Top Customer Service Tips for Dentists

Did you know that in today’s day and age, in many cases, dental providers may be employed by a large corporation and the dentist may not have any ownership in the company? This can lead to patients feeling they are not important and are just a number in the office. That is not only bad for the patient but also for the corporation. The top priority in every dental officeshould be seeing customers smile. One because they’re proud of their teeth, and two because they’re happy with their dentist.

Chances are, there are plenty of dentists to choose from in your area. So what makes patients pick their dental practice and stick with it? It’s not just how you treat their teeth, but how you treat them altogether. Yes, to run a successful dental practice isn’t just about how you handle dental procedures, but how you serve your patients in all the other aspects. Your attitude and atmosphere can go a long way.

Customer service is key in setting you apart from your competitors. And in this day and age, with the ease of social sharing and online reviews, it’s really important. So, you might be wondering the best ways to make an impact on your patients and keep them coming back. These five easy tips will help get your patients passing along their good experiences, giving you free referrals and recommendations.

  1. Remember your manners.

It’s free and easy, and quite possibly the most important: make your patients feel valued! Sure you’re busy, but don’t let them know it. Give your patients all the patience you can and don’t make them feel rushed. Talk to them about their concerns and explain procedures in detail in a way they can understand everything in easy terms.

  1. Create a culture of top-notch customer care.

Create a standard for your team to live up to everyday, with every patient. Make sure your staff is genuine and observant. Be sure they welcome patients as soon as they walk in and that they’re overly-pleasant every time they pick up the phone. Remind them to pay customers compliments and to converse with them like they’re a friend.

  1. Go above and beyond.

Anybody can give out a free toothbrush. Go for the gold vs. the ordinarydental officeexperience. Pass out gift cards if they have to wait a while. Offer incentives for referrals. Provide special toys or trinkets for kids.  And when you have an unhappy patient, make things right, right away. Actually listen to their complaints and work to resolve the problem.

  1. Give patients a positive experience.

Many people hate going to the dentist. But offering an office that feels welcoming and refreshing can make all the difference. Create a space they feel comfortable, whether it’s bringing a comfy couch into the front area or playing soothing music while they wait.

Oh, and don’t make them wait long. A good rule of customer service is making people feel like they’re a priority, and making them wait for you does the opposite of that.

  1. Keep a clean space.

Having a dental officeobviously means keeping your clinical areas hygienic. But making sure the other areas are clean can be just as important. What’s the waiting area look like from the patient’s perspective? How does the parking lot look? Is your receptionist’s desk cluttered with paperwork? Are your restrooms tidy?

No matter how good you are at what you do, customer service can make or break your practice. Having a friendly staff and a caring team can take your dental officeto a whole new level. The best way to get referrals and grow your practice is by fostering a patient-focused culture. After all, they’re the reason you’re in business! Learn more about what you can do as a  dentistto grow your practice with this program created to help improve the customer care you provide.

 

Customer experience is the key to growing your dental practice

How do you view your clients? When it comes to how they choose you they are obviously consumers first. They do research online and ask for recommendations from friends and family. And you need to market to them as potential sources of recurring revenue for years to come.

However once they sit in the chair with mouths wide open, they become your patient.

And that’s how they see themselves as well. I’m going to assume that your skills as a dentist are good to great. So how do you differentiate yourself from the dentist down the street?

I suggest that providing a good “consumer experience” is just as important as providing good patient outcomes to the success of your business.

If you constantly make mistakes on your billing, or let your waiting room overfill with patients waiting to be seen as they flip through decades old issues of Dentistry Today, people will be less likely to return to your practice or recommend it to friends and family.

If you want to be successful over the long haul you need to have the processes and procedures in place to turn your patients into repeat customers.

It really is the little things. But also the big things. A solid customer focus should be as important to you as providing great clinical outcomes. People remember waiting rooms and billing issues – and they talk about them with their friends because they understand them and can be communicated as short anecdotes that sum up their experience.

If patients have a positive experience with all aspects of your business they are more likely to agree to treatment plans recommended by you. This is key to growing your practice.

If patients do not believe, like and trust (BLT) you, it can become very difficult to get case acceptance. And even when you do get grudging case acceptance from a patient who does not 100% believe, like or trust in you, it will ultimately it will lead to problems.

In the end, health care providers are held in high esteem. But selling is not negative. You are a service provider. And if your service has value and it is demonstrated at every point of the customer experience your practice will grow.

If you are interested in learning how to take your dental practice to the next level, please contact Ascent Dental Solutions today at 413-224-2659 to learn how Dr. Coughlin can help.

Beyond the Bridge: Building your dental practice with new and alternative services

I’ve worked as a dentist for 4 decades. The business has change considerably during that time.

