It is all about image

Oct. 29, 2010

By Denise Ciardello and Janice Janssen

Good internal marketing is exceptional customer service, which in the dental office translates to great patient care. If you are delivering outstanding patient care, your patients they are going to tell two friends, who will tell two friends, who tell two friends, etc., to come to your practice. So what is outstanding service? Taking good X-rays? Providing a good cleaning? Filing a claim? Making sure the crown you deliver has perfect margins?

These are good dental care steps, but outstanding service goes beyond this — it is how you treat the patient as a person. You want to make sure everyone who walks through the door knows that he or she is important to you. Introduce yourself, listen to questions, and make him or her feel as though you came to work today just to make that person’s experience in your office a great one. This includes offering a bottle of water, asking about his or her kids, and BEING ON TIME! Following the visit, send thank you notes, especially after a new patient visit.

Consider having the entire team sign the card. You always want to thank your patients for the referrals they have sent to you. If you have a patient that has sent several referrals to you, you may want to do something very special, such as sending flowers to the patient’s place of work. What a great way to advertise!

Do you have to treat every patient this special? YOU BET! That’s outstanding customer service. You want your patients talking about the service they received in your office. If they are not talking about good service, they are talking about bad service. If you provide bad service to a patient, they will tell everyone they know, who will then tell two people, who will tell two people, etc. Get the point? The difference between bad service and outstanding service is all relative. The patient is the judge and jury when determining the difference. How do you know when you are providing outstanding customer service? You merely have to answer one little question: Is this how I would want to be treated?

So what about THAT patient? You know which one we’re talking about. Every office has at least one. Nothing makes THAT patient happy. The morning huddle is about how to get THAT patient out without causing a scene. The answer is YES; even THAT patient needs to have outstanding customer service. In your huddle, challenge the team to have that patient leave with a smile. It’s important because THAT patient will not tell just two people. That patient will tell everyone he or she comes in contact with about your office — standing in line in the grocery store, waiting for the dry cleaning, and as the gas is being pumped. If that difficult patient is talking, you need to do everything you can to make sure it is about the outstanding service that you provided.

Customer service begins the minute the phone, so it may be time to review how your patients perceive you. Perception is reality. It’s always said that a person’s perception of you is their reality. Have you considered that how you perceive yourself is your reality? Your image must be consistent with what you want to be. Ask yourself:

What is my practice’s image?
What is our greeting when the phone rings?
How do we acknowledge patients when they walk in the door?
Are we polite, friendly and respectful with each other as well as our patients?
What does my office look like when a patient walks through the door?

Everything inside the practice is about your internal marketing campaign, so make sure that the wall hangings, décor, and paint on the walls is what you want to portray to your patients. Are the chairs in your reception area dirty, soiled, or torn? If you are trying to project a latest technology, cutting-edge image, the 1970s wallpaper might obstruct that representation. When was the last time you sat in one or all of the operatory chairs to see what your patients see? Are there dead bugs in the light fixtures, broken equipment, or dirty, torn or soiled scrubs? This is how you will be judged. Take some time to review your office from the front to the back and top to the bottom. It might behoove you to have an unbiased person give you a genuine practice assessment. The first step as you begin an internal marketing campaign is to begin with an internal office inspection.

Denise Ciardello and Janice Janssen are respected professionals in the dental consulting industry and the co-founders of Global Team Solutions, a practice management consulting firm specializing in team building and team training. They can be reached at [email protected] (314) 644-8424 or [email protected] (210) 862-9445.