As a business owner, sometimes you need to have a second pair of eyes looking out for you.
A guardian angel perhaps?
Someone who has got your back, maybe….
Someone who keeps you pointed in the right direction…
And also someone who sees opportunity ahead that sometimes you don’t actually even see at all….
Because sometimes when you are focused on an outcome that may be way off plan or way off into the future, you miss seeing some day to day opportunities presenting themselves right there in front of you, staring back up at you in the face.
I recently was discussing marketing with a dentist and his wife, who were building up a start up dental practice. The wife was working in the practice as the dental assistant and receptionist combined.
Interestingly, the thought of marketing themselves as husband and wife together had never seriously crossed their minds.
I suggested that some professional photos of the couple as well as of them and their children, strategically placed in the dental practice, would go a long way to building a stronger relationship with their clients.
You see, sometimes we forget that new patients calling a new dental practice and then subsequently attending that practice are really quite terrified about what is about to unfold.
It’s because of the fear of the unknown.
They don’t know you, the dentist, and they are scared about what you are going to do for them.
And as dentists, we tend to build up an immunity towards this serious emotion our new patients are going through.
All that a new patient is looking for is assurance that they have made the correct decision in choosing your dental office.
And the strategic placement of “happy family” and “happy couple” photographs around the dental practice go a long way toward sending the message out there to your new customer that they have now found their new dental home.
It’s a subliminal message. And it’s a good one to use to your advantage when you can.
“Entrepreneurs are willing to work an 80 hour work to avoid a 40 hour week”
Sometimes the rest of the world needs to know this.
After all, as a dental practice business owner, when do you really switch off?
After working four or five days a week drilling teeth, or more, you then have to turn around and find time to “run” the business, don’t you?
You know…. you’re expected to do the HR, supervise the payroll, oversee and sometimes invent the marketing, do the business planning, pay the bills, organise the insurances….the list goes on…
And who has the time then for being a dentist?
It would seem that many in society, including some dentists themselves, don’t appreciate the long hours put in by dental practice owners in running a dental practice, on top of all the time spent drilling teeth.
Why would you not want to be remunerated for all of those extra hours of business administration?
Sadly, a lot of dentists discount this time.
Recently in a discussion with employees of a well-known dental association, the time required for this sort of business administration was “brushed aside” by one of the association employees as:
“something the dentist can do on the weekend”
To which I asked:
Because if the dentist did not do it, these duties would be performed by hired help who would and should be remunerated for doing so…. so why not remunerate the dentist?
Interestingly, a lot of corporate roll-up buy-outs engage the selling dentist to continue the administration, without ever remunerating the selling dentist for these ongoing administrations that the business, and the purchaser, still requires.
Sadly, some people within the dental industry brush over the importance of these behind the scenes services provided by the owners that are indeed an integral part of the ongoing success of the dental practice.
The value of these services performed by the owning dentist are continually downplayed by staff, dentists, and also by customers of the business.
A great dental practice just does not happen by accident.
The behind the scenes work done by the owners is often the bricks and mortar foundation that the business of the practice is built upon….and is too often taken for granted.
Success doesn’t happen by magic.
It is the result of particular preparation, planning, and hard work.
One of the big questions that I always am asked is how do I get my staff to talk to my patients, and what should they be talking to them about?
Let’s start by discussing what your staff should NOT be talking to patients about.
Your team members should never be “oversharing” with patients any procedural matter in the dental office that has not run to plan.Most of the time, the patient will be unaware that your office has encountered an unexpected moment during the day. So having a team member blurt out a comment that is not necessary is totally inappropriate.Your patients do not need to know that your dental lab was late, or that your postman has bad breath.
Team member weaknesses.
Your patients DO NOT need to be told that team members have failings.Any weaknesses in your team need to be kept in house and do not need to be shared with your customers.It is up to you as a team to support and strengthen each other with internal trainings and encouragements.Letting patients know that:“Oh, she’s always dropping things.”
