Category Archives: Customer Service

Honesty: the Key to Changing Patients’ Thinking about “Dentists” – Part I

What do you think of when you hear the words “dentist’s office”?

As a dentist, you probably don’t see the words as intimidating at all – but to the average person there’s often an automatic negative reaction – whether it be because of a bad experience as a child, a phobia, or just fear of the unknown. This leads to many people putting off dental care, and being extremely hesitant about making an appointment or following through with treatment.

The mysteriousness of the typical dental office doesn’t help. A patient calls to make an appointment and asks what might be involved – and gets what they feel is a run-around. “Well, we can’t say without actually seeing you, sir- the dentist will need to evaluate you.”

This leads to more feelings of doubt and distrust, even though the practice appointment scheduler isn’t trying to dissemble; there’s no way a diagnosis can be made over the phone, but the patient still feels unsure and wary.

So, how does your practice overcome this overwhelming knee jerk reaction to the idea of visiting the dentist, and convince patients that a trip to your office is something to be welcomed rather than feared?

The answer is simple – honesty.

In his spectacular Ted Talk “The Honest Economy,” Marcus Sheridan talks about how CarMax revolutionized the world of used car sales when they managed to convince consumers to let go of their negative pre-conception of a “used car salesman” (oily, sleazy, and out to trick you).

CarMax accepted that their entire industry up to that point had been run incorrectly, and set about changing the approach to make consumers trust them – by providing trustworthy, verifiable information about the vehicles, their pricing, accident and maintenance histories, a five day return policy, and so on. Used car buyers now see CarMax as honest and trustworthy.

Even McDonalds was able to turn their image of being “unhealthy fast food” around by starting to include the caloric content of each value meal right on the menu board under the pricing. Of course, the caloric content of the food is still the same – that is to say, not exactly healthy – but the perceived honesty of the company makes consumers more likely to say they “trust” McDonalds and they are more likely to visit the restaurant because it has “earned” their trust.

Dentists can adopt this “honest economy” approach for dentistry. Rather than being afraid to answer questions over the phone, on your website, or through your social media pages, answer them – in great detail! – instead. You can do this through several approaches:

Ÿ  Your team. Whoever answers the phone or fronts the reception area should be able to discuss possibilities of treatment and pricing openly and honestly with patients. Have printed materials available for waiting patients to peruse and don’t be afraid to talk about “ifs”.

Ÿ  Your website. You can answer so many questions right on your site, including the cost of procedures, the recovery time, the methods you use to keep patients comfortable and the type of pain management you provide.

Ÿ  Social Media. You can constantly share information and tips on your Facebook Page. The more information you give your potential patients, the more likely they are to trust you.

Let’s talk about the cost of care for a minute. Since dental insurance is hard to come by, and hasn’t kept pace with the actual cost of care (meaning out of pocket costs even for the insured) this is often one a chief concern for patients.

Many dentists don’t want to share any cost of care information, even in conjecture, before an appointment – because what if the patient thinks the amount is too high and calls another dentist? Alternately, what if you quote a lower estimate to sound competitive, and when you actually see the patient  they require much more work than expected and they feel that you weren’t honest?

The short answer to this is that, as Fred Joyal eloquently points out in his own treatise on transparency, if your dental practice is competing solely on price, you’re definitely doing it wrong. Your practice doesn’t just offer procedure “A” for cost “B”. You have to include “C” – that elusive something that your practice offers – but your competitor doesn’t. “C” is what your brand is all about.

Sometimes, “C” is as simple as just being willing to TALK to your patients. If they feel like they are getting a ballpark idea of the cost of their various options, even with the understanding that a dentist will have to see their mouth to make an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan, they appreciate the honesty and transparency.

In our next post, we’ll look at ways to utilize this approach of honesty in all aspects of your practice, including your content creation and social media plan

Is Your Dental Practice Showing the Love?

