Getting back to basics

So you are a dental practice – just one of thousands in the UK – and you think you have something different to offer potential customers that you shout brashly about from your new glossy marketing literature and website: specialist expertise, the latest technology, refurbished and relaxing premises, a customer-focused team, etc. You shout and the customers come knocking. Great! But the real question is: do they enter and stay, or do they decide they don’t like the reality and move on?

A fur coat but no knickers

There must be some structure beneath the glitz and glitter of your marketing façade that supports the delivery of your promise. Believe it or not, you cannot achieve a

customer-based strategy by simply re-packaging your existing modus operandi in glossy brochures with cleverly worded text, or by becoming an expert at selling.

We all recognise the increasingly competitive nature of our market and the ever-more demanding expectations of the consumer which necessitates a slicker approach to sales and marketing, but in isolation neither will achieve the desired result. In isolation, both lack the substance that supports the promise. Lasting and sustained business success is only ever achieved through the total alignment of all business efforts towards the complete satisfaction of the customer – a true customer-based approach.

Disney’s promise is encapsulated in their statement: ‘We create happiness by providing the finest in entertainment to people of all ages, everywhere’. And guess what, they do just that – impeccably! Every aspect of the customers’ experience prior to, during, and after the event is carefully considered and managed with that promise in mind. And it is always delivered by every individual within their global organisation. Can you boast that sort of consistency within your practice?

Delivering the promise

Satisfied customers are not just looking for the right product at the right time for the right price. They want the glow that dealing with your practice can provide. It is crucial therefore that every other aspect of the practice is as sharp as your marketing and selling skills. I notice how practices are neglecting key areas that can either make or break their success.

For instance, many talk about a commitment to excellence in their literature but when a new patient phones, the call is not answered in a timely manner, or appropriate information about the first visit is not given! Are you committed to excellence if you have a team that does not share a smile with patients, or if your treatments are constantly taking longer than your original treatment plan suggests?

Delivering a consistent service can only be achieved through the communication and complete adherence to a shared vision. Every single member of the team must be completely focused on creating the best experience possible for each and every customer. Can you imagine the impact of a rude Cinderella during your daughter’s visit to Disney, or if the street cleaners only picked up some of the rubbish! The entire Disney façade would disintegrate.

The point is, whilst each member of the team has certain duties to perform: clinical, management, administration and house keeping, they are all responsible for the delivery of service. As the visionary, how do you ensure they have the necessary skills and attitude to deliver the promise?

Back to basics

My advice is to continually go back to basics. Invest time with your team to analyse what is working within the practice and what is not. What will make you positively stand out from your competition? What do past, existing and prospective patients say about you at each stage of their experience? Is it a consistent approach to excellence, regardless of who they are? Do you actually measure the total customer experience? If not, how do you know if you are delivering it?

Your ability to maintain consistency is crucial to your credibility – without the former you will never achieve the latter, and without the latter you will always just be a fur coat with no knickers.

Lina Craven will be one of the speakers at Private Dentistry 07, Westminster, on 30 November 2007. Other presenters include Kevin Lewis, Philip Newsome and Komal Suri. For more information, or to book your place, call 0800 371 652, email or visit

Private Dentistry 07

Date: Friday 30 November 2007

Venue: Central Hall, Westminster, London

Verifiable CPD: Seven hours

Dentists: £336 + VAT

Subscriber discount: £302 + VAT

Team member: £206 + VAT

Special team rate (one dentist and two team members): £667 + VAT

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