The thing I love about being a Dentist teaching World Class Dental Customer Service is that no other Dentist out there is.
Sure there are those who believe in providing a Customer “Service” that’s a better one than what’s being given out there in the big wide wonderful world.
But they’re teaching a whole pile of other things as well.
Customer Service appears to be just another part of their process of education.
Another arrow in their quiver.
It’s kind of like buying sporting goods.
Sure, you might be lucky and find what you want in a “generalised” sporting goods store, but if you’re looking for something really specific that you need to go hunting, well heck yeah, it makes perfect sense that you’d have a better chance of finding exactly what you need at a store that specialises *ONLY* in hunting equipment.
And it’s the same with World Class Dental Customer Service.
Sure there’ll be generalists who will teach you better service skills.
But you’ll still find, that often, there’ll still be one or two or three things they may have “not quite” covered that still leaves your Service Systems with that annoying little leak point that your valued clients customers and patients can slip out and away through, never to return.
And it’s these one or two undetected *Leak Points* that can bring your whole Service Systems crashing to its knees.
And we just unknowingly keep carrying on regardless….
Either unawares, or just plain “hoping” that things will simply get better…
On their own.
“Oh, we’re doing OK, really”….
Like that sort of attitude is going to work?
“Oh, my dentistry skills are OK, really”…
Your patients won’t tolerate dentistry skills that are just “OK”, and they won’t tolerate levels of Service that are just “OK” either.
Because in this day and age, there is no reason for them to accept and keep on accepting inferior Customer Service.
This is why it’s so easy to stand out in your market.
Because people, your potential Customers, are screaming out for somebody to do things in a better way.
It’s not just a matter of “being nice” to your patients.
Because being nice now and then isn’t worth a zack.
Being nice consistently and completely is an improvement. But WOWING your patients on a consistent basis is what will set your office head and shoulders above your local competitors.
Committing your Dental Office to a path, or a course of *Complete* Customer Service, where all the bases are covered, where all the leaks are repaired, is the simplest and easiest way to stand out in your market place.
Because nobody else around you is doing it, completely.
The following email hit my inbox overnight, and coincidentally, was very timely.
You are 100% correct on your assessment of technical skills as a non-differentiator. The US public believes that all dentists are the same, essentially making dentistry a commodity. OTC companies routinely reinforce this message when they say, ‘9 out of 10 dentists agree’ in advertisements. And insurance companies have done an excellent job of feathering their own nests at the expense of the dentists. As you’ve always said the differentiator is Customer Service. Most dentists are reluctant to accept that fact and therefore, most dentists will continue to see declining revenues as US demographics continue moving unfavorably toward dentistry.
Thanks for what you do…Dr. E.”
It was timely because, just last night, I watched as a debate unfolded concerning coaching and consulting, on a Dental Chat Forum.
The debate centred around whether investing in coaching was worth the money, or whether a DIY attitude of hard work would substitute for the wisdom and guidance that a coach could provide.
And it’s an age-old chestnut.
If you go outside of dentistry for a moment, and go to professional sport, there are very very few great sporting stars who haven’t gotten to where they went, without good coaching.
All great Tennis stars have coaches.
Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy?
The trouble is that hard work, without guidance, can just result in blisters and not much more.
A friend reminded me of a Jim Rohn quote this week
“We could all use a little coaching. When you’re playing the game, it’s hard to think of everything.”
And ain’t that the truth.
Golly, just try and teach yourself golf, for instance.
Think you’ve just fixed one thing, and then kapow, there’s another minor tweak needed. And sooner rather than later, your additional tweaks have resulted in the old cliché that *Five wrong
don’t make a right*.
As a dentist, we have to realise that eighty five percent of the steps and stages that a patient or customer go through during their visit to our office are not with us, but with team members.
And there’s things that team members are doing, to patients, while dentists are busy with other patients, that may not be being performed ideally.
And that may just be because nobody has taken the time with the team member to teach them a better way, and make sure that that better way is learned and acted upon.
And mathematically, that’s why Dentists need help. Because as Michael Gerber says, they’re really just technicians that bought themselves a self-employed job.
One of the best books on coaching that I ever read was John Buchanan’s “If Better Is Possible”. It’s the story of how John Buchanan, as Australian Cricket team coach, took the best team in the world, and made them even better.
Despite the fact he had some World Class Best Ever players in that team who thought they knew better, Buchanan was able to improve upon already achieved greatness.
Linda Miles, the doyen of US Dental Consultants told me five years ago that if the number of consultants in the USA doubled there’d still be plenty of work, too much work, for all of them.
Because I guess you don’t know what you don’t know.
I was chatting on Skype last week with a Dental Industry colleague in Dallas who was telling me about a Dental Consultant’s book that he had stumbled across.
And I found that I had that book, so I pulled it off my shelf.
The paperback version of that book retailed for around $85.00 on Amazon.
And I guess that with over 400 pages that does represent some form of ROI.
However, in that book there was a whopping eight pages only on Customer Service.
And that’s what I commonly find.