“She never sets up trays correctly.”
do not add value to the patients’ perceptions of the dental office.
Your team members should never discuss other patients with your patients.When they do, the patient being spoken to will think:“If this is what they say about THIS patient behind her back, imagine what they are saying about ME when I’m not here!”It’s a no win, LOSE-LOSE situation.
Never say anything about anyone behind their back.
And there’s absolutely no place for GOSSIP anywhere. Let alone inside a dental office.
Doctor’s Private Life.
The team needs to know what they can discuss with patients about the doctor and what they need to leave to the doctor to discuss.Again, it’s the question about offering up unasked for information that has no relevance to anybody and is at best only gossip.Comments about the doctor’s cars, houses, vacations, private schools, can make some patients feel that they are paying for those things directly.Of course your logical and rational patients will know that their dental fees pay for a lot more things within the business.
If your team are asked questions of a “fishing expedition” nature, then your office needs to have specific protocols in place that allow team members to direct those questions towards.
Team members should avoid talking about themselves and their activities and their own opinions.
Better still, team members should always be inquiring about the patient and the patients’ thoughts and experiences and travels.People do love to talk about themselves.It is their favourite subject.
Getting your patient to talk about themselves, and asking the patients questions along the way will always have the patient feeling at ease and relaxed prior to their dental treatment.
People who act INTERESTED in other people will be thought of [by those people] as being INTERESTING.
Isn’t that fascinating?
Finally, it is economic suicide to discuss sex, or politics, or religion EVER with your customers.
I’ve written many times about the purposes of being in business for yourself.
The alternative to not being in business is to be employed in someone else’s business.
In both instances, whether you are an employee or you are a business owner, the business needs customers and the business needs to keep those customers happy.
On rare occasions I have seen businesses with an endless supply of new customers coming to it that the business does not really need to be looking after its customer service side of the business.
Those businesses are called post offices and monopolies.
Customer service is the key.
By building great processes and systems within your business, you can allow your business to build and build an ever increasing base of loyal and devoted customers who are happy to buy from you, buy what you recommend, and buy frequently from you and refer their friends and family to become your customers as well.
Whether you are a business owner or an employee in a business these should be your key driving motivators in relation to everything that you do in that business.
We must at all times be focused on keeping each and every customer satisfied so that they stay, pay, and refer.
Every action we take in the business must be focused on achieving these outcomes.
When we have an outcome that is at odds with our goal then we create a customer who is at best confused, can be disappointed, is often dissatisfied, and is at worst hostile and angry.
None of these are good outcomes for our business.
Everything we do in our business for our business and for our customers must be to create a clarity in the eyes and minds of our customers as to what we are doing FOR THEM and why we are doing it FOR THEM and why it is so important FOR THEM and what will happen TO THEM if they do not carry through with our treatment recommendations in the time frame needed FOR THEM.
Motivated loyal customers of our business become our disciples and our evangelists in the community as to what we are doing FOR THEM and why there is nobody better FOR THEM and THEIR friends and family to see than you.
When we have a significant representation in the community then we have truly created a worthwhile business.
And that business then has the power to provide profits to its business owners, which are often spent in the local community.
That business then is a desirable business to be sold at some point in the future.
That business has the ability to employ members of the community in that business.
And that business creates business opportunities for other local businesses that it trades with.
There are many benefits to a community that result from the creation of successful businesses.
I often get asked about the best way of making patients come back for their recall appointments.
It’s an interesting conundrum, and the fact that the question is framed this way to me indicates that the asker of the question is really not understanding what the purpose of the so-called “recall” appointment is.
Let me explain.
Patients will return to your dental office for their next appointment for their reasons and not yours.
So, by putting them on a “six-month recall” programme, all you are doing is putting them on your plan, not their plan.
They won’t come back if it’s all about you and not about them.
You need to give them a valid reason to return.
It has to be a reason that has validity to your patient.
You need to clearly enunciate to the patient what will happen to them if they do not return when you tell them to.
