Oral Health Group
Feature

Achieving “Wow” Customer Service

March 1, 2007
by Roger P. Levin, DDS


Excellent customer service is often the final ingredient needed for dentists to take their practices from good to great. Superior customer service does not happen by accident. It is a system. It is about how practices treat every patient every hour every day. Patients must feel special from the moment they walk into the office, whether it is the first time or the 50th time.

Exceeding patient expectations requires what Levin Group calls “WOW” customer service. This occurs when every interaction has been exceptional, causing patients to be amazed at the level of customer service, making them say “WOW” as they leave the office. Most dental practices provide good customer service, but it is only a “WOW” level experience that motivates patients to come back for more procedures, say positive things about your practice, and refer others.

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Patients should be so impressed by the service they receive at every level — the team’s courtesy, the doctor’s excellence, the staff’s overall attentiveness, and the attractiveness of the office — that they could not imagine going elsewhere for their dental needs.

After 22 years of consulting to dental practices, we recommend these action steps to achieve “WOW” customer service:

1. Make your environment attractive

2. Train your team

3. Be enthusiastic

4. Listen to your patients

5. Follow up with patients

6. Treat patients like VIPs

1. Make your environment attractive

To achieve “WOW” customer service, dentists and their team members need to look at their practices through the eyes of their patients. How does the practice look from the outside? Is the building inviting? Is it landscaped and well maintained? Is the carpeting in the reception area in good shape? Is the furniture attractive and comfortable? Are the magazines current? And is there a broad selection? Many practices with superior customer service provide “extras” to patients. Some have refreshments in the reception area, so that patients and guests — parents, spouses, and neighbors who came with the patient — can relax and enjoy themselves. It’s amazing what a seemingly small thing, like a cup of coffee, can mean to patients.

2. Train Your Team

The dentist may be the leader of the practice, but the team is the embodiment of the practice. An excellent dentist who has a poor team will have a poor practice. On the other hand, a great dentist with a great team will have a great practice. How does a team become great? The right training can turn a good team into a great team.

Scripting is one of the best training techniques. Every routine conversation in the practice should follow a written training script. Scripting trains the dental team on what to say while providing patients the information they need to know about the practice’s services. Recognize that training will be continuous. Set time aside for specific training, out-of-office activities and performance discussions.

Successful training also requires that team members have clearly defined job descriptions outlining specific responsibilities. It is important to incorporate accountability into the systems. Understanding how hectic a dental practice schedule may be, the goal is to ensure team members know their responsibilities, are well trained to perform their duties efficiently, and provide excellent customer service to patients.

3. Be enthusiastic

Superior customer service requires enthusiasm on the part of the doctor and the team. No one likes to walk into a place of business and be greeted by unsmiling faces. For example, it is not enough for staff members to thank patients for selecting the practice. The dental team must do it the right way — sincerely and enthusiastically. Using power words such as “great,” “fantastic,” “terrific,” or “wonderful,” at the appropriate time is one way to convey enthusiasm when speaking with patients. When you WOW patients, they will accept treatment recommendations, refer friends and family, and keep returning to practice for other services and procedures.

4. Listen to your patients

When patients are checking out, the front desk coordinator should not only thank them for selecting the practice but also ask how the appointment went. “Did everything go as expected? Were you satisfied with the patient care and service you received? How were you treated today in our office?” These are questions that can help elicit useful patient feedback. Another technique is a written survey that can be given to patients once their treatment has been completed for the day. Surveys should include five to 10 questions and take only a few minutes to complete. By listening to patients, dentists can pro-actively make improvements, update practice systems and correct situations that could turn into bigger problems.

5. Follow up with patients

Follow-up is about going the extra mile for patients. As former NFL quarterback and businessman Roger Staubach once said, “There is never a traffic jam on the extra mile.” Why? Because not many people, businesses or practices go the extra mile. Follow-up refers to returning patients’ phone calls, getting them information they have requested, rescheduling appointments or effectively tracking incomplete treatment or recare program participants. Practices should always follow up with patients. If for any reason a team member is too busy at the moment a patient calls with a question or concern, it is incumbent on someone in the practice to call back that patient as soon as possible. Even if a phone call cannot be returned right away, or if the necessary information cannot be found at that time, the dental team should never let a day go by without getting back in touch with the patient. Failing to do so could lead the patient to go somewhere else.

6. Treat patients like VIPs

Patients want to believe they are the practice’s only priority when they come in for their appointments. Practices with excellent customer service strive to make their patients feel this way. If a practice fails to schedule new patients promptly, is running late when the patient arrives, or does not seem prepared for the appointment, patient confidence and trust decreases, as does the perception of quality of care.

The dentist and staff members should learn as much as possible about each patient to help build a strong practice-patient relationship. Little things such as birthdays, upcoming weddings and graduations mean a great deal to a patient when they are brought up or noted by the practice in the course of regular contact. On the patient information sheet, team members should keep notes about current and important events in the patient’s life. This type of attention strengthens relationships with patients and builds a high level of trust. This trust will lead patients to say “yes” when it comes time for case acceptance, and “yes” when it comes to paying for the dental services that they value.

Here are some other examples of VIP treatment that patients should receive:

1. All patients should be greeted as they enter the office. A clear script should be used to welcome patients. The scheduling coordinator should let patients know how delighted the practice is to see them.

2. The patient should be escorted everywhere in the office. Each team member that comes in contact with the patient has an opportunity to enhance the practice-patient relationship. Say hello, smile, ask a personal question, ask how the patient is doing, escort the patient when the opportunity exists and thank the patient for visiting the office.

3. Every time the patient comes to the practice learn at least one new thing about the patient. By asking the question, “What is new in your life?” you start a discussion that often results in a stronger practice-patient relationship. It is important that this type of information be kept in the patient’s file, so it can be referred to before the next visit.

4. Than
k every patient for visiting the office. The doctor, assistant, hygienist and front desk staff should always end conversations by thanking the patient. Let the person know that he or she is appreciated. This type of feedback results in patients feeling extremely positive about the office and looking forward to return visits.

Summary

Achieving “WOW” customer service requires an effort to exceed patient expectations during every interaction. As Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said, “We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.” These six action steps can help take your customer service to the next level.

For no-cost consultation on implementing “WOW” customer service into your practice, call 888-973-0000 or e-mail your name, phone number, and address to customerservice@levingroup.com with “WOW Customer Service” in the subject line.


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