Podcast: Designing a Winning Customer Strategy

In this episode Dr. Coughlin discusses how to design a winning customer strategy.

Hello and welcome to Ascent Dental Radio. A program dedicated to the balance between the clinical aspect of health care and the business of health care. And now here is your host, Dr. Kevin Coughlin.

kevin-transparentWelcome to the following podcast. My name is Dr. Kevin Coughlin, owner and creator of www.ascent-dental-solutions.com. Please visit my website and listen to additional podcasts, but today’s podcast is on designing a winning customer strategy.

So let’s get started. First, there’s a difference between believers and achievers. Data indicates that about 92 percent of CEOs believe they are providing excellent customer satisfaction. The reality, however, is only about eight percent really achieve it. The goal is to be that eight percent. How to become that eight percent and bring you from a believer to an achiever is to focus on what I refer to as the 3Ds. You must first design then develop and then deliver.

Design simply means the appropriate segmentation of your patient or customer base to complete customer experience in each of the segments involved in your valuable final product. Develop simply means you must reinvent and renew your customer experience over and over. Change is good but change must be for the better.

Lastly and perhaps most importantly, is the action step of delivering. Every department, every team member must be pulling in the same direction. Failure to achieve this last action step will put you in the 92 percenters of believers rather than achievers. The alternatives of not becoming an achiever is simply more money on advertising, more sales people, more acquisitions, more products, more gimmicks, more waste of time and money. Simply stated, you must delight your patient or customer base in all aspects.

It’s common knowledge that managers tend to feel more accountable for improving profits. Most managers do not feel they are accountable for improving patient or customer relationships or the quality of that relationship. What truly creates the difference between an average manager and an outstanding manager are those managers who focus on the accountability of improving customer relationships or the quality of that relationship.

In general we’ve talked in past podcasts about promoters versus detractors. Promoters should be the core of your business. They are the best group to invest in. They create high margins, they love to do business with us, they constantly refer additional business to us and they should drive our strategic priorities.

Detractors do not like doing business with us. They spread negative word of mouth and they defect at the first opportunity to another company or business. You constantly should try to convert your detractors to promoters and if not possible, eliminate these detractors from your business plan.

The vast majority of your customer base will be passive customers. They can be easily lured into the detractor group if you do not focus constantly on improving relationships, products and service. The goal is to take the passive group and move them into the promoter group. Constantly you should be on the lookout for finding additional promoters for your business.

As a golden rule, what is ever good for your patient or customer base and team members will generally be good for your company. You need to look at your business in totality. You need to look at your phone system, your appointment systems, your orientation and treatments, the ability to discharge, evaluation of charts if you are in the medical or dental profession, financial arrangements should be clear, concise, honest and upfront.

You must take a look at every aspect of your business, including your reception room or office, your restrooms, your operatories, your magazines, the appearance, the communication skills. In order to achieve this, most focus in on the 3Ds which is design, develop and deliver.

For additional information about this podcast and other podcasts, please visit www.ascent-dental-solutions.com. Thanks for listening and we look forward to spending more time in the future on additional business topics to help your medical and dental practice grow along with your overall business. Thanks for listening. My name is Dr. Kevin Coughlin.

A patient in distress is your opportunity to shine in customer care

Dental Practices can’t just phone it in

Your front line team members are the first client/customer facing representatives anyone comes into contact with when they call or enter your dental practice. Hopefully you’ve trained them to be both empathetic and professional. Let’s say you’ve gone a step further and they are also well – versed on best practices surrounding customer care. That’s it, you’re done!

Not so fast.

What happens where they’re engaged with a real life customer and the phone rings? Is your answering system as good as your staff? If not, then you have a big hole that needs a filling.

First off, the phone should be answered within four rings. If staff are too busy to do so, let it go to the answering system. Nobody wants to hear, “this is Dr. Smith’s office. I’m going to have to put you on hold.”

If it isn’t possible for any member of your team to grab that phone call within four rings, your message has to be the next best thing to speaking to a real person.

First, the answering system should allow patients a choice. They should be allowed to leave their name and phone number along with a request or question.  Alternately, the caller should be able to opt to stay on the line and wait. But if they do so, it is vitally important they are reminded every 30 seconds that you haven’t forgotten about them and that someone will be with them shortly. If, after two minutes, they are still waiting, they should have an additional option to leave a message. Here is where you differentiate yourself by promising to return the call within 15 minutes. Why is this important? That 15 minutes buys your time before they call another practice to set up an appointment.

