Lina Craven of Dynamic Perceptions explains the importance of valuing your patients and reviewing how they are prioritized within the day-to-day running of your practice
Where do your patients fit in your list of priorities?
We all talk about how quickly time goes by. The days merge into weeks, which pass into months, and before we know it, we’re left blinking in the glare of a new year with little to show for our efforts. Each day is a litany of unfinished tasks: staff management issues, technical woes, marketing initiatives, legal updates, financial management…all demanding our undivided attention. But I wonder how often, and at what level of importance, do customers feature in your list of priorities? The patient journey is a phrase frequently used in the dental industry; yet in my experience of visiting practices, a truly patient-focused approach remains quite rare. In a recent study by Bain, 80% of business leaders believed their companies were doing a good job in the way they treated customers, but only 8% of customers agreed.
The purpose of this article is to encourage you to question how highly you value your patients and to review how they are prioritized within the day-to-day running of your practice.
Where’s your focus?
In a study by IBM, 755 managers and business leaders admitted they were much more likely to focus on operational efficiency than trying to understand what customers wanted and valued. In my experience, this is fairly representative; yet evidence indicates that patients move from practices primarily because of their experiences, not because of the quality of the products and services. Efficient processes are important, but they are of no benefit when delivered by an unhappy, unfriendly, or incapable team.
Focus on determining what your patients want! Ask them by: conducting regular satisfaction surveys, providing a “simple complaints management process” and ensuring that it is given the highest priority; speaking to patients as much as you can, and finding ways of getting team members to filter their conversations with patients back to the whole team.
What do your patients want?
Patients have three basic wants: to know that they matter, to recognize that their experience has been positive, and to know that their wants or needs have been satisfied. Nearly all will come back if these criteria are satisfied. And there is a good chance they will become advocates for your services too!
One person’s views about your practice can really affect your success, particularly if you are a community-based practice. There is massive power in word-of-mouth marketing, which has even been recognized by highly successful marketing organizations like Procter & Gamble. A recent report indicates that UK retailers have seen a 56% increase in the conversion of website visits to purchases following the addition of customer-reviews to their sites.
Give your patients what they want, and then get them to shout about it. By doing so you could wipe a whole lot of tasks from your marketing checklist!
Do you think being good is enough?
Green Bay Packer football coach Vince Lombardi said, “Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase it, we can catch excellence.”
You should create a culture within your practice that aspires to perfection and, in that way, everyone is constantly challenged to seek out better ways of doing things.
In World War II, parachute packers took enormous pride in their 99.9% quality levels. In their view, 1 paratrooper out of a 1,000 was not a bad failure rate. The quality inspection was then changed. Once a week, the packers would be asked to make a jump with a parachute chosen at random, and guess what─the error rate vanished!
So, would you consider you are delivering a great service if you received a score on your customer satisfaction survey of 95%? If you have 2,000 patients, that would mean 100 were dissatisfied. Is that an acceptable number? No matter how many patients leave, they will need to be replaced before you grow one bit! It has been estimated to be five times more expensive to find a new patient than it is to keep your current ones happy─and it’s more efficient, too.
Aspiring for perfection could knock a whole load of tasks off that daily things-to-do list!
What do practices providing great customer service do differently?
If you had to break your to-do list down into categories, this is how I would suggest you head each section. Anything that doesn’t fit neatly within one of these titles should probably not be on your list of priorities!
Your practice will flourish when you champion the spirit of the individual while uniting the whole team behind a common and compelling purpose─the complete satisfaction of your patients.
Better still, by pursuing that goal, you have now reduced that never-ending to-do list down to one crucial task, and that can be shared equally among every member of your practice team.
There is always too much to get through in the space of one day, and it’s easy to forget the wants and needs of the people who figure most in your pursuit of success─the patients. I hope this article has given you food for thought and helped you to reassess your approach toward the pursuit of perfection within your practice.
Lina Craven is the founder and director of Dynamic Perceptions Ltd. Over the past 25 years, she has assisted dental practices to realize their vision of success through the achievement of a customer-driven culture that focuses on delivering an exceptional patient journey. Linda’s qualifications and experience as an orthodontic therapist, treatment coordinator, and practice manager in the United States, have given her a unique insight into the day-to-day practical problems faced by dental practices. She combines her hands-on knowledge with years of consultative experience to assist UK and European practices to achieve something special. Visit www.orthodontic-management.com for more information.
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