the entire staff.
Click the screenshot of the video to watch my cover the highlights of my Partner Pearl presentation.