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.

Good profits or bad profits: good business or bad business?

There are good profits and there are bad profits in any business.  The business of Dentistry is no different.

Bad profits are those made in an unethical or unfair manner that ultimately lead to bad outcomes.  From my years of experience I’ve seen dentists chase the quick buck and I’ve seen the damage it causes to reputations and the bottom line. In fact chasing the bad profits is one of the most costly mistakes any business can make.

People lose what I call the BLT.

  • They no longer Believe you,
  • They no longer Like you, and most importantly
  • They no longer Trust you.

Good profits are when you make money and provide more value than what a customer or patient expects to get.

For example, the other day, an 80-something year old man came in his 80  year old wife. She needed some root canal treatment, the total cost was about $4,300. I looked them both in the eye and asked “Is it really necessary for you to make this investment? Don’t you think it would be much more cost-effective and perhaps better care and service to remove this infected tooth and avoid the trauma and expense?”

When I heard, “Dr. Coughlin, we can’t afford it.” I told them that my opinion they should consider saving the money and have the extraction. For me it wasn’t even  a question of affordability, it was about making the right clinical and ethical decision.  And in my opinion, although I make my income doing root canals and crowns, the less expensive extraction was the best option given the patient’s age and medical history.

When the procedure was completed, the patient hugged me and she said, “I don’t know if I’ve ever met a healthcare professional so honest.”

That made me think. Could I really be the exception? The dentists and physicians I know don’t roll out of bed each morning, look in the mirror and ask with an evil smile “how can I take advantage of my patients today?”

Instead I believe that the increasing monetization of health care adds to the pervasive narrative that it’s just a commodity. So procedures are not always performed based on patient need, but rather on what will help the balance sheet – even if there is a less expensive alternative.

As medical and dental professionals and for that matter all healthcare providers, it’s up to us to do what’s best for our patients. The best way to do that is not look at them like customers – but people. Find out what they need and deliver it based on the value to them rather than yourself.

What you’ll find is that with word of mouth marketing you get the best results with the most power return in investment than any advertisement is likely to bring.