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.

Meet your front desk receptionist: the most important person in your Practice…

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.

The journey from believing to achieving business success

Are you a believer or an achiever? Do you cruise through your day believing you’re doing a good job or do you actually have a strategy to make it happen?

I read statistics recently that showed 92 percent of CEOs believe they deliver excellent customer satisfaction. The reality however, showed that only about 8 percent actually hit that goal.

The 92 percent may be true believers.  But belief in itself doesn’t deliver anything other than a false sense of achievement. Making the leap to actually producing results requires something I call the 3Ds: design, develop and deliver.

So how do you do this?

First, take your final product and divide it up into the elements needed to design a complete customer experience. Then hone and further develop and refine that complete customer experience on an ongoing basis. Remember it’s not a ‘do and done’ thing: it requires attention and adaptability to influences both within and without the organization.

Finally, you and your team have to deliver.

Every. Single. Time.

Failing on that third ‘D’ makes everything else pointless. I’ve seen this happen again and again. And the result is wasteful spending on advertising, additional sales staff, acquisitions, products and gimmicks all in a desperate attempt to achieve a goal that is not clearly defined or understood.

Would you set out on a road trip without a map and travel plans? Of course not. So why would you do it in business?

The key is to make the connection between profits and your customer satisfaction experience. Many managers don’t understand this connection and spend their time squeezing staff and customers in pursuit of fast profits over long term success.

They never understand that a satisfied customer base is actually the best street level marketing team a company can have. Customers talk to their friends and colleagues and rave about your service at their dinner tables, social gatherings and family events. These advocates have a level of access and a credibility that no salesperson could ever match. What’s more, they’re free to you if you deliver a great customer experience.

Of course the opposite is true. Deliver a mediocre or poor customer experience and your business will suffer. Instead of talking your business up, people will ask their friends, family and colleagues for suggestions on where to find a better experience. So you’ve not only lost that one customer – but everyone else they talk to.

When developing that customer experience, look at all of it. From your appointment system to the cleanliness of your washrooms to the magazines in your waiting room, all of it is about delivering the ideal customer experience.

Design, develop and deliver. Turn that into your business mantra, your business culture and you’ll see the results in your bottom line.

If you’re a dentist or other healthcare professional and you’d like to discuss how to lead a business that works for you please get in touch.

Is your business in the good profit or bad profit game?

In dentistry as in most businesses, how your business operates says more about your company than you might suspect.

The culture of your workplace reflects your company values. If staff attend carefully to patients instead of rushing them in and out, then you have a more healthy culture.

 

Your people are your company’s greatest asset. In order to find continued success you need a hardworking, dedicated and motivated team. But if you do not have a great people-culture, it’s your responsibility to improve it.

I have been in this game a long time.  I have found that one of the key factors in  success has been the positive relationships with team members, leaders and managers have internally and also with patients. It doesn’t happen overnight. You have to cultivate this over time with excellent processes, procedures and outstanding communication.

Why bother?

Good relationships lead to what I call ‘good profits.’ This is a continuous revenue stream that comes from good customer interactions and relationships. In essence you’re building customer loyalty not on price, but service based on a personal touch. People want to stay with you. When this is done they will tell their friends and family members.

Of course the opposite can true. Bad profits are those revenues earned when you chase after every dollar and squeeze employees at every opportunity. They won’t like you. It will show in the way they act around patients and each other. As they say “you can’t fake authenticity.”

The result is patients don’t feel loyalty and they don’t return. Worse still they may also tell their friends about the experience they had. An unsatisfied customer is more than a missed opportunity – it’s multiple lost opportunities.

Unsurprisingly, what you need to do is treat your customers the way you’d want to be treated.

Good profits are earned when customers or patients continually come back for additional services and products and rave to friends and family about their excellent experience.

These customers become promoters of your business and they’re worth far more than any advertising dollars you’ll spend. People trust word-of-mouth and they are the most cost-effective growers of your business you’ll ever have.

The ultimate question is how do you create the appropriate processes and procedures? Start by measuring what makes your customer or patient satisfied and happy. This comes with quality assurance and quality assessment on every point of service. Review and improve your existing processes and procedures and focus on your customers and patients, plus team members, leaders and managers. All areas of an organization need constant improvement and that will come with continual organizational communication.

The goal is you want your team members and patients to (BLT) Believe, Like and Trust you and your organization.

So what does your business focus on: bad or good profits?

If you’re a dentist or other healthcare professional and you’d like to discuss how to lead a business that works for you please get in touch.

 

Dentistry is changing: do you know where you fit in?

Dentistry as we know it is changing right before our eyes. The data is clear: fewer and fewer dentists are practicing as solo practitioners and more of us are moving toward group practice. While everyone has their own reasons, the biggest draw seems to be creating a better work-life balance.

 

patient-care-and-customer-service

It’s an understandable choice. On one hand your are expected to be an excellent healthcare provider, leader, and business person. While at the same time you have a family and all the obligations that come along with it.

For the majority of us who are not superhuman, something has to give. And most of the time the hit is taken on the family side of the ledger.

So it’s no surprise that many of us look to corporate dentistry – specifically DSO’s and or MSO’s – to even out the personal balance sheet.

Dental Service or Support Organizations or Managed Service or Support Organizations are markedly different from ordinary ‘mom and pop’ solo dental corporations.

The biggest benefit to the dentist looking for a bit of balance and structure is that MSOs come with built in processes, marketing, education and support that eliminate many of the headaches solo practices have to deal with.

But there is also a cost. That cost comes from the loss of control to equity partners, more interested in profits than patients. In many instances these groups are only in the game for 3 to 7 years after which the investment arm cashes in it’s chips and moves on.

At that point another group will step in with it’s own ideas about how things should be done.   

This invariably causes disruption and a lack of continuity within the organization. On the positive side process and procedures will be put in place that could perhaps reduce waste and control some costs. But that doesn’t entirely offset other factors such as additional layers of management, and an emphasis on short term profits at the expense of long term failure.

This isn’t an issue for discussion anymore. We must adapt and modify our practices and prepare team members and the public for these changes.

There is room for both business models. And the hope is that each model will force the other to become better not just in care but in service.

In the end patients are attracted to a particular dental practice based on their needs, finances and education. A majority will be moved by slick marketing, convenient hours and numerous locations. But others will value the continuity of care specialized services and BLT: an office they Believe In, Like and Trust.

If you’re a dentist and you’d like to discuss how to create a practice that works for you please get in touch.