Nobody’s really investing in customer service in dentistry as a stand-alone product…. or not many.
The reason that Disney, Apple, Amazon and Zappos, Four Seasons and Nordstrom’s have survived and stood the test of time is that they’ve realised that they’re not rally out there in the theme park, phone, book, shoe, and hotel and retail businesses…. they’re in the business of providing an *experience* first and foremost each and every time.
A World Class Experience.
One Dentist replied on the chat forum that he’d been influenced significantly by three consultants. He said:
“I don’t try and “be” a clone of any of them but assess their information, see what worked and didn’t work for them and implement what I felt was best for my practice. Test, measure, continue or discontinue and continue to look to improve.”
And another dentist replied:
“Sorry don’t agree with you…. I went to those seminars and added $300000.00 to my production after the programme. Just working hard and being nice is not enough.”
My own story is well documented. It’s no secret.
In 1996 I tried to sell my practice in working class Parramatta for $160,000.00. I had three dentists look at that practice and then either set up nearby or buy just down the road. None of them succeeded. None of them lasted.
It was a good practice. It was turning over double the average dentist…. but I knew it could do more. Much much more.
The reason I wanted to sell was because I thought I was working hard and being nice to patients but I was making no headway.
I finally worked out that I had an employee within my office who was rubbing patients up the wrong way SO SO BADLY that nobody was coming back.
I hired a consultant, replaced the recalcitrant front office person and my turnover tripled in six and a half years.
And then it doubled again in the following five years.
I successfully sold my practice eleven years on from 1996 for a figure THIRTY TIMES what I originally wanted back then…. it wasn’t that I knew it all…it was I knew that I couldn’t do it on my own.
As a golfer, I’ve had several teachers.
There have been some I’ve made progress with and some that I have not.
And yet other golfers I know have had the opposite results that I had, with the same coaches.
It’s said that:
“When the pupil is ready, the teacher will appear”
And in the general population, there’s almost the same number of people who actually like asking for refunds.
Most people don’t.
Don’t like asking.
What people want, on the whole, is for things to be fixed.
If they’re not fixed, then that’s when a refund needs to be forthcoming.
And forthcoming it must be.
Quickly, and easily.
No questions asked.
Each and every time.
When a business gives a refund it must have in place a simple and straightforward procedure and policy for creating and issuing the refund.
A procedure that empowers those who are asked so that they can act, quickly, to offer some satisfaction to the unhappy customer.
But like I said, most unhappy customers just want you to make things right.
Most of the time.
In dentistry, that can be easy.
A new filling breaks?
“Mrs. Smith, I’m so sorry to hear that’s happened. Are you in any pain? How soon can you get over here to us so that we can fix that for you?”
An easy formula:
Check the state of play.
Offer an immediate solution.
And of course, there’ll be no charge.
That’s a given.
I don’t usually state that [about the no charge]. But if we are asked, in the lead up, either on the phone or on the day, it’s a pure policy.
And everybody on the team knows it.
And really, for a new restoration, that’s simple.
It really only gets complicated in dentistry when the question arises, amongst us, as to how long should a new restoration last?
How long should a patient expect a new filling to last for? How long should a patient expect a new crown to last for?
If a new denture starts to show a crack line, is that acceptable?
Like I said, knowing the Dental practice protocol well in advance for when and if these things happen will go a long way towards “smoothing over” any concerns that the anxious patient may have.
Peace of mind is all they really want.
When it comes to physical dollar refunds in dentistry, there needs to be, again, a well thought out *Policy* that everybody in the Dental practice knows.
And whatever that policy is, and whoever is empowered to give the refund, the process of refunding should appear to be such a pleasant experience for all, that the patient almost feels like “well that was too easy” as opposed to the regular “getting blood out of a stone” routine they would often have to go through somewhere else.
Now nobody likes to ever be giving away money.
The key to giving a customer their money back successfully is to know that the business has sufficient income, or cushion, that allows us to occasionally, when the need arises, to give a full refund unconditionally.
Unconditionally, when the customer feels and SO that the customer feels that this is the best obtainable outcome for them.
I once had a new patient objecting to my fee, out front, after treatment, as he was checking out.
My solution was simple.
I told him that there was no fee, and that all I wanted him to do was to pay what he thought was a fair price in his mind, for what he had done.
And that zero was OK.
If that’s what he felt.
I did not want to get into a tug of war over price and value.
I’d obviously let him down, either in not setting up the appointment correctly in the first place, or in failing to clearly explain to him the fee for what I was going to do to fix the problem that he had come to me with.
But I wasn’t going to haggle over the fee.
I’d rather have one hundred percent of no fee in that situation, than have some percent of some fee and have bought myself an unhappy customer. Because that just would not be worth it.
It doesn’t matter how good a dentist you are, there will always be times when you’ll need to give a refund.
Make sure you and your team are well prepared in advance.
Because these times will happen.
Being in a position to provide a No Questions Asked refund is a very powerful stance to be able to take.
Knowing *what* to do, at the time, is even more powerful.