Still not convinced about the importance of this seemingly minor issue? I’ve got a simple test for you. Do you remember the last time you were put on hold for a long time? Did you call back? I would guess you might have moved onto another provider.

We are all busy. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have time for clients. How you treat someone when you are busy speaks volumes about how much you would value them as a customer.

If you want to talk about how I can transform your dental practice into a customer service dynamo, please get in touch.

The most important person in your practice is the first and last one to see your patients

So you’ve got a dental office with technicians and great patient care specialists. Who’s the most important person in your business?

The answer is surprising to some. The surprise is that it’s not you. It’s actually the front-desk person. They are a patient’s first and last point of contact. They set the tone for the patient’s experience at your practice.

young-dentist-opening-a-practice

Female patient coming to dental surgery check-up appointment reception

He or she must possess patience, knowledge, grace under pressure, and the ability to show empathy, along with being efficient and effective.

When recruiting for this crucial position, the following skill sets are of key importance:

∙ Sales skills

. Telephone skills

∙ Gathering and interpreting data

∙ Patient orientation

∙ Developing and providing information about a comprehensive treatment plan

∙ Reviewing financial options for the patient to receive care and treatment

∙ The ability to generate reports to assess the success and progress of your business team

∙ Review and make necessary adjustments to procedures and processes through daily, biweekly, weekly, or monthly meetings and discussions

 

As you can see, this is a position that goes well beyond “receptionist.” Your front desk person has to wear many hats throughout the day, and it all starts with how they answer the phone.

If you want to talk about how I can make your dental practice a dynamo in customer service, please get in touch.

Guidelines​ ​for​ ​building​ ​an​ ​effective​ ​team

To​ ​me,​ ​T.E.A.M.​ ​means​ ​“together​ ​employees​ ​achieve​ ​mastership.”

It’s​ ​a​ ​convenient​ ​acronym.​ ​But​ ​it’s​ ​more​ ​than​ ​that.​ ​In​ ​order​ ​for​ ​it​ ​to​ ​work​ ​leadership​ ​has​ ​to
make​ ​sure​ ​its​ ​team​ ​has​ ​the​ ​tools​ ​to​ ​succeed.​ ​Training,​ ​education,​ ​attitude​ ​and​ ​money​ ​are
the​ ​building​ ​blocks.​ ​Take​ ​away​ ​any​ ​of​ ​those​ ​elements​ ​and​ ​your​ ​team​ ​is​ ​just​ ​a​ ​gathering​ ​of
paid​ ​employees.

What-are-the-factors-of-successful-leadership

Medical team of three professional woman at dental surgery portrait

Experience​ ​has​ ​taught​ ​me​ ​that​ ​people,​ ​who​ ​both​ ​want​ ​and​ ​need​ ​employment,​ ​are​ ​the​ ​ideal candidates​ ​for​ ​building​ ​a​ ​great​ ​team​.​ ​I’ve​ ​seen​ ​how​ ​people​ ​who​ ​hate​ ​their​ ​jobs​ ​and​ ​those who​ ​don’t​ ​need​ ​their​ ​jobs​ ​are​ ​never​ ​really​ ​fully​ ​committed​ ​to​ ​them.

Commitment,​ ​loyalty,​ ​trust​ ​and​ ​a​ ​desire​ ​to​ ​work​ ​are​ ​the​ ​ingredients​ ​for​ ​fantastic​ ​employees
who​ ​become​ ​integral​ ​parts​ ​of​ ​amazing​ ​teams.​ ​And​ ​at​ ​the​ ​risk​ ​of​ ​sounding​ ​somewhat​ ​agist​ ​-
and​ ​having​ ​been​ ​a​ ​former​ ​member​ ​of​ ​this​ ​cohort​ ​-​ ​​ ​I’ve​ ​found​ ​people​ ​in​ ​their​ ​20s​ ​go​ ​through
so​ ​many​ ​of​ ​their​ ​own​ ​changes​ ​that​ ​the​ ​odds​ ​of​ ​them​ ​still​ ​being​ ​with​ ​your​ ​team​ ​into​ ​their​ ​30s
is​ ​not​ ​great.​ ​That​ ​doesn’t​ ​mean​ ​you​ ​shouldn’t​ ​give​ ​young​ ​people​ ​opportunities.​ ​But​ ​do​ ​so
knowing​ ​that​ ​your​ ​job​ ​is​ ​probably​ ​seen​ ​as​ ​a​ ​stepping​ ​stone​ ​to​ ​something​ ​bigger​ ​and​ ​better.

