This article originally appeared in the Principles of Practice Management e-newsletter. Subscribe to this informative twice monthly practice management ENL here.
Digital technology has arguably homogenized the consumer experience, so much so that it has forever reshaped the way we access services and buy merchandise. The route to purchases has been simplified to ensure an easy interaction and predictable results.
Brands, of course, thrive on consistent successes, and they monopolize on the effective marketing messages that promote these successes. Incongruously, digital businesses such as Amazon and Netflix have grown adept at personalizing this consumer experience at the touch of a button, which adds value and streamlines delivery to suit personal choices.
Technology also drives dentistry. Digital advances have made dental treatments safer and faster while at the same time guaranteeing results. Of course, there is little room for a one-size-fits-all approach in a profession that is expected to assess and meet individual needs based on specific diagnoses. On the other hand, there is a lot to be said for evidence-based predictability.
Additionally, software simulation programs can offer patients a digital preview of outcomes, thereby personalizing the across-the-board dental procedures available in a practice. But whatever tools, equipment, and modalities are available to dental clinicians, treatment delivery will always require a tailored and personal approach.
Personalized care is paramount and dental teams must manage expectations and navigate a complex spider web of influences that shape patients’ journey and, ultimately, their satisfaction. Multiple treatment options, personal preferences, and preconceived perceptions, as well as the presence of disease and poor compliance all affect and influence ideal outcomes.
We left the “dentist knows best” culture behind decades ago, and an ethical and workable dentist-patient relationship is one built on trust and founded on the principle of mutuality, with an empathetic clinician paramount to the satisfaction of those who matter most—patients.
A recent survey supports this approach. According to the paper, “Patient satisfaction with plastic surgery—it's the surgeon, not the practice,”1 patients’ satisfaction about the outcomes of their plastic surgery procedures is usually because of the surgeon. Those clinicians who take the time to answer their clients’ questions and include them in the decision-making process reap the benefits.
Empathy and communication are what counts, and patients buy into compassionate and coordinated care. These are key considerations when a review asks, “How likely are you to recommend this practitioner?”
Opening hours, waiting times, and appointment scheduling all had far less influence in the satisfaction stakes, as did the interactions with nurses and other staff members. Patient privacy and safety also rated low. The level of confidence in the surgeon was paramount, as was the surgeon’s concern for patient welfare, how he or she includes patients’ opinions, as well as the time spent discussing problems or conditions, which take precedence over all other considerations.
Perceived quality of care and appointment time allocation matter. The study’s authors conclude, “In earning patients’ trust, plastic surgeons can fulfill goals of a practicing provider and the goal of any medical professional, improving patient experiences by meeting their needs.”
Results all dentists should draw on
Continuing the theme of a personal touch, another recent study revealed the power of an old-fashioned gesture—that of writing a thank you note, a “pro-social experience that is good for the writer as well as the recipient.”2 The paper, “Undervaluing gratitude: Expressers misunderstand the consequences of showing appreciation,” suggests that letters of gratitude should be written and sent more often, which “comes at little cost, but the benefits are larger than people expect.”
This principle cuts both ways. There has been a proliferation of Instagram posts of late, with dentists enthusiastically sharing photos of thank you notes from happy patients. Even with social media, word-of-mouth recommendations are an essential dental marketing tool, and your patients provide your loudest and proudest support.
Following complex dental treatment or after a smile makeover, be sure to send the patient a thank you card. Sign it, don’t print it, and inquire about patients after treatment with a “Don’t forget, we’re always here for you” sign off. Pop the handwritten card in the mail (do not email), celebrate little victories, and spread a little happiness. By making it personal, you not only have major impact on patient satisfaction, but you also add to your portfolio of dental marketing opportunities.
In a world where marketing strategies are often set by digital companies, personalization counts, Only dental businesses that genuinely put their patients at the heart of their care and ethos can build on successful interactions. Enhance your existing patients’ overall satisfaction, and loyalty and trust and new clients will follow.