The path to success used to be very straightforward. You would go to school, study hard, gain clinical expertise and then open a practice.

It would be an oversimplification to say that it was easy. Running a business never is. But it was a business model that most of us could figure out.

Fast forward to today and everything has changed. Dentists are getting squeezed from every direction. Patients now see themselves as customers and expect to be treated as such, insurance companies are getting stingier with their schedules and we are being forced into competition with well funded and aggressive Dental Service Organizations (DSO) and Managed Service Organizations (MSO).

Any one of these is enough to keep you up at night. And when you take them together it can seem completely overwhelming.

Dentist have two choices. The first is to continue business a usual and hope nobody notices.

The second is to adapt to the new environment and begin offering new and complimentary services and procedures that are a natural fit for our skills and expertise.

Welcome to the new era of “Spa Dentistry”

It’s certainly not a term you hear a lot. And it requires a lot more than offering warm towels, relaxing music and simple massages. In my definition it means expanding your services to include more cosmetic and beauty solutions to clients. When you think about it, adding services like Botox and Dermal fillers into your practice is a natural extension of what you do and fits well with the cosmetic dentistry model.

Adding to your existing clinical skills through additional training opens the door to an expanded practice as well as a completely new revenue stream. Your patients already trust you and believe in your skills. Offering them new services in a familiar environment makes it easy for them to “give it a try.” And the best part is that these are full fee treatments, so you don’t have to worry about dealing with insurance companies.

In addition to Botox and Derma fillers, some other treatment options to consider include:

  • Radiofrequency treatments (RF) to tighten the skin around the face and neck. Each treatment takes only 5-10 minutes and maintenance is every 4-12 months.
  • Laser treatments to remove red and brown spots on and/or around the face, spider veins, unwanted hair and tattoos as well as scar tissue or wrinkles. Each treatment takes between 25-60 minutes and usually can be completed in 2-4 visit with each visit scheduled 4-6 weeks apart.
  • You can also use both RF and Laser to remove unwanted adipose tissue under the chin, sub mental area inner and outer thighs and abdomen.  These treatments usually can be completed in 2-6 treatments scheduled 6-8 weeks apart and each session lasting between 25-60 minutes.
  • Hydra facials, which replenish the youthfulness of the skin in 30-40 minutes taking years off your patients skin and is maintained by a follow up visit every other month.
  • Kybella injections in the sub mental area to remove unwanted fat or adipose tissue causing the dreaded double chin.
  • PDO sutures or what is commonly referred to as a lunchtime facelift almost instantly taking years off your face.

The majority of our patients want to improve their looks. With our focus on teeth we are leaving a lot of business on the table for others to gram. Remember If they aren’t getting it from you they will find an alternate service provider take care of their cosmetic needs.

Our business is changing quickly. You don’t have the luxury to wait around and “see what happens.” Your competition is coming for you and you need to be ready to adapt to the changing marketplace now or you may soon find yourself out of it all together.

Grow your practice with a targeted referral strategy

We all want more clients. If you want your practice to grow one of the best metrics you can use to track success and predict future growth is how many new patients come through your door each month vs those you lose.

There are many strategies you can use to keep your funnel full, including advertising and sponsorships that will help increase your brand recognition. However one of the most significant things we can do in the healthcare industry to improve our businesses is increase referrals from existing clients.

I recently spoke to Stacey Brown Randall from Growth by Referrals about how a properly implemented referral strategy can help dentists get more of the patients “they want” to choose their practice.

“First you need to be willing to touch business development everyday,” says Randall.

“When I started paying attention to how we are taught to do referrals – which is to ask – it really sounded like a cold call to me.”

For Randall “the ask” was a significant barrier. So she developed a system whereby you identify who the clients you already have that you would like to have more of and turn those existing patients into advocates for your business by going beyond once or twice a year contacts and actually offering the type of client experience that keeps you top of mind.

“We typically refer people who are like us,” says Randall. “However only 20% to 30% of clients refer on a consistent basis. So you need to have the right client experience and referral strategy in place so that when opportunities for referral occur people are saying ‘you have got to go see my dentist’.”

This is a great point as it does not simply mean that you are increasing the number of referrals – but also the quality of those who are referred.

If dentists do their tracking properly there is always a referral source. Whether it’s a personal referral, or a referral from an insurance company or even another healthcare professional.

“A lot of referrals should be coming from other practitioners,” says Randall. “So dentists and other healthcare professionals should be cultivating those relationships.”

If you would like to learn more about Stacey you can visit her site www.GrowthByReferrals.com.


