The customer service difference

As we enter the 21st century, certain factors that make a difference in practice success will be more important than ever. The primary differentiating factor for the highly successful dental practice of the future will be customer service. Despite any changes that take place in dentistry, the nature of a customer has not changed.

Roger P. Levin, DDS, MBA

As we enter the 21st century, certain factors that make a difference in practice success will be more important than ever. The primary differentiating factor for the highly successful dental practice of the future will be customer service. Despite any changes that take place in dentistry, the nature of a customer has not changed.

Patients will select offices where they are treated well.

There is an old axiom that everyone wants to feel special. Businesses that have been able to translate this into reality for their customers tend to be highly successful. Despite the large warehouse-like stores that feature discounted prices, mid-level and boutique stores are flourishing. People are spending at all-time-record numbers. They feel most comfortable spending their money when they have a personal relationship with the business proprietor. Warehouses sell commodities. Dental practices provide services.

Services require relationships

Dentistry is a relationship business. Your goal is to WOW every patient who walks through the door every day, every time, without exception! Customer service is about making every patient feel special. What can you do to make them feel better when they leave your office than when they walked in the door? Unless they are experiencing pain, it certainly will not be the clinical treatment. It will be the level of service!

Here are a few quick tips you can implement immediately:

Enthusiastic greeting - Be sure that the front-desk coordinator greets all patients who enter the office and that she lets them know how much you enjoy seeing them.

Smile - In the busy, hectic pace of dental practices today, we actually forget to smile, despite the fact that we are the smile experts.

Personalize - Begin each patient conversation with something personal, as opposed to jumping in with clinical conversation immediately. Take the time to talk to each patient - even children - about something in his or her life.

Think special - Do something special for your patients. Whether it is offering a carnation to every patient who comes into the practice or making evening telephone calls, you want to do at least one thing that is special for each patient. What makes your practice different from other practices? Coffee in the reception area, notes for special occasions, birthday cards - anything that lets patients know you care beyond the bill.

Show interest - Learn new information about each patient`s life. Who are the members of their family, where do they work, where have they traveled, what interests them? One of the great questions is, "What`s new in your life?" You will get more of a response than you would with a "How are you?" Be sure to make notes of the conversation somewhere in the patient`s record, so that you can reference them at a future visit.

Thank-you calls - Call any patient who refers a new patient to your office and thank that individual personally. The gift of a referral certainly deserves not only a thank-you note, but also a personal call. These two expressions of appreciation will stimulate them to refer again. Sending a gift is another nice touch.

Conclusion

While there are many other aspects of customer service to learn about, there is one more that you could add immediately. This is a Levin Group teaching called "10 Improvements for the Month." At each monthly staff meeting, you should identify 10 improvements that you want to make in your practice each month. Then, assign responsibility for each individual improvement to a staff member and establish a deadline. Within six months, your practice will be providing a level of service that has never been achieved before.

Customer service is critical to your short- and long-term success. The world will keep changing, but customer service never goes out of style. If anything, it becomes even more important - year after year - as our customers expect more and better treatment. Your goal is to provide 100 percent customer service!

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.

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