How easy is it for your patients to do business with you?
This week's post is about how we sometimes forget what makes visiting us easier and therefore more manageable for patients. To illustrate my point, let's start with the danish railways (DSB).
Last month I wanted to take the night train through Europe. It seemed like a nice alternative to flying and would also allow me to test whether there is another attractive alternative that would give me more flexibility for longer distance travel.
Okay granted. I was on an assignment for my company that was going to take longer than planned. So I was forced to change my travel plans. I was going from the north of Denmark to Southern Europe with 4 days notice. Leading up to the fall holidays, I might add that it's relatively challenging to get a post-Corona flight with a departure that's even remotely workable.
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The first challenge
My journey started in Sæby in northern Denmark. From there I had to take a bus, a fast train, a regional train and a night train to southern Europe.
I soon found out that you don't necessarily have to buy a complete journey online when you travel by train from Denmark to another country. The night train ticket took time to find, but could be bought online after all. Then I "just" had to piece the journey together with DSB and x-bus....
The timetable turned out to be useless
X-bus timetables were not updated on the company's own website or other online platforms, nor had a timetable been posted in the bus terminal area. This cost 90 minutes of cold and windy outdoor waiting time.
On the train from Aalborg to Fredericia, a ticket inspector informed me that I had to get off midways to buy a ticket to Hamburg. I had found out that it was not possible to buy this type of ticket online, from the ticket machines or from the friendly staff at 7Eleven, who were responsible for ticket sales at the stations. If I wanted a ticket, I had to buy it at the DSB travel office. An office that was only in Aarhus, midways on my way to Hamburg....
In the DSB travel office I got my ticket, but because it was bought on the day as i was traveling, I could not get a seat ticket, which meant 3 hours standing in a crowded train to Hamburg. Moreover, the travel office's plan dictated a change at a station, where an inspector on the train subsequently told me that my connecting train didn't stop at all.....
It could have been so good....
I could go on about 4 hours of waiting in the biting cold, about several broken promises and bad service experiences.
It could be so good and yet it was so bad.
The staff I met did their best to give me the best possible service. They were just constrained by a number of challenges in the way their company had prioritised and organised itself.
Consequences for DSB
In the end, my conclusion was relatively simple: if DSB calls and asks me to help them, I'll gladly make the attempt. But I probably won't be taking the train again any time soon.
I think it's great to draw inspiration from other industries. Even bad experiences, like the ones I just described. It helps one think about your own business. It puts a lot of things into perspective and with a little constructive thought, you can use the experiences to improve your own organisation.
During my public transport journey, some things stood out very clearly. Firstly, how much frustration there is when information online doesn't match reality. Secondly, how frustrating it is when it is difficult to find the information you need to find.
Inspiration for upgrading your website
Many dental clinics can learn a lot from this. What promises do we make online?
It's not just the text, but also the graphics and the photos we put on the website that influence the way patients build up expectations of the practice before they come to see us.
In addition, it's worth putting effort into making it easy to find the information patients most frequently seek on a dental clinic's website.
For example, how easy is it to find your clinic's:
Based on a review of 250 dental websites, too many websites make it really difficult for patients to find this information.
DSB was in no way equipped to handle journeys abroad and thus not ready to provide a supreme alternative to air transport. With the political currents and focus on CO2 reduction, it seemed very mysterious that they did not choose to focus more on this area. It is possible that DSB was trying to comply with political pressure but could not deliver when it came to the crunch.
Instead of promising to deliver a great service when it is obviously wrong, it is better to be honest. It would work much better if DSB clearly communicated that their primary focus is national transport. For example: if you want to travel abroad, you should contact: xxx companies that specialise in this, as they do it much better than us.
Dentists are generally good at being clear about what they are good at and not so good at. However, I still think there is room for reflection. Looking at communication from a marketing perspective, it is far better to be good at one thing and communicate it loud and clear. Trying to signal you are good at everything just makes you indifferent.
I have briefly reviewed 2 general themes above.
My initial question was about how easy you make it for your patients to do business with you. Below are some areas that, in my experience, often warrant a little extra attention in dental clinics.
Does the clinic have online booking?
Is it easy to get through on the phone?
Will I be reminded of my appointment?
Can I get an appointment within the next week - regardless of treatment?
Is the dentist or hygienist often late?
Is someone looking after me and interested in me when I arrive and sit waiting?
Does the clinic accept all forms of credit cards?
Am I informed about everything possible to get a healthy and beautiful smile?
...Even if I have been coming to the clinic regularly for 20 years?
Is it easy to get an instalment plan?
Does the practice follow up on the estimates given?
Do they take the time to explain to me why something is important to me so that I will understand?
You can certainly continue the list. There are almost infinite things you can do to make it easier to do business with the clinic.
Challenged by circumstances
Here's the next challenge: What gives the dental practice the most value in the shortest amount of time? That can be difficult to define when you're buried daily in dental procedures and implementing the latest rules laid out by some government agency. Just as it often varies from clinic to clinic what provides the most value.
If you would like to make it easier for your dental patients to do business with your dental practice, please feel free to write or call me.
Jesper Hatt DDS
P: +41 78 268 00 78