With a saturated market, competitive marketing campaigns, and the power of social media, dentists are finding it more challenging than ever to attract and retain loyal patients. Many find the prospect of launching full-fledge social media campaigns and spending their hard-earned dollars on advertising daunting. What many of these offices don't know is that the real secret to earning customer isn't in producing the best social media posts or a great billboard. It's all about customer service, and great customer service creates a great (and free!) word of mouth campaign that will bring far more customers through your door than you thought possible.
Here are a few steps to creating an outstanding customer experience that will set your practice apart, and in turn, increase your profits:
Establish a Customer Touchpoint Program
"When I talk to my clients, who are practicing dentists, I talk about aftercare in terms of a customer touchpoint program. To me, a customer touchpoint program is a 360-degree communication plan, and an aftercare call is just one of those points," says Valina Axelgard, a dental practice coach. She continues, "Other points in this 360-degree plan can include birthdays, anniversaries, special occasions that the patient mentions that you take note of, etc. "
In fact, Axelgard says a big way to make a lasting impression is to train your staff to listen to patients for mentions of their anniversaries or big milestones (graduations, retirements, etc.), mark it on the patient's calendar, set an alert, and make sure to send a card acknowledging the occasion. "To me," says Axelgard, "this will definitely leave a lasting impression."
A well-timed greeting card acknowledging an important milestone or event in your patient's life is meaningful, personal, and creates a lasting impression that they'll pass on to friends and family.
The trick lies in establishing a system and a place to capture that information and ensuring that wherever that information is recorded, that there is a staff member or two assigned to checking and following up on the occasion alerts that pop up every day.
"If a practice can do this, and do it well and consistently," Axelgard says, "I've seen the residuals of it be a thousand-plus fold. You'll have patients telling their friends and family, 'My dentist sent me a card for my 50th anniversary!' Because that kind of service and follow-up is so rare in this day and age, it will not only absolutely wow them, but it will win you their loyalty for life."
Establishing a system where important patient details are documented empowers you and your staff to deliver incredible customer service to every patient at every appointment.
She goes on, "I often ask my clients what impressive care means to them, and they'll talk about how they have a hair stylist who gives them free scalp massages at each appointment or about someone who details their car and goes the extra mile. It's these seemingly insignificant—the key word being 'seemingly'—details that in fact, make a huge difference. And if you're taking care of your patients in impressive ways, they're going to return the favor and take care of you with loyalty, referrals, follow-through, and their trust, which is invaluable."
Get to Know Your Patients
Roger Levin, another practice management expert, also suggests making small changes or implementing little things to make a big difference in your patients' experience. He suggests beginning every patient interaction with something personal (yet appropriate) before getting down to business. An example of this could include follow-up questions from something they told you during their last visit, like "How's the new job treating you?" "How did your 5K race go?" "Are you getting excited for your upcoming Hawaii trip?" This requires dentists and staff to commit details about each patient (at least one new detail per appointment) to memory or make a note of it in the patient's file so they can bring it up the next time they see the patient.
Make Your Practice a Relaxing, Soothing Environment
A few other customer service improvements that can put your dental practice over the top include offering aromatherapy in the office, offering patients a post-treatment hot-towel therapy, offering noise-reducing or noise-cancelling headphones during long procedures that involve drilling, and investing in comfortable seat cushions and treatment chairs. He also suggests putting a small beverage area in the waiting room of the practice so your patients can sip on something healthy while they wait to be called back.
Make Follow-Up Calls
Lastly, never underestimate how much your patients will appreciate straight-forward treatment options and clear communication. And just like those special phone calls for an anniversary or birthday, make sure to call every patient one to two days after their appointment to make sure they're feeling good and don't have any post-treatment pain or soreness.
Make sure to establish a system where every patient receives a follow-up call one to two days after their appointment to make sure they're not experiencing any post-visit discomfort.
The value of exceptional customer service, even in a dental practice setting, cannot be overestimated. It's little details, implemented every day, with every patient, that will build and multiply your patient load and practice profits. Try it and you'll see. Make the patient king, and your practice shall reign supreme!
Click here more dental practice management tips from this series.
To learn more about Ultradent products, or to find more tips, tricks, our hear about our humanitarian work, and more, visit The Arch: The Ultradent Blog.