Many dental practices are forgetting that the customer is king (or queen), Les Jones says.

If you’ve ever ordered fajitas in a restaurant, you’ll know that they don’t normally arrive at your table as a fully formed meal.

Instead, they arrive as a set of separate components – tortillas, meat, vegetables, cheese, guacamole, sour cream and salsa – and you, the customer, put the fajitas together…exactly as you like them.

A hundred people could order the same meal and they could all enjoy them in different combinations according to their taste.

That’s a great metaphor for what’s happening in many other parts of our lives, but particularly in a retail setting.

Taking control

If ever there was a time when the phrase ‘the customer is king (or queen)’ is true, it’s today – right now!

Today’s customers don’t just want choice and control, they demand it and expect it.

You can now configure your own car, plan your own TV schedule, design your own trainers, shop at any time of the day, and track and control your deliveries to the minute – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Yet, despite the overwhelming evidence of massively changing consumer habits, many dental practices steadfastly refuse to change to accommodate those customers’ needs and wants.

The answer machine still goes on at lunchtime, the practice still opens at 9.00 am and closes at 5.30 pm, appointment reminders are still sent out in the post and the practice still closes on a Friday afternoon.

Customers are simply expected to fit in.

Changing practices

It’s little wonder then that some of those customers get itchy feet and start looking elsewhere for a dental practice.

Which is exactly what happened with me.

When I joined my new practice, the first thing they did was talk to me.

They asked questions to develop a good understanding of my needs and what was important to me.

They then tailored their service and approach to those needs, making me feel special and valued.

Of course, many of the things they do are the same things they do for all of their other customers – just like the fajitas are the same when they leave the kitchen.

It’s at the point of delivery that the personalisation kicks in – the text reminder that starts with my name, the fact that I’m recognised as soon as I walk in, the personalised treatment plan that references specific conversations we’ve had (presented on a memory stick), the Christmas card I get every year.

What’s more, they are able to offer early or late appointments that fit with my schedule.

It’s a practice that is 100% customer focused and in tune with today’s technology and communication styles.

It can’t be a coincidence that the practice is now expanding.

Patient journey

Think about how you could bring your patient journey to life by giving your patients more choice and control and also through personalisation.

Your patients will respond by engaging with the practice more and by talking about their experiences with friends and colleagues.

And, with the upturn in business that will surely result, why not treat the team to a night out and some fajitas?