There are some interesting ethical questions we need to ask of ourselves, and each other, as we look at our future.
What will be said of you when you are gone?
What will be asked of you when it is time to meet your maker?
As a Dentist, I always liked to think that I could attract a patient, treat a patient and keep a patient.
Most of the time.
And history will show that that is what I did very well as a business owner Dentist in the working class heart of Western Sydney.
I did it from 1987 until 2007 as a business owner, and then from 2007 to 2014 I did it as an employed dentist under contract for the purchasers of my practice.
I have figures to show that from 2007 to 2011 I actually grew my practice for the new owners.
On my own.
As I said, the success of any business depends upon the fact that the business is doing three things extremely well.
Attract new business
Treat that business
Keep that business
A truly great business will do all three.
Some businesses think that you do not need to be a master of all three of these.
I believe you do need all three.
I see Dental Practices out there with huge new patient numbers, month after month after month.
Yet they are not overly successful?
Where are all these patients going?
My thought would be that the large volume of new patients at these practices are not being treated well, and therefore are not being retained by the practice.
The whole thing looks and sounds like a short-term sausage factory.
If you have high new patient numbers month after month after month where are those patients being put?
Are they being fully treatment planned?
Are they being maintained in an effective hygiene programme?
I would suggest they are not, because if they were there would really be no further need for large numbers of new Patients after a certain point in time?
This is because the schedule for treatment times with the doc would be overflowing, and the hygiene department would be exploding with all those new patients being syphoned into the hygiene programmes.
Practices with high new patient numbers that are not growing are either underservicing and underdiagnosing their patients, or they are churning and burning their new patients.
They either have patients with incomplete and unpresented dentistry being “watched” to death, or they have patients shooting out the back door [for whatever reason] just as quickly as they arrive at the front door.
And that reason could be due to the facility, the poor systems, the poor service, the inept dentist or the apathetic or arrogant team members.
Whatever the reasons, they need to be addressed and remedied, because spending money on marketing and churning new patients through a poor system is just like driving your Porsche down the freeway with your right foot hard on the accelerator and your left foot hard on the brake pedal.
If you did that, what you’d find out is that all this would end up being is an incredible waste of fuel, brake pads, and torque.
And a ton of engine wear and over-revving….
It’s funny, as a Dentist I always practiced with capacity.
At the other end of the spectrum, I see Dentists who are so booked out doing necessary dentistry on people who are not often in pain that they do not have capacity to see new patients, and some of their own patients who need to be seen urgently.
I always allowed time each day, and kept it available for patients of mine, and new patients, who needed a same day appointment.
Because I knew, that if they could not be seen by me, their own dentist, then they may become disgruntled and go looking elsewhere, and stay elsewhere, just because they thought we did not care.
Keeping available time also allowed me to give appointments to New Patients seeking same day care, and a lot of these patients, for whatever reason, did not have a regular Dental home.
Funnily enough, a couple of my neighbouring Dentists would sometimes send me their patients to be seen in an emergency, because we kept this capacity, and for whatever reason they did not.
What I also never did was try to steal any of my neighbours’ patients that I may have happened to see. To the contrary, what I used to do was send these patients back to my neighbours with a message of a need for further treatment:
“You need to go back and see Joe and get him to put a crown on this tooth to protect it.”
And I did this because years ago a Dentist in Perth way across the other side of the country saw one of my older patients and told her the exact same thing.
And he was right.
And it was the right thing to do.
It’s funny, because as a consultant to the Dental Industry, I’d never advise my clients to “cut the grass” of their neighbouring competitors.
But yet this week on social media, I’ve had two consultants cut my grass with their comments on posts that I’ve made.
The public aren’t stupid.
They can smell a rat a mile off.
They know when is the right time, or the wrong time, to be “hit on”.
So when you attract a new patient, the patients who are going to stay are the ones you make feel special, the ones that you create an experience for, the ones who say “WOW!!”
The patients you don’t want to attract are the ones who respond to your ad which says,
“We do whitening cheaper than anybody else”
“We’ll beat your best quote by ten percent”
Or patients fixated with price related questions only.
Because they’ll be painful to treat and they’ll treat you poorly as a Dentist.
Twenty to twenty five percent of the population out there will choose a service or product without even caring what the competition is charging.
Be it a restaurant, a hairdresser, a dry cleaner, a car repairer.
Because they like that service and that service provider providing, first and foremost.
And there’s enough dentistry out there in that sector of the market for those dentists who choose to operate in that rarified air.
And let me tell you, that rarified air even exists in working class areas.
