What is a WOW Practice?

Aug. 1, 2012
I'd like you to think of a time when a business you dealt with did something so notable and positive for you as a customer that it caused you to marvel and tell others about your experience.

BY Dianne Glasscoe Watterson, MBA

Dear Dianne,

I want my practice to be the kind of practice that has the WOW effect on patients. But sometimes I'm not even sure what that means. Can you clarify what a practice needs to really be a WOW practice?

Bryan, DDS

Dear Bryan,

I'd like you to think of a time when a business you dealt with did something so notable and positive for you as a customer that it caused you to marvel and tell others about your experience. For me, it was when a Marriott hotel worker hand-delivered my computer power cord to me before I left to lecture in Savannah. To do this, the worker had to board a MARTA train on a Friday evening and ride to the Atlanta airport. In another case, United Airlines changed my flight from Indianapolis to Greensboro at no charge when I learned of the death of my father while sitting at the gate waiting to board. Another example that stands out vividly in my mind is when my tile installer made my bathroom even more beautiful with special enhancements that only a tile professional would understand.

Many doctors feel they have a WOW practice because they take 100 hours of continuing education a year, or have a multimillion dollar facility, or cut a most excellent crown preparation. While all these things are nice, they do not address customer service.

The WOW practice is one that goes above what is expected. WOW is not having a nice, clean, up-to-date reception room and great magazines, or even check-in computers. It's not smiling at people. It's not even providing excellent dentistry. Patients expect these things.

The most important factor that sets the average practice apart from the exceptional (WOW) practice is how your patients perceive you and your staff members, and the level of customer care your patients receive. When you exceed their expectations to the point that they tell others of their positive experiences, you've achieved WOW. What they remember about your practice is how you and your staff members make them feel. Do you make them feel special?

You have to be on the lookout for opportunities to go above the routine in customer service. Here are some examples:

1. Your patient mentions an upcoming surgery. Somebody makes a note and sends the patient a card that everyone in the office signs, along with a potted plant, wishing her a speedy recovery.

2. Your new patient arrives and is greeted warmly by an outstretched hand and a "Welcome to our practice. It's so good to meet you!"

3. On the rare occasion that a patient is kept waiting for more than 10 minutes, you apologize and hand him or her a certificate for a free dinner at a local restaurant.

4. You compliment your staff member on her good work in the presence of your patient. Patients love to hear professionals brag on each other!

5. Your patient's crown falls off for the third time. You remake it at no charge.

6. You telephone a patient the day after she's had extensive dental care to see how she's doing.

7. Your office sends a sympathy card (and possibly a memoriam of some kind) when you are told of the death of a patient's family member.

As you can see, WOW is not about how you feel about your practice; it's about how your patients feel about your practice. Building the exceptional practice that creates a large, loyal, trusting fan base of patients starts at the top with you. Next, you have to assemble a team of coworkers that share your desire to build the exceptional practice. The question is this - how much do you care? Your success is directly proportional to your level of caring.

All the best,
Dianne DE

Dianne Glasscoe Watterson, MBA, is a consultant, speaker, and author. She helps good practices become better through practical on-site consulting. Her book, Manage Your Practice Well, is available for purchase at www.professionaldentalmgmt.com. For consulting or speaking inquiries, contact Dianne at [email protected] or call her at (301) 874-5240.

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