All the employees I talk to in the dental industry believe themselves they provide excellent customer service. My contention is that most deliver to an expected standard.
Sometimes they even underperform quite badly, without even knowing it.
It is certainly not because we, or our team, try to go out of our way to deliver a poor service. It's just no longer good customer service to provide lots of information in writing and in speech, to call patients on the phone, to hold their hand during a treatment, to be empathetic, nice, etc. That is all an expected standard.
The challenge with all good customer service is that over time it becomes an expected standard.
Once upon a time, a hotel was known for having fresh newspapers for the breakfast buffet. Today, it's the expected standard. So one hotel came up with putting a fresh newspaper in the door of guests' rooms in the morning. It got a lot of attention, because guests were happy with the service. So all the competitors quickly copied the method, and it became a new expected standard.
Challenges with expected standards
The challenge is that the services we design and implement in our companies will all become an expected standard. When they do, it's problematic if one forgets-or doesn't live up to-the expected standard at all.
So even if you "just" do what you did in the "good old days", you will be judged for delivering a worse service because you do not live up to today's expected standard.
You may recognize this when you have your car serviced. Today, cars are typically washed and vacuumed as part of the mandatory service inspection. Imagine if the garage forgot to vacuum the car and you noticed it...
When we're used to getting a certain experience, service or product for our money, we get disappointed when it doesn't live up to our expectations. Disappointment leads to dissatisfied customers and a damaged reputation.
What does the practice want to achieve?
If we insist on continuing to provide good customer service, I think it's important that the practice is clear about what it wants to achieve with that good service.
I am often asked if I can help improve customer service in dental clinics. When I am asked, I usually ask what the clinic owner wants to achieve with improved customer service. This is where things often get a little quiet.
It may seem a little strange that there are clinic owners who cannot answer why they want to improve customer service. We just have to be realistic and recognise that most dentists are mentally overloaded. Emotionally, we can often sense which area of the practice is challenged and needs improvement. But not everyone is able to put it into words. They just have really good intuition.
Intuition is rarely enough
Unfortunately, intuition is not quite enough when it comes to exercising leadership and setting a new direction that the team must be influenced to want to follow. This requires a little more detailed exploration of what exactly you want to achieve or improve.
That's why I often help by asking questions such as:
Should the clinic's brand be improved, thus minimising the need for external marketing?
Or should the patient experience be improved so that it is easier to talk to patients about their objective treatment needs?
The patient's wishes
It often helps to look at what 99% of all patients consciously or subconsciously want:
Last a long time
Keeping this in focus and linking these 3 focus points to the vision of the clinic. Then you have a good starting point to create unique service initiatives for the clinic's patients.
If you would like help achieving your goals, please feel free to call or write me. I provide you with a 100% satisfaction guarantee: full satisfaction or your money back!
I do this because I have found that all the dentists I have helped so far have been extremely satisfied.
P: +41 78 268 00 78
Failed customer service
It's super easy to give a white rose to everyone who comes to the clinic. It may be very sweet, but is it appropriate for the clinic? And what's the point, besides creating a stir? Is it just to draw attention? Or what is the point?.... That's what patients are asking themselves all the time.
Not only is it difficult to find the real value in the rose. Try to think what happens when you have given a rose to all the patients for 2 years and not really achieved anything by it. Here, most business owners will try to minimize the loss and stop the initiative. But after so long, it is difficult to stop because all the patients have become accustomed to receiving a rose after the visit.
In other words, the rose has become an expected standard. Well, a standard that is talked about in town. After all, not many dentists give a rose after the visit. So it's affected the clinic's brand. The question is whether it makes sense in terms of the image the clinic owner wants the clinic to have.
Some clinics give out free toothpaste to everyone who comes to the clinic. But does it make sense when it has become an expected standard among the clinic's patients? What will the clinic achieve by doing so? Should patients buy the toothpaste in the clinic? Or is the clinic owner on a mission to get more patients to use a particular type of toothpaste?
If Colgate products are included, it is not enough to get patients to buy the products in the clinic. They can buy them anywhere else they go more often. Getting more patients to use Colgate is, after all, Colgate's job. So in this case, the clinic is doing free marketing for Colgate. It's certainly an extremely good deal for Colgate, but not necessarily for the clinic.
What if it's a very special kind of toothpaste that you can only get in the clinic? Does it then start to make sense in the short and long term? Does it support the brand/image of the clinic? Or does it pull in the wrong direction?
These are all questions that each clinic has to address internally.
Dentists' challenges in developing customer service
Most dentists have chosen the profession because it suits their personality.
Dental schools do not train students to work with creative processes, which this kind of tasks requires. We are trained to find problems and come up with a solution quickly. So the path from problem to solution is very short... extremely short.
If you want to try something entertaining, set a group of dentists to solve a problem with a group of architects. Both groups will break down after a short time because they have difficulty understanding the "hopeless way" of working of the other group. The architects are in fact super skilled at being in "process". That is, they are skilled at continuing to see a problem and its proposed solution from many different angles. In fact, they can spend hours discussing small details that to us dentists may seem completely unimportant. This is important when solving a creative task. It's not important in our profession.
The creative process
When we work on service and service initiatives, we have to work on staying in the process. We need to be creative and then select solutions that fit the vision of the clinic. Finally, the solutions must be implemented. This requires training. The challenge is that it all takes time; time costs huge amounts of money in a dental clinic. Which is probably why so few clinics have a structured approach to customer service.
In clinics that want to work with certain types of treatments, it is often much more profitable to work with customer experience, including customer service to influence the clinic's brand. A strong brand based on unique and good customer experiences is much more valuable than spending money on marketing. At least from a business perspective (There is usually a need for a mix. But more often than not, the funds spent on marketing can be reduced relatively significantly when working on customer service).
When I give customer service training for dentists and their teams, one of the things we focus on is the creative process. Because that's where the great ideas that are just right for each clinic come out. This is where we can find everything that makes the clinic unique and shows what stories the clinic should tell the world. Among other things, by the customer service provided.
Next week, we'll explore how you can work on the 3 issues that matter most to patients and therefore bring them the most value. To be sure to read next week's post, sign up for the blog and you'll get an email with a link directly to the latest post. To sign up, press "login" in the top right corner and follow the instructions.
See you next week.
Many kind regards
Jesper Hatt DDS
T: +41 78 268 00 78