What kind of relationship is there between your practice and your patients (past, present and future)? As with any relationship, communication is key – but how you communicate could mean the difference between a “one night stand” and a lasting love story for the ages!

Data from Responsys shows that an orchestrated consumer experience is the key to building a lasting practice / patient relationship. When every interaction is about making the patient happy, they know you care and the feeling slowly becomes mutual.

Is your communication methodology up to par when it comes to cultivating long term relationships? Here’s what the data can tell us about what patients want:

Patients Love to be Wooed

Just like the box of chocolates or bouquet of flowers, giving your patients that extra something special “just because” can have a significant positive impact on how they feel about your practice!

  • ŸNearly 75% of all consumers surveyed say they can see themselves in long term relationships with brands that offer rewards for customer  loyalty.
  • ŸNearly 60% say they sometimes choose one provider over another simply because of a special offer or targeted marketing they have received.
  • ŸHowever, less than one third of consumers say that the brands they love send them offers or promotions that interest them. What a waste of an opportunity!

Your practice can take advantage of these facts by offering new patient specials, existing patient discounts, incentives for patient referrals and so on. Be careful, though – one size does NOT fit all and many patient / practice “break-ups” occur because of poor communication (sound familiar?)

Send the Right Messages at the Right Time

An extremely large percentage of consumers leave even a well liked brand due to overly aggressive or poorly targeted marketing.

  • ŸOver a third of US adults say they stopped using a product or service due to the brand sending them a constant barrage of content that was in no way pertinent or useful to them, that was disruptive or that was poor quality.
  • ŸOver half of those adults say the brand in question sent these message over and over on multiple channels.
  • Ÿ33% of consumers say they have stopped using a brand because the marketing was too “generic” and appeared to be mass produced instead of tailored to their needs.

You can make your marketing more effective and less disruptive by carefully sorting your patients into groups and targeting each group according to their needs, past experiences, recent interactions and future worth to your practice.

Don’t let your love affair with your patients wither on the vine. Court your patients carefully, with respect and devotion (no stalking!) and you’ll see a significant improvement in long term relationships for your practice!

Check out this terrific infographic for more on brand / consumer relationships:

Lord & Taylor Failed…Make Sure Your Practice Doesn’t Make The Same Mistake

I keep waiting for the day where my customer service success stories outnumber the failures! Here’s a recent failure and how you can prevent something similar from occurring in your practice.

On a recent trip back east, I realized the evening before my meeting that I hadn’t packed an appropriate “business watch.” My sporty IRONMAN triathlon watch certainly wouldn’t send the right message for the client I was visiting. Women always notice the details and I wasn’t about to loose credibility with the office team for having the wrong watch on. I stopped in to Lord & Taylor hoping to make a quick purchase.

The young woman working the jewelry counter was helping another woman select from several different watches. There was an unoccupied clerk at the jewelry counter nearby. I stood for nearly 25 minutes before even being acknowledged. I realize the clerk was engaged with a current client, but to not even be acknowledged was frustrating. There wasn’t another store nearby or I would have left. Unfortunately, I was in a situation where I needed what they offered and I had to wait. Upon concluding the transaction with the other woman, the clerk merely quipped “Is there a watch you want to see?” No apology. No “I’m sorry for the wait.” Nothing. I purchased the watch I selected and left with a very bad taste in my mouth. I won’t be back, but much more importantly, I told everyone in the practice the next day what a bad experience I had. And they represent viable consumers in that Lord and Taylor’s target market…

There are patients visiting your practice on a regular basis with “emergency” needs. If they are made to wait, for whatever the reason, without an apology or acknowledgement from your team, they’ll leave with the same bad taste. If they are ignored upon entering the reception area because your administrative team is busy assisting other patients, they will leave with the same bad taste. Sure they won’t walk out of the chair, you have the solution to their immediate pain. Rest assured that the negative word-of-mouth they will be sharing in the community will do much more damage to your practice’s reputation than you think. They might not have been your definition of an “ideal patient”, but one of their friends certainly could have been.