And we stayed in eleven different accommodations over the fourteen nights we visited.
One of the things that really stood out for us was at one small boutique hotel that we stayed at.
It was only small, but to us, in customer service, it was an incredible point of difference….
Now, to frame this up, remember that most accommodations do not have undercover parking for guests.
In fact, some accommodations had no parking at all, and so street parking was the only alternative.
However, at Congham Hall where we stayed in Grimston in Norfolk, which did have on site parking, we were greeted with the following note on our driver’s window on the morning of our departure:
“Happiness is a Clean Windscreen.
You found it at Congham Hall.”
Now this got us thinking…
How many other hotels on our trip were bothering to do something like this?
And how easy was it to do?
Very, very easy.
How much do you think that this exercise cost Congham Hall?
Not very much at all…..
And there in lies the answer.
Something like cleaning windscreens for your customers is easy to do, but it’s also easy not to do.
And by doing it, how many guests would have left Congham Hall with a feeling of warm fuzzies, as opposed to a feeling of not much at all?
Because not much at all is what they get dished up everywhere else….
So what does something like this mean to you and your dental practice?
Well, that’s simple.
How can you at your office find things to do for your valued customers and patients that will leave those customers saying:
As opposed to saying nothing at all.
Or thinking something worse, like:
“Is that all there is for what we are paying?”
Because if that’s what your customers are thinking, it means that your business could be skating on very thin ice.
Because it’s only going to take something small being offered up by one of your competitors and some of those customers you thought would never change dentists will actually do so.
So what could you do?
Firstly, what can you do for your patients that other dentists simply are not thinking of?
Why not get your team brainstorming this thought?
If your Dental Office has a patient parking facility, could you clean the windscreens on their cars as a service to them, so they can drive away from your office with that “Just Cleaned By The Dentist Feeling” on their windscreen?
What about inside your office?
While your patients are being treated, why not offer to charge their devices for them?
Or how about complimentary Wi-Fi access for your patients?
After all, you’ve got the Wi-Fi. Why not offer it to your patients?
If its good enough for Starbucks, Westfields and Maccas to do it, then why not you?
How about complimentary lens cleaning on your patients’ spectacles and sunglasses?
No other dentist is doing it, so why shouldn’t you?
I know of Dental Offices where patients receive complimentary hand massages and paraffin applications.
The thing is, it doesn’t take much to stand out from the crowd…
Because most dental offices, and most businesses for that matter are simply marking time and going through the motions, it’s very easy to create multiple points of difference for your office compared to theirs.
And thinking out those points of difference is easy.
Putting those ideas you come up with into action, and keeping to those plans?
One of the major dilemmas facing all business owners is manpower.
When is the right time to add staff to your operation?
I often hear dental office owners saying:
“I’ll add staff when we get busier”
But really, the opposite is what is needed.
You need to be adding staff so that you can become busier.
A business that is poorly staffed will limit it’s own growth…. severely.
It will choke itself.
Business owners need to be able to recognise “tipping points” as to when is the right time to increase and add extra team members.
In Dentistry I see it all the time
I see staff trying to fulfill multiple duties and rolls, sometimes simultaneously.
And nothing ever goes right then.
You see Front Office staff being called to the back to help out with sterilisation.
And this then leaves an unmanned or under-manned Front Office where arriving patients and guests are not greeted in an optimal manner.
And in so doing, the office subliminally offends arriving patients who may be considering complex and expensive treatment, while the owner tries to save a few measly dollars per hour on manpower.
Because having insufficient greeters does not create a positive buying environment.
What about the Dental Office that does not have sufficient manpower to answer *ALL* incoming telephone calls?
And so calls go through to a machine or to a service?
Or sometimes they plain simply ring out?
What sort of a message does that send to the caller?
Or sometimes the calls are answered by team members that are not skilled or trained to answer them optimally….
Does that create inspiration in the mind of the caller?
