It doesn’t really matter what the business is, success will only come to those who are passionate about looking after their customers. So far so obvious, you might say, but it is easy to declare the supreme importance of your patients without actually truly living and breathing it.
Firstly, the overall main point of the book, Raving Fans – A Revolutionary Approach to Customer Service, by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles, rests on you realising that you don’t own your patients. As the book exclaims, ‘They’re just parked on your doorstep and will be glad to move along when they find something better’. People expect bad goods and rude service and what’s more, ‘They’re not upset. Do a survey, check it out and they’ll say they’re satisfied’.
The point? If you really want a thriving dental practice with loyal patients, you will have to go beyond ‘satisfied patients’ and create ‘raving patients’. So, how do you do that? Here are the three secrets…
Secret number one: what you want
To decide on what you want, you must first focus on creating ‘a vision of perfection centred on the customer’. Take note, this does not mean that you have ‘to be perfect’, but to imagine perfection centred on your patients.
The reason? If you start with a real vision, you can bring the picture down from your mind and lay it over your existing dental practice. This will enable you to see the gaps compared to your vision and enable you to focus on what you need to work on.
Secret number two: discover what the customer wants
After creating your vision, you must then consider your patients – what do they really want? Then alter your vision if needs be. Now this might initially seem somewhat perplexing – why bother with your vision if you have to alter it? But here are the reasons:
Firstly, ‘unless you have a vision, how can you understand your customers?’. The book neatly wraps it up like this: ‘Imagine opening a hamburger restaurant dedicated to producing the world’s best hamburger and then trying to discuss your bacon cheeseburger with a customer without first working out what you thought it should be. The customer says it should have Roquefort cheese. But, what do you say if you don’t have any idea what you think a perfect bacon cheeseburger is?’
Secondly, your patients’ vision will most likely only focus on one or two things; your vision will allow you to fill in the gaps. And thirdly, the book states that you have to learn to know when to ignore what a customer wants and, if necessary, tell the customer to go elsewhere to be satisfied. This actually translates into realising that if you try to give a good service that is everything to everyone, you are setting yourself up to fail. You need to learn to perform in a well-defined window.
Secret number three: deliver, plus 1%
Firstly, the book absolutely stresses that you must always deliver on your promise – all the time! Delivering your service as promised time and time again is the main foundation of creating a raving fan and achieving this will only occur through consistent delivery.
The tip here is to limit the number of areas that you want to make a difference in and then make sure you deliver each and every time. Consistency will ensure that your patients learn to rely and trust you time and time again. How do you achieve consistency? Systems and training programmes with a team who know them inside out. But bear in mind, ‘rules will create robots whereas systems are predefined ways to achieve results’.
Secondly, once you have achieved consistency, flexibility and ongoing improvement is equally as important. The 1% element of this secret is that your vision should always be evolving and the 1% is enough to keep you moving forward. Only an up-to-the-minute vision will create raving fans. Your patients’ needs and wants will alter all the time and so it is important to keep listening, remembering that, ‘Flexibility is to do with the “what” and is delivered as part of your customer service, whereas consistency is “how” it is delivered’.
So there you have it. A quick summary of a very thought-provoking book. It by no means replaces a thorough leaf through, so if you are serious about your patient relationships, we suggest you pick up a copy and allow yourself a good read.
Practice Plan is a specialist provider of practice branded patient membership plans in the UK. If you are thinking about changing provider, Practice Plan has the experience, expertise and systems to ensure that setting up and implementing your plan is a pain-free and seamless experience. What’s more, whilst working in partnership with your practice, once you’re up and running Practice Plan has a wealth of business and plan support services to help you develop a profitable and sustainable business. If you would like to know how Practice Plan could help you make a greater success of your practice, visit www.practiceplan.co.uk/change, call 01691 684165 or sign up for its business support at blog.practiceplan.co.uk.