- Establish authentic relationships.
- Provide exemplary customer service.
- Prove the value of your product or service.
These three steps become especially important when your audience doesn't have the knowledge or experience to confidently evaluate your product or service. Most dental patients, for instance, have no idea how a doctor's clinical skills measure up because they haven't received the training doctors have. Patients only know how they feel when they visit a practice and interact with the staff. Similarly, when a sales representative presents a new tool or technology, the dentist may not have the product knowledge to assess it. Personal relationships, customer service, and value become crucial factors in both of these situations.
Sales representatives receive plenty of training in how to connect with prospective buyers. But dental school only teaches doctors how to provide excellent oral health care. It does not prepare them to create relationships with patients. This is why I encourage doctors to use a simple technique I call The Golden Ten. Anyone can use this technique, from salespeople to dentists to front desk personnel. Every time you see patients or clients, ask them something about their family, their hobbies, their job, and so on, until you know 10 things about them. The idea is to gather a bit of personal information at each appointment so you can really get to know people. Jot these details down so that you can quickly review them at any time.
Becoming friendly with patients is also a form of marketing-relationship marketing. Yes, you're expressing a genuine interest in the other person, but you're marketing, too. Doctors must recognize and use relationship marketing as a standard business tool if they want to give patients a reason to choose their practices and remain loyal.
Effective relationship marketing goes beyond one-on-one interaction. The goal is to create an affinity between your client or patient and the entire organization or practice.
Outstanding customer service provides a surefire way to solidify a customer's loyalty. Every dental office should strive to exceed patient expectations at all times. Patients should feel special from the moment they walk into the office, whether for the first time or the fiftieth time. Similarly, salespeople should do everything in their power to ensure their doctors purchase the products that are ideally suited to their practices for the best price possible.
Anyone can provide first-rate customer service now and then, but the real challenge is to make it happen consistently. As American scholar Will Durant said of Aristotle's philosophy: "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not a single act, but a habit." Customer service must be developed as a system: a routine process that achieves a specific result every time. The result, or target, for customer service might include having the doctor personally thank all patients who refer friends and family to the practice. Or, salespeople might strive to make a follow-up call within 24 hours after a new purchase has arrived to answer any questions. Having written, step-by-step instructions on how to treat customers will help ensure consistency.
If you have established a bond with your patients or clients, and you repeatedly wow them with your attention to customer service, you've already begun to show them the value of doing business with you. Today's consumers want to know, "What's in it for me?" For dentists, this means focusing on how treatment is going to improve a patient's smile, restore function, or ease discomfort- not just the clinical details. For sales representatives, it means showing the doctor and staff how a technology or product will make their jobs easier or more efficient.
Scripting can help ensure that every interaction increases perceived value. Always an effective communication tool, scripting has become indispensable at a time when consumers are so cautious about their spending. Even someone with limited communication skills can say the right things and get the right results when trained to use an excellent script. Unfortunately, when it comes to case presentation and selling, too many people just "wing it." An unprepared case for treatment or purchase will have limited success at best. Scripts don't need to be memorized word-for-word, but they should guide you to make the right points at the right moments for the desired outcome.
If you can create genuine relationships with your customers, provide superior service, and eloquently articulate the value of choosing your company or office, you'll be far ahead of your competition. No matter who makes up your target audience, their perception of you is the most important factor in whether you'll earn their trust and their business.
Roger P. Levin, DDS, is the founder and CEO of Levin Group Inc., a leading dental consulting firm. A nationally recognized speaker, Dr. Levin presents practice management seminars throughout the country. View his schedule at www.levingroup.com/gpseminars. Save up to $100 with early registration.