Ascent Dental Solutions is a full-service agency dedicated to helping dentists build their practices and map out their careers. It is the brainchild of Dr. Kevin Coughlin, who earned his doctorate at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine and currently serves as a faculty member there. While Dr. Coughlin continues to practice dentistry as the principal owner of the 14-location Baystate Dental PC, he has a strong passion for helping fellow dentists maximize their success. If you are interested in learning how to take your dental practice to the next level, please contact Ascent Dental Solutions today at 413-224-2659 to learn how Dr. Coughlin can help.

The right way to handle chronically late dental patients

In addition to my dental consulting business, I’m also a practicing full time dentist. So I deal with the same issues that my consulting clients deal with day in and day out. I can tell you that one of the biggest pet peeves of dentists (and lawyers and anyone else who takes appointments) is the chronically late client.

My expertise is helping dentists implement the proper processes and procedures to help them through all the different phases of their career.

Although I consider myself an expert, I’m also human and I still make mistakes. The trick is to identify the mistakes and take steps to ensure they don’t become career killing habits.

How you treat chronically late patients can have a serious impact on your dental practice. Before I go further, let me explain what I mean about chronically late. This is an individual who is 15 or 20 minutes late, between 50 and 75 percent of the time.
We all have them.

Here’s how we mishandled a recent situation and what it cost us. Firstly, this is an individual who is known (and expected to) be late for most appointments. As usual they began with an apology, followed by an excuse. They knew they were late, but it was traffic.

Our front desk coordinator was in no mood to hear it. She said “you’re almost 20 minutes late and something like this cannot continue to happen.”

With that the individual turned around and walked right out of the office. Less than 45 minutes later, I received an email saying how dissatisfied this patient was with our organization. He went on to say how unhappy he was about the way he was treated and how he had tried his best to be on time for his appointment.

The result of that particular process and procedure around dealing with late patients was that we lost that individual as a patient – who’d been with our practice for over ten years – as well as his wife and their three children.

Office processes and procedures have a dramatic effect on your day-to-day bottom line as well as your reputation and referrability. At this point, I haven’t seen a social media post or Google review from our former patient, but I’m sure it’s coming.

So how could we have handled this situation better? The correct way would be to get the patient seated and comfortable. The next step would be to explain that their appointment was at such and such a time and because they were late, we would do our very best to coordinate and complete their care.

In this particular case, it was a simple hygiene appointment. Most dental practices these days will have dental assistants, dental hygienists, doctors and associates to handle a hygiene appointments, regardless of how late that patient is.

The point I would try to make in this example is that scolding a patient for being late as they walk in the door should never happen. Save the “education” portion of the visit until after the appointment is completed.

If this was handled correctly, I think the average person would accept that because they were late it might take a little extra time to get their procedure under way. The result of not handling it properly was a financial hit to our company and to our reputation. And I’m sure if it’s happening to me, it’s happening to others.

So when, not if, you have to have a conversation with a chronically late patient, wait until after the set procedure and then have your treatment plan coordinator simply say to Mr. or Mrs. Smith, “is there a time that is better for you so that you won’t be late? Is there a way that we can coordinate the appointment so it is easier for you and there’s less stress on you?”

Proper and clear communication is the best way to reinforce expectations and remind patients that arriving on time is their job.

Your patients need your skills. But they want your care

Being a successful dentist comes down to one thing.

Communication.

After 35 years of practicing dentistry and growing my business to include 14 dental offices with 160 employees, the single most important skill I’ve developed is the ability to communicate with team members and patients.

Think I’m kidding? Overstating things a bit?

Let’s assume that all dentists have the basic skills to perform the procedures described on their websites. So what is the factor that differentiates one dentist from another? I’ll tell you right now that it’s a dentist’s ability to communicate with his or her patients that will propel the business forward through retention and referrals or hold it back as patients move on to a dentist they like and trust more.  

People are not sheep. The person sitting in your chair now is not the same as the person who was occupying that same spot an hour ago. Every patient is different and you need to be able to adapt your communication skills to reach each and every one of them so they feel valued. How well you to communicate is a crucial part of doing your job and will help you keep your dental patients coming back year after year.

A communications expert I worked with once, Mr. David Wolf told me that he observed that many dentists come from a more ‘scientific’ background, which is factually true. He also discovered that we tend to be introverts for the most part.

He was right. As a group, we tend to focus on technology and rely on our clinical skills to deliver the best care possible to our patients.

But that isn’t what keeps patients coming back. How we talk to and deal with them is key to patient retention.

You probably already have well trained front office team that determines the customer experience right up until they sit in your chair. But from their it’s all you. How you communicate from that point on will determine if that patient will become a regular contributor to your bottom line results.

Patients want to know you care. They already assume that you know how to do the A, B and C procedures competently or they wouldn’t let you near their mouths in the first place. What they really want is for you to connect with them emotionally about the work they’ve requested or you’re recommending.