How can you make your practice stand out above the others in your community? How can you build loyalty, referrals and positive reactions to social media posts?
A dental practice is mainly a service business, and everyone in the practice is a participant in that service. The better the service, the more patients are impressed. Improving service so that patients are surprised should be a goal of every dental practice.
To offer surprising service, you must have excellent management procedures in place for every aspect of the practice. It’s impossible for the practice to exceed patient expectations if the person at the front desk is not well versed in appointment procedures for the doctors and hygienists. It’s impossible to treat patients properly if the operatories are not smoothly running. Techniques and protocols must be honed to near perfection at every step along the patient’s way through the office. And everyone must realize that it is his or her job to make that happen.
If you think of instances outside dentistry where you have received surprising service — maybe at a top-notch restaurant or in a special clothing store — you’ll remember that every detail worked well for you. You were greeted warmly, treated with respect and attentiveness and given your money’s worth.
If you’d like to greatly improve your service to surprise your patients, my first recommendation is that you challenge your whole team with the concept that your current service isn’t good enough. Too often doctors and team members meet together and compliment each other on how well they are doing. They pat each other on the back and continue to offer mediocre efforts to care for patients. If you start a team meeting with the belief that you aren’t doing enough to serve your patients, it opens the floodgates of opportunity to figure out how to do more and how to do it better.
As a dental practice lecturer, I often ask audiences, “What is the first time that the office and patients will have a significant exchange?” and they will yell out, “The phone call.” It is an early and important exchange, but how are the exchanges that happen every day in the community between a member of the team or doctor and a patient or potential patient handled?
Does the office have an “elevator speech” that quickly helps the person see the quality of the practice? Do the team members have a plan for how to guide the patient into the office: with a business card or does everyone just wing it? And, yes, then comes the phone call where many patients begin to judge the quality of the care they will be receiving, followed by the greeting when they first walk into the office. Does the receptionist address the patient by name? Do patients get the chance to let the office know why they are visiting? And you can go on from there to break the practice into every exchange: the introduction of the doctor, the examination, the treatment presentation, the end of the appointment, the evening call and many more interactions.
Hours of team meetings can delve into the details of patient management until the whole practice surprises the patients. What you’ll receive for your efforts is a practice that makes patients smile, that builds an unbreakable bond with them, that helps with diagnosis and treatment as they feel heard and appreciated, and that stimulates their referrals and positive reviews. And you’ll be surrounded by team members who understand their very important roles in the success of the practice and the positive support of the patients.
You can begin the process tomorrow by making surprising service a part of every staff meeting. Empower team members to learn from other businesses where they see great service and bring it back to the practice. Conduct surveys to ask patients about ways to improve your service to them. And start the structural change that builds exceptional service into every aspect of the practice. It’s actually fun to do.
You can take a deeper dive into surprising your patients by listening to the webinar I presented for the American Dental Association’s Guidelines for Practice Success titled, Is Your Practice Exceeding Patient Expectations?
The Guidelines for Practice Success grew out of an ADA effort to reach dentists with effective modules to help them navigate the business side of dental practice. The guidelines offer modules on managing patients, finances, marketing, the dental team and the regulatory environment. Learn more at success.ADA.org.
This article, written by Dr. William van Dyk, originally appeared in the 2018 Winter Dental Practice Success. Dr. van Dyk practices general dentistry in San Pablo, California, and teaches in the department of Dental Practice at the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry. He lectures throughout the US and Canada and is happy to expand on his message of surprising patient management. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at vandycastro.com.