by Roger P. Levin, DDS, MBA
In any business, customers must be considered the primary concern. Customer service creates a true competitive advantage for any practice. Most businesses view customers equally; the retail model follows that anyone has the potential to purchase something in a store. Dental practices have adopted this philosophy to some degree; most understand that all new patients are potentially long-term clients.
Treat your best customers best
Certain patients in every practice truly make a difference. These individuals should receive some level of VIP treatment; they not only have aided in the growth and development of the practice, but also continue to support the practice in a number of different ways. Two of the groups to consider include:
Patients who refer other patients. Only a small minority of patients in a dental practice refers other patients. It's disturbing that most practices don't have an internal marketing system that encourages every patient to refer at least one other patient. The average American has a sphere of contacts of over 300 individuals. Essentially, this means that there is plenty of opportunity for patients to refer others; they just aren't taking the time to do it!
Those patients who do refer are true contributors to your practice. They should be thanked, sent gifts, and courted as VIPs in the practice. These patients have the potential to contribute significantly to the growth and development of your practice.
The other important issue is how to create more patients who refer. The best way is to show appreciation to those patients who refer. Excellent patients refer excellent patients! We also find that patients tend to refer patients of similar economic status. Why? People tend to spend the most time with those who are similar to themselves.
Patients who accept large cases. Some patients simply believe in dentistry. They want optimal oral health, and they will pay for it. In many cases, these patients are not wealthy. They are, however, individuals who understand the importance of good oral care.
An individual with a strong oral health orientation often knows other individuals who similarly value their health. These same people tend to accept treatment because they believe in taking care of themselves. They also tend to accept more elective care.
Comprehensive and elective dentistry are the key profit centers in dental practices today. You should measure your elective care production very carefully and work to enhance this portion of the practice.
Identifying the best patients
Although there are many ways to segment and identify best customers, the main point is that these individuals should be treated in a special way. After all, they do more for your practice by referring others and accepting treatment. A few examples include:
- Special appointment times reserved for "best" patients
- Special greetings that stimulate a personal relationship
- Evening phone calls after every nonhygiene appointment to see how they are feeling
- Special event cards such as birthday, anniversary, etc.
- Occasional gifts like cakes or pies once a year to thank them for being great patients.
This list is just the beginning of a variety of different things you could do for your best patients. Keep in mind that you want to thank them — not overwhelm them! Don't do everything that comes to mind; it's the pleasant, thank-you oriented, and appreciative things that will make the real difference.
Make sure that every visit to the practice for your VIPs is a special experience. The last comments the dentist, assistant, and front-desk staff should make is to thank these best patients for coming. Let them know how much you appreciate them!
Roger P. Levin, DDS, MBA, president and CEO of The Levin Group and the Levin Advanced Learning Institute, provides worldwide leadership in dental management for general dentists and specialists. Contact The Levin Group at (410) 654-1234.