We live in unpredictable times, especially for those of us dentists who are aspiring to do much more with our careers and practices.
Dentistry is in an unsettled environment where we are taking on more of the new innovative treatments like facial aesthetic treatments; or we have situations where dentists are unable to cope with the new regulations and are opting out of NHS dentistry, but also we are experiencing changes into spa like practices. Practically every practice name seems to have the word ‘smile’ in it, indicating the desire of the owners to do more cosmetic-based work.
Despite all these changes the one thing we are all striving for is an increase in the bottom line. In our attempt to do this, dentistry is often viewed in terms of want-based dentistry – or need-based dentistry – and everything else usually has to fit around it.
We seem to think (incorrectly) that want-based dentistry is easier to sell to our patients because they want the treatments and need-based dentistry is an educational uphill struggle. Our patients usually govern how we present the dentistry to them and ultimately what options they choose. We dentists like to categorise the dentistry our patients need or want into high revenue and low revenue in order to create profits. After all this our focus seems to end on our team because we believe that if we had that magic team, then the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow would be ours to have and to hold.
Therefore, a significant proportion of our thinking time is spent on motivating our teams, which usually ends up as them leading us as oppose to us leading them. And yet despite all these efforts and more we don’t seem to be increasing the bottom line figure substantially as expected.
So what are we to do if we want to increase the bottom line
but also meet the requirements of our patients? It involves changing our mindset. It is about creating opportunities you otherwise would have missed. These opportunities exist everywhere. It presents itself in every single patient that ever walks through your door. And you don’t need to make drastic changes in your business model, or shifting in your
strategy, to do so.
All it requires is achieving and going beyond customer satisfaction. Though this is a retail business term, it fits in very well with what dentistry should be all about in today’s highly technological world where our patients are more ‘clued up’ than ever before. It is a key element of ‘concierge dentistry’. This is where customer satisfaction is achieved on a higher upscale level than was ever perceived to be possible in the dental profession. Concierge dentistry is where customer satisfaction meets customer service in an entirely modern new age way of providing dentistry.
Customer satisfaction can be achieved when we enhance the experience of our patients in dentistry by not only meeting their needs and wants but by amalgamating this with customer service. It is when patients perceive the experience they have had to have exceeded their expectations. So what are the key elements of customer satisfaction?
• Adopting methods to enhance the experience of having dentistry in your practice. For example, if you were providing facial aesthetic treatments perhaps you may want to leave patients in a dark room with lit aromatherapy candles, soft relaxing meditative background music and a face pack on. This is an entirely different experience, almost like going for a facial and becomes a treatment that patients look forward to, as opposed to a ‘going to the doctors’ type of experience.
• Being punctual.
• Never falling short of proposed treatment and its post-purchase implications. For example, patients who have cosmetic work must be forewarned of the possible post-treatment implications with regards to other necessary dentistry they may need. If patients have not been warned of any such thing they often assume they will never need dentistry again and in the future they may not be too happy.
• Your treatment proposals must meet your patient’s wants and needs.
• It is often the small things that end up exceeding your patient’s expectation levels. For example, we provide cold sorbet after lengthy dental appointments. I have never known of a patient who has not enjoyed this experience. It is cooling and soothing to their mouths.
• Provision of dentistry in a way that is quick, efficient and pain-free.
• Providing treatment in a relaxed and stress-free environment.
• Providing value for money. Patients must feel that what they are getting for their money is more than they would
otherwise get. You can achieve value by providing financial
discounts or giving them other treatments like hygiene treatment for free. In actual fact, it would not be free since you would account for this service in your fees.
How can customer satisfaction be achieved without altering your fundamental focus on your business?
You do not have to take your energy and drive away from creating revenue. It does not have to be the case whereby providing customer service to achieve customer satisfaction you will fall short in your revenue.
Indeed it is the opposite situation. Customer satisfaction is an important foundation of future revenue growth. It can become the driving machine of your business.
Satisfied customers buy more, and more often. They also like to refer their family and friends. This leads to the growth of your business and will be a determining factor during times of recession or regression.
However, one thing you must note: the provision of customer satisfaction is a consistent behaviour and one that needs to be sustained and not be a ‘one-off’ incident. It needs to be an experience any person coming to your practice will engage in and have the opportunity to enjoy.
There is only one way to ensure this occurs and that is by creating a system in your practice to take advantage of the opportunity presenting itself in the form of your patient. You rarely get a second chance so you need to ‘win’ the patient over right from the start.
Achieving greater case acceptances and hence revenues should be every team member’s business. Therefore, if systems were created to end in a very high level of patient satisfaction, team members would find it easier to follow. This is because it would be practice protocol and therefore needs to occur consistently and be sustainable.
Focusing on achieving customer satisfaction will create better patient service. This in turn results in both greater productivity and obtaining a larger market-share, which ultimately leads to revenue growth so you can create a profitable practice by opening up the doors to new opportunities.
Dr Bhavna Doshi will be speaking at the World Aesthetic
Congress (WAC) on Friday 6 and Saturday 7 June 2008 at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in London. To book your place, call Independent Seminars on 0800 371652 or visit www.independentseminars.com/wac
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