The​ ​average​ ​dental​ ​office​ ​will​ ​have​ ​fewer​ ​than​ ​ten​ ​employees.​ ​That​ ​works​ ​in​ ​the​ ​owner’s
favour.​ ​Managing​ ​and​ ​coaching​ ​a​ ​small​ ​staff​ ​provides​ ​excellent​ ​opportunities​ ​for
mentorship​ ​and​ ​skills​ ​development​ ​while​ ​also​ ​delivering​ ​exceptional​ ​service​ ​to​ ​the​ ​patients.
But​ ​that​ ​tidy​ ​size​ ​comes​ ​at​ ​a​ ​price.​ ​Fewer​ ​staff​ ​means​ ​difficulties​ ​in​ ​times​ ​of​ ​family
commitments,​ ​illness​ ​and​ ​such.​ ​However​ ​when​ ​you​ ​have​ ​a​ ​real​ ​TEAM​ ​they​ ​pull​ ​together
and​ ​help​ ​each​ ​other​ ​out​ ​-​ ​so​ ​that​ ​your​ ​patient​ ​experience​ ​doesn’t​ ​have​ ​to​ ​suffer.

Another​ ​quality​ ​I​ ​look​ ​for​ ​when​ ​building​ ​a​ ​team,​ ​is​ ​a​ ​person’s​ ​marketing,​ ​sales​ ​and
business​ ​experience.​ ​Knowing​ ​the​ ​field​ ​of​ ​dentistry​ ​is​ ​a​ ​nice​ ​but​ ​not​ ​necessarily​ ​essential
skill​ ​for​ ​an​ ​employee​ ​to​ ​have.​ ​​ ​If​ ​forced​ ​to​ ​choose​ ​between​ ​someone​ ​who​ ​is​ ​knowledgeable
and​ ​one​ ​who​ ​has​ ​great​ ​sales​ ​and​ ​management​ ​skills,​ ​I​ ​will​ ​always​ ​pick​ ​the​ ​latter.​ ​Clinical
skills​ ​can​ ​be​ ​taught;​ ​teaching​ ​management​ ​and​ ​sales​ ​are​ ​much​ ​more​ ​difficult.

That​ ​doesn’t​ ​mean​ ​your​ ​team​ ​should​ ​be​ ​devoid​ ​of​ ​dental​ ​experience.​ ​You​ ​will​ ​always​ ​need
to​ ​have​ ​individuals​ ​with​ ​a​ ​background​ ​and​ ​knowledge​ ​of​ ​the​ ​dental​ ​business​ ​and​ ​dental
hygiene.​ ​I​ ​would​ ​be​ ​lying​ ​if​ ​I​ ​said​ ​it​ ​is​ ​easy​ ​to​ ​find​ ​such​ ​individuals;​ ​in​ ​fact,​ ​it​ ​is​ ​extremely
difficult.​ ​In​ ​some​ ​cases,​ ​it​ ​may​ ​appear​ ​impossible,​ ​but​ ​it​ ​can​ ​be​ ​done.

There​ ​is​ ​an​ ​old​ ​adage​ ​in​ ​business​ ​that​ ​for​ ​every​ ​$10,000​ ​you​ ​pay​ ​a​ ​person,​ ​​ ​you​ ​should
spend​ ​a​ ​month​ ​to​ ​find​ ​the​ ​RIGHT​ ​person.​ ​What​ ​that​ ​means​ ​is​ ​that​ ​if​ ​you’re​ ​going​ ​to​ ​pay
someone​ ​$50,000​ ​a​ ​year,​ ​you​ ​should​ ​be​ ​willing​ ​to​ ​spend​ ​five​ ​months​ ​on​ ​the​ ​hiring​ ​process.
I​ ​can’t​ ​emphasize​ ​that​ ​enough.​ ​It​ ​is​ ​a​ ​critical​ ​step​ ​in​ ​accomplishing​ ​your​ ​goal​ ​of​ ​developing
the​ ​ideal​ ​dental​ ​business.​ ​Not​ ​selecting​ ​the​ ​right​ ​individuals​ ​when​ ​putting​ ​together​ ​your
team​ ​will​ ​result​ ​in​ ​an​ ​enormous​ ​cost​ ​to​ ​you​ ​and​ ​your​ ​organization​ ​over​ ​the​ ​long​ ​run.