You see, patients think that dental treatment is like cleaning up the garage.
And that is, yes, sure it’s messy in there, but if I close the door and put off the clean-up until a few weeks later, nothing much is going to change.
Our role as health care providers is to make sure that the patient understands that time is their enemy, and not their friend.
“And if you don’t get this treatment done when I say, the crack will spread and the tooth could break and you could lose that tooth.”
“And if you don’t get this treatment done when I say, the infection into your bone will spread and the tooth could become looser and you could lose that tooth.”
“And if you don’t get this treatment done when I say, the decay will advance closer to your nerve and you may need a root canal and a crown, rather than only a filling. If it spreads into the nerve there is more chance that you could lose that tooth.”
The same thing is needed with hygiene visits.
Hygiene visits need to be scheduled at the time and not
“We’ll call you in six months’ time and get you back for a recall.”
If you’re allowing patients to leave without an appointment, and without a valid reason to return, you’re risking the fact that a considerable number of those patients will say to themselves:
“Well, you know, nothing’s hurting. I’ll leave it for a while.”
And isn’t that a LOSE-LOSE situation.
When a patient has completed their restorative work or their hygiene visit, they need to have a valid reason explained to them as to why they need to schedule their next hygiene visit then and there.
[Did you notice that I did not call it a “RECALL” visit?]
Try something like this:
“Mrs. Smith. I want to see you in three months’ time to clean your teeth and gums and to specifically check on whether this recession has advanced or whether it has stabilized.”
“Mrs. Smith. I want to see you in three months’ time to clean your teeth and gums and to specifically check on whether this bone loss on the X-ray has advanced or whether it has gotten worse or not.”
“Mrs. Smith. I want to see you in three months’ time to clean your teeth and gums and to specifically check on whether this loose tooth has firmed up, or has become looser.”
With a valid reason to return to your office and the fear of a consequence of loss if they do not heed your message, the patient is left with very little alternative than to return.
To not return would appear to be very foolish indeed.
Like I said, patients will return for their reasons, not yours, so give them logical simple CLEAR. NEXT. STEP. reasons to return to your dental practice.
Explain to them what will happen if the treatment is delayed.
It is your duty to ensure that the patient understands the consequences of delay.
So much so, that the patient always wants to make their next appointment, keep that appointment, and will be happy to come in sooner if an appointment becomes available.
I can’t understand how people who work serving people can sometimes do so without emotionally connecting with their customers.
Have you ever seen this happen?
Have you ever witnessed a person working in a business who really looks like they DO NOT want to be there?
They make no attempt to make eye contact.
There is no facial recognition of the customer.
And they ask no questions of engagement, except to say,
“Would you like a bag?”
It’s downright pathetic.
Most of the time these people are employees of the business.
And they’re simply going through the motions.
They are not attempting to make any connection at all with the customer.
All they want to do is complete their interaction in as short a time as possible.
The employee simply wants to clear the line.
All the employee is hoping for is no more customers.
And closing time.
And yet, as Mary Kay Ash so eloquently put it, everybody out there is walking around with an invisible sign around their neck that reads:
“Make Me Feel Important.”
It is that simple.
As an employee, as a business owner, all you need to do is make sure that you make every person that you come in contact with feel better for meeting you.
When there is no interaction happening, or worse still, when there is negative emotion conveyed towards the customer so that the customer feels ignored, or belittled, or humiliated, this can only result in a strain upon the customer-to-business relationship.
And that strain applied will result in a tension that can end the relationship, or has the potential to close off the relationship.
And this damage is often irreparable.
I’ve seen loyal customers stop doing business with retailers because of a failure to engage from employees at that business.
Or the customers stop doing businessthere because of a perceived lack of respect for the customer’s feelings shown by the employee.
Every action and every interaction in a business between employees and each other and between employees and customers must be purposefully engaging and uplifting for all concerned.
As an employee or as a business owner there is no better way to behave.