The level of service your team provides to each patient is a critical factor in determining the ultimate success of your practice. Providing a high level of service ensures that you will retain a high percentage of your patients—and it ensures that the word-of-mouth reviews of your practice will be positive. And that, as you know, translates into more business. Few forms of marketing are more effective than organic word-of-mouth recommendations—and providing great patient service is an effective way to generate such a buzz.
Most dentists recognize the importance of patient service—and do a great job offering such service themselves. However, in far too many cases, the message doesn’t translate down to the office team. As a dentist, you have enough on your plate—the last thing you need to do is spend time each day policing your staff and making sure their level of service is up to par. So what is the solution? Simple: you need to create a system that ensures a high level of service. Here’s how to begin:
1) Create standards. If your team doesn’t know what you expect, you can’t expect them to perform well. Take the time to clearly lay out your expectations with regards to patient service. These standards should include phone etiquette (i.e., answer the phone cheerfully, talk clearly and pleasantly, etc), clear guidelines for interacting with customers in the office, and protocol for handling any other interactions that may occur. Set a guiding principle, such as “treat each customer like you would want to be treated,” but incorporate as many specifics as possible.
2) Track performance. Ideally, you will be able to assign the responsibility of monitoring patient service standards to your practice manager or a trusted team member. If this team member is already in a management position, empower them to address any failure to meet your standards with the employee in question. If the team member is not in a position of authority, simply instruct him or her to notify you if your service standards are not being met. You can then follow up and offer additional training or clarification, if needed.
3) Provide incentive. Give your team members a reason to dedicate themselves to customer service. Publicly praise an employee who has demonstrated great service. Create a monthly award for patient service excellence. Consider rewarding employees with a gift card or even a small bonus.
4) Keep patient service on the mind of your team. Patient service should be a recurring topic at every meeting you conduct. Make it clear that service is a top priority—keep it fresh on the mind of each team member. You will discover that in most cases, poor patient service doesn’t arise out of a bad attitude—it’s simply a result of an employee not thinking about providing great service.
Providing a great experience to each patient is essential if you want your practice to grow. As a dentist, you don’t have the time to oversee each interaction your staff has with a patient—so it is essential to create a system that ensures great service. These steps will help you get started… feel free to contact me for further information!