We all know the disappointment we feel when we go to the theatre and find out, just before the curtain goes up, that the role of a lead performer is being taken tonight by an understudy!
And the only person in the audience happy about that is the understudy’s mother….
Everyone else feels that they’ve paid top dollar for a lesser product….
And that’s the message that you’re sending to your callers when the dental assistant or the dentist answer the phone, without the necessary skills required to do that job to the best of their ability.
On the one hand the business owner is wanting to grow the Dental Office, but on the other hand he’s got the office on a choker leash, preventing it from growing organically.
We all know that image of a young dog let off its leash at the local park?
It runs and it runs and it runs….
And that’s what our business is wanting to do, if only we would let it off its strangulating lead…
The final thing that insufficient staffing does to your business is it emotionally demoralises those who work there and are overworked.
Sure a day here, an hour there, good staff do not mind.
But when an office consistently is struggling to provide service to its valued customers because there are too many things that need to be done and not enough staff at the right times…well that just wears your good people down.
In the movie “Field Of Dreams” we were told constantly:
“If you build it he will come”
With your business, sometimes you need to trust the force.
On a recent trip to the USA I saw a sign in a restaurant that was positioned diametrically opposite to the way that most people think.
And I’m sure this stance, as expressed in this sign, was well thought out for a reason.
More on this sign shortly…
The sign started me thinking.
How often do we as business owners take the opportunity to present a case, or take a position that is so far out there in left field that it creates a double take for our audiences?
And have you ever done this?
Have you ever been so far out into “left field” that you have your competitors wondering exactly what it is that you are up to?
My thoughts are that one of the surest ways of insulting your customers and potential customers is to appear *mean* when it comes to payment options.
And I see this happening time after time after time.
And I’m sure you do too….
How many times have you heard a business say:
“I’m sorry. We don’t take American Express”
Or even worse:
“I just need to let you know that there’s a 2.5% surcharge on all American Express purchases.”
What virtual “slaps in the faces” do these comments convey?
These comments are both very insulting…and ignorant.
Firstly, not accepting American Express, which is a very widely accepted CHARGE card is insulting to Amex members, each and every time they request to use their cards.
Secondly, Amex members know that most stores do not take a truckload of Amex sales, so that even if American Express does charge the merchant more, the additional sales they make via Amex will not send that Merchant broke due to them having to pay Amex the extra commission.
It’s a piddly little extra amount.
Thirdly, because Amex is a CHARGE card and not a CREDIT card, the customer has the ability to pay their monthly Amex off in full every month.
So the Amex Customer is more likely to be able to spend more than the Credit Card user. And that’s got to be better for business?
So why not do what this restaurant in Manhattan did?
Why not turn the Amex debate on its head?
Why not reward Amex customers and give a slap in the face to those customers who do not have an Amex?
Make those non-Amex customers have to run to an ATM cash machine….
Years ago I turned the accounts receivable list in my Dental Office on its ear.
I was sick and tired of the failure of the people who owed me money to come and settle their accounts.
[Oh and by the way, the reason you have accounts receivable is that someone on your team, and it may be you doc, is allowing your customers to treat you like a line of credit]
It infuriated me that people who were delaying paying me the money that they owed me for services rendered were happily sharing their “triumphs” over me with all who would listen.
While I had my own debts that I was borrowing for…
So here’s what I did.
One Christmas, I sent a letter to each of the customers who owed me money that they should have paid to me.
And the letter read:
It’s Christmas, and Christmas is a time of giving.
So, as my gift to you, I’ll be giving your account to a debt collector if you do not pay me the money that you owe me within the next two days.
This letter resulted in a large number of outstanding accounts receivable being settled quickly.
Some begrudgingly. But quickly.
And I’d much rather be known as the Dentist who’s not going to be letting anyone take advantage of them.
Rather than the dentist who it was easy to get “free treatment” from…
Worked like a charm.
From that day forth my accounts receivable outstanding was never an issue.
Was it worth taking the opposite tack to create a positioning that was a distinct point of difference?