It goes without saying that good customer service is the fundamental basis of any good business and since dental practices are essentially businesses it follows that practice owners and principals understand the importance of not only attracting new patients, but also retaining their existing patients and encouraging recommendation by delivering professional, helpful and high quality service, before, during and after treatment.
Moments of truth
The interaction between any customer and a service provider is how impressions of a business are formed. I call these the ‘moments of truth’ – when a customer, or in dentistry, when a patient comes into contact with any aspect of the business long enough for them to form a positive or negative impression.
These moments take place at various times during the customer’s service experience and will differ for different business types and between different individual practices. The important thing is to be able to identify when your ‘moments of truth’ occur and ensure that your team is able to maximise the impression they make at these times.
First impressions count
There’s only one chance to make a good first impression and for dental practices the first moment of truth for a patient is the first impression they have of the practice. Whether they are looking at information on a website, visiting or calling the practice for the first time, the image portrayed is vital and potential patients will make their decision about whether your practice is right for them very quickly.
So everything must be done to make that first impression count, this could be as simple as extending a warm and friendly welcome in the practice or over the phone, being professional, confident and knowledgeable about the services you offer and communicating to the patient that they are important to you at all times. But great customer service goes beyond just an initial welcome; it is about ensuring an excellent experience for both new and existing patients during every aspect of their visit and treatment, from the moment they arrive until they leave.
The treatment experience
The treatment journey taken by patients can be identified as another important ‘moment of truth’. Few patients relish a trip to the dentist so they need to be made to feel they can trust not only the dentist performing their treatment, but the whole dental team, from the nurse to the receptionist. Taking time to explain treatment options, why a specific procedure is being recommended and the consequences of not having treatment, all play a part in creating a positive or negative experience for the patient.
Patients also need to understand the important role of prevention in maintaining good levels of oral health and reducing the need for extensive treatment in the future. Encouraging patients to make regular visits to the hygienist is as important as routine examinations from the dentist and helps to maintain a healthy base of regular attenders at the practice.
Above and beyond
Everyone has experienced examples of both extremely good as well as very poor levels of customer service in their everyday life, but in general levels of service are regarded as ‘satisfactory’. What dental practices need to strive for, now more than ever before, is a level of service that goes beyond expectations, making them not only want to return but also recommend the practice to their friends and family.
For dental practices this ‘moment of truth’ can be created by ensuring patients receive first class treatment, which is followed up by excellent aftercare. Making sure the patient is comfortable after treatment, well informed about any aftercare procedures and ensuring they feel valued at all times will ensure they return and recommend you to others.
In the past dentists have not always had to compete for patients or differentiate themselves from competitors, but today’s patients are well informed and have high expectations, so if a practice fails to deliver, they may exercise their right to become someone else’s patient. Practices need to keep up to date with treatments and services and should seek the help of external providers if they need help on any aspects of their business.
Every practice is different, but the ultimate moment of truth is when every aspect of a practice works in equilibrium. Clinical expertise, well-trained and welcoming staff, convenient payment options and the attention paid to providing excellent customer service all combine to provide first rate customer satisfaction.
Discover how your practice can improve its ‘moments of truth’ through DPAS Business Bites. Contact DPAS Dental Plans on 01747 870910 or email [email protected].