I always like to keep abreast of Customer Service trends out there in the business marketplace, and see in which ways they can be relevant to the practice of great dentistry.
Those of you who know me and have seen me speak know that I’ve adapted many non-dental concepts and applied them successfully to the business of dentistry.
This is how I was able to build a high fee, high grossing Dental practice in a working class part of Sydney, having customers come not only from my local area but from all over Sydney and New South Wales, and from Overseas…. because we were different.
We had a point of differentiation that set our Dental Office apart not only from other Dentists but also a point of differentiation that set us above other businesses as well.
As I write this today, I reflect sadly on the demise of Dick Smith Electronics [DSE], a local Australian retail chain of electrical goods and technology stores, that is about to be wound up, because of falling sales.
On our television news last night, a commentator said that DSE did not have a point of differentiation that set them aside in the market place, nor did they offer a unique product to separate them from their competitors.
Finally he said there was no “experience”, no “WOW’, when shopping at Dick Smith Electronics.
And so sadly, we’ll see the end of Dick Smith Electronics this week it seems….
With that thought in mind I’d like to share another great article from Customer Service Guru Shep Hyken that came across my desk this week.
In it, Shep talks about five trends from 2015 that we need to grasp as we move forward to ensure our businesses maintain relevance with our customers and our marketplace.
Here they are:
1. Your customers are smarter than ever before. When it comes to customer service, they know the difference between good and bad service. They not only compare you to others in your industry, but also others outside of your industry.
This is the truth. No longer are our patients, our customers just lining up for treatment, opening their mouths, and then opening their wallets.
Our patients are now educated consumers.
Twenty to twenty five percent of the population will choose a service or product and not care what the competition charges.
They’ll make their choice solely upon the experience and the service they receive at that place of business, be it a hair salon, a restaurant, a dry cleaner, a travel agent.
And a dentist.
If we are able to craft a journey of experience for our clients, they will compare our service we provide to other great services they have experienced.
And if we fail to do so, we fail our patients.
And they will take their business elsewhere…
2. If you haven’t already done so, it’s time to have self-service customer service as an option. Your customers will always have questions. Make it easy for them to find the answers. Post a Frequently Asked Question section on your website. Post YouTube videos that answer questions that your customers might have.
I tell my team we’re not in the Dental Business.
We’re in the Problem Solving Business, specifically Dental Problems.
When the phone rings, it is not a “Shopper Call” looking for the best price.
It is someone who we have not yet met who has researched us online and decided that they want us to be their Dentist.
The person calling is a person with a specific Dental problem.
Our job is to solve their problem.
Our job is to convince that caller that they have indeed made the correct decision, and that our practice is the only Dental practice for them.
3. Social media and customer service belong together. Engaging with your customers on social channels is part of the customer experience. Don’t fight it. Take advantage of it. It is imperative that you watch and listen for comments, both good and bad, and respond to them.
Your customers, and prospective customers are looking for your social media presence, and they judge your relevance based upon this.
By this I mean that if your practice Facebook page is up to date with regular postings both social and professional, then the public will believe by association, that your Dental skills and competencies are also up to date.
And if you do not have a relevant Social Media presence, then your patients and prospective patients will infer that you are behind the times.
4. Smart phones are getting smarter and smarter. Make sure you are mobile-ready and taking advantage of the smart phone revolution. It is the device customers are using to connect with you and your company. They are looking at your website, your products, descriptions, reviews, and more.
Again, use technology to your advantage.
I love to grab my phone to look things up on the web. And it frustrates me immensely if I have to stretch a website on my phone because it’s not been set up mobile-friendly.
Just as in point 3 above, this failure to be mobile-friendly is indicating to your customers that you are behind the times.
5. The handwritten thank you note will never lose relevance. A good old-fashioned thank you note will make you stand out. Thanking your customer from a thoughtful and personal mindset makes your customers truly feel appreciated. Don’t miss this opportunity to add a positive “moment” to your customers’ experience.
Everybody loves a surprise.
And in this day and age of email and SMS text messages, a good old-fashioned handwritten hand-addressed letter is a real treat to receive in the post.
Who is it from?
What could it be?
Anybody can punch out an email.
But by sending a handwritten card, it shows you’ve taken the time to share a thought, or a moment, with them.
Shep Hyken, CSP, CPAE is a customer service expert, hall-of-fame speaker and New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author. He works with organizations to build loyal relationships with their customers and employees. He is also the creator of The Customer Focus, a customer service training program that helps organizations develop a customer service culture and loyalty mindset. For more information contact (314) 692-2200 or www.Hyken.com
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