If​ ​this​ ​sounds​ ​like​ ​a​ ​lot​ ​of​ ​work​ ​-​ ​it​ ​is.​ ​But​ ​it’s​ ​the​ ​kind​ ​of​ ​work​ ​that​ ​if​ ​done​ ​right,​ ​will​ ​be​ ​pay dividends​ ​every​ ​day​ ​you​ ​open​ ​your​ ​doors.

Three simple rules for passing on your dental practice

Passing-down-you-dental-practice

They say you can’t take it with you. And it’s certainly true of dental practices.

Whether you plan on passing it on to family members, selling to a corporation or even another practitioner, there are three simple rules to keep in mind.

Rule 1: Value does not equal price. Value is an estimate of the financial worth of a practice determined by formulas. Price, however, is determined by the careful dance between how desperate a seller is to sell and how determined a buyer is to buy.

At present time, most of the dentists I know above the age of 60 cannot wait to sell their practice. Typically, the dental practice is one of their largest assets and is generally considered the best way to ensure a happy and  secure retirement.

Rule 2: Gross production is not what you want to purchase. A much better determinant of the value of a practice is really net income. So whether you’re considering selling your dental practice or making a purchase, it’s critical that you look at net income from the seller’s tax returns related to the practice. What a buyer should look for before making the purchase is the dental practice’s ability to make a profit. So as a seller the number one goal is to make the practice as profitable as possible before putting it on the market. The more profitable it is, the more valuable it will be to a would-be purchasers.

Rule 3: Never buy a practice’s potential, only the present or historic value. Future profits can be uncertain. Many times I’ve had someone say to me, “Dr. Coughlin, I’m thinking about buying a practice. It has great potential.” You really want to make your purchase price based on today’s value, not what tomorrow’s value might or might not be.

I cannot emphasize enough that even if you feel you’re not interested in selling your practice or you’re not considering buying a practice you should be prepared to sell at any point in time.

If you are considering buying a practice or selling your own practice, I may be able to help. My coaching services leverage over 30 years of real experience growing my business from one practice to 14.

Contact me today and let’s make sure you make the best and most profitable decisions based on your current situation.

The tricky path from dental school to dental practice

Although it’s been a few years since I walked out of dental school with my degree in hand, I still think about new graduates going from the halls of academe to their careers in a dental office.

When today’s dentists start their career, most will be unable to purchase a practice. A quarter million dollars of student debt will make certain of that. Further, most lack the basic business knowledge to run a small or medium size business. If that seems odd, it’s because since they entered high school, the sciences have been their focus and following that, four years of an intense dental education.

Fix a tooth? Easy. Seeking out suppliers? Not so much.

So it’s been encouraging to hear that most dental schools are starting to provide at least sixteen hours of practice management education. The goal is to prepare these young businessmen and women how to make sound business decisions. Are they going to join a group practice, corporate dentistry, become an associate with an existing practice? Ideally this training will help them dovetail these options with their own personalities, ambitions and drive to find the right path to follow.

Consider the private practice option.

In my experience if a dental student is considering going it alone, the process should be begin in dental school.

They likely know that after the graduation accolades fade, the reality of starting their professional life will come rushing at them faster than their first loan repayment installment.

There are several stages that a practice goes through when you’re looking to either purchase or start your own.

Stage one is simply opening up one’s own practice de novo: put a shingle on the door, market the hell out of the practice and yourself and hope to God you have a patient base to both support your debt and provide an income that’s necessary for you to survive. In general, you will need approximately 1,800 active patients, meaning that those clients come to your office at least every 18 months to make it work.

Sound impossible? Most realize it is, which is why it’s done so rarely right out of dental school. Many opt for a way to ensure steady income while they pay down their student debt and put their solo dreams on hold.

If you are considering starting up your own practice, I offer personal coaching for dentists help you navigate the business end of dentistry. It may be the wisest investment you make because I can quickly tell you whether or not this is a smart decision.

And if you do go through with it I’m here with over 30 years experience running 14 practices to help you implement the processes and procedures to help you build the practice of your dreams.