I’m writing this article on my 55th birthday and, as I lay in bed this morning, wondering what topic to focus on (how sad is that?), it seemed appropriate to indulge in a little selfishness, not just on my own part but on behalf of my beloved demographic – us ‘baby boomers’.
Those born between 1947 and 1957 – the single most important group in the developed consumer world.
I suppose it’s a sign of the times that the postman brought one solitary birthday card this morning – from my financial adviser! He is probably hedging his bets between investing my pension funds moneys, the sale proceeds of my business, or the life assurance claim check when I peg out.
But at least of all my professional advisers, he was the one who bothered to have a system – even bothered to hand-write the greeting.
So where are all my other birthday greetings? In order of volume, they are:
1. Email and links to websites
2. Text messages
4. Comments to my blog
5. A couple of phone calls
6. A card in the mail.
So there is a big message about the future of print media as well as postal services. And possibly also a message about the ‘baby boomers’ – that we are becoming a lot more ‘techie’ than you may have imagined (as I sit here typing into my Sony Vaio, with 3G iphone by my side).
As far as the business of dentistry is concerned – you MUST be mindful of the ‘baby boomers’ – because we account for over 40% of all retail spending in the UK and, I would suggest, account for the lions share of investment into higher-value dental treatment in these credit crunch times.
So keeping us happy has to be one of your most important customer service objectives going forwards.
I’m 55, I like an occasional afternoon nap, I love technology, I keep fit, I eat and drink well, I want to look good and feel good, I can afford it and, in the words of business coach Dan Sullivan, ‘it seems the more tired I get, the more idiots I meet’.
So here is a Top 10 list of ways to keep me happy, spending and referring as a patient at your practice:
1. Make it easy for me to find you
I use Google to search and research many of my consumer purchases, so when I type ‘Private/Cosmetic Dentist in My Town’ into my Vaio/Mac book, I want to be able to find you really easily – have you invested in Search Engine Optimisation? I don’t click through on those sponsored links because I know they will be big businesses or overseas bargain stores. I want to be able to see you on the open listings page – preferably in the top three listings.
2. Make your web site easy to navigate and welcoming
I invest approximately four seconds in looking at your home page. If you have a fancy flash loading, I’ll move on. If your website looks out of date, I’ll move on. If your website is a shrine to your brilliance (and not about me) I’ll move on. I want to see your premises, your people and hear your customer service promises – I want to see your prices (to make sure you are reassuringly expensive). I want to make sure I’m not going to be sitting in a waiting -oom with yummy-mummies, snotty kids and chavs.
3. When I make the first call, impress me
I want to speak to a person who sounds confident, competent and experienced at ‘front of house’ with people in my demographic. I want straight answers to difficult questions, a ‘can do’ attitude and respect. I want to feel as if I am in very safe hands with an organisation that is used to people like me. I want to know I have found the right place because the Front of House experience is fabulous – remember that your reception team are ‘Managing Directors of First Impressions’.
4. I want to receive an impressive welcome pack in the mail
I want to see that you have invested in your brand, your corporate image and the initial literature that you send out to potential new patients. I want to see Gold standard branding ad printing – not some half-cocked attempt at cheap printing or a ‘Patient Information Leaflet’ that looks like a menu for a takeaway Chinese restaurant. I want to be able to read all about how you do the thing you do and see even more pictures of the premises and the people. I want to be looking forward to my visit, because what will happen has been spelled out for me.
5. I want my first visit to be memorable for the customer service
When I arrive, I want my expectations to be fulfilled – the premises are lovely and suit my demographic. I want chocolate-coloured leather sofas, I want light-oak and brushed aluminium. I want a plasma TV showing the news. I want refreshments and a patient toilet that shines. I want to feel as if I am in the business-class lounge at an airport.
6. I want the team to be concierge-class
I want every team member I meet to just glow with confidence and competence – to react and respond to me as if I am the most important customer in the business BUT to be firm enough to hold me to account if my performance or behaviour doesn’t come up to scratch. I want the theme to be ‘no problem, leave it with me, I’ll get it sorted’. I want everyone I meet to behave as if they are proud of the business and hold a stake in its future. A stake that depends on keeping me happy. I don’t ever want to meet an idiot on your premises.
7. I don’t want to wait any longer then I have agreed to
I understand that I’m paying to see the slowest, most expensive dentist in town – that’s fine. But when you tell me something is going to happen at a certain time, I want it to happen at that time – or within four minutes – because after that, I will develop chest pains. If it’s going to be late, I want you to communicate with me constantly and competently.
8. I want the clinicians to slow down, listen and take their time
I am more interested in a dentist or hygienist taking the time to listen to me, than I am to listening to them. I want to feel totally understood – when I do, I will listen to your professional opinion on what I should do next. I want the dentistry to be delivered slowly and carefully and I want to be involved verbally at every step of the way. I want the dentist to be able to communicate. I want my hygienist/therapist to be friendly and firm, not bossy and bored.
9. I want the business and money end of the relationship to be handled ultra-professionally
I want a concierge nurse who is going to become my ‘account manager’ with your organisation and will look after me personally, because he/she ‘gets’ me. I want finances spelled out very clearly in a private area. I want options – to pay in advance and enjoy early payment privileges, to spread payments if my cashflow dictates. I want to feel as if membership of your practice is similar to membership of a prestigious private club. I want to feel very special. I want occasional gifts and surprises. I want you to have strategic alliances with other ‘well-being’ service providers in your town. I want a loyalty and membership card.
10. I want you to ask me to recommend my family, friends and colleagues
I won’t be embarrassed or feel hassled, I understand that the best businesses grow by word-of-mouth recommendation and I’m happy to tell my community about your wonderful services. I want you to give me business cards to pass out. I want to be invited to special promotions and asked to bring guests. I want to be an unpaid member of your sales force.
Oh – and by the way – here’s a bonus 11th:
11. I want the clinical result you deliver to be fantastic and to make me feel so good that I’m bursting to write you a testimonial letter
I’d like you to take a little time to copy this article for your team and discuss how close to this your existing patient journey is? If I came to live in your town would I find you? Would I like what I found?
Listen – you had better look after me – I’m the most important customer in your life – and it’s my birthday!