Dr. Roger P. Levin brings you the most thought-provoking topics from the Dental Business Study Clubs, an organization focused on the business of successful dentistry. Each month, Dr. Levin will explore an aspect of the business of dentistry in detail.
People simply no longer have the tolerance for bad service. And why should they? If they receive bad service at one place, they know they have a choice of going to a wide variety of other places, and they may even pay less. This goes for dentistry as well. Patients expect a standard of customer service, and any failure to live up to that level can result in the loss of a patient and a family.
5 mistakes you should never make
1. Not helping patients with their insurance
As the CEO of a consulting firm that has worked with over 30,000 dental practices since 1985, I have heard time and again that patients don't take the responsibility of their insurance seriously. There is a simple reason for this -- they don't think it's their responsibility.
Are they right? It doesn't matter. They are right if they believe it. And if you don't think that it's your job to help them, they will find an office that will support them, guide them, and walk them through the insurance process.
In an era when the vast majority of dental practices participate with at least one insurance plan, dental insurance is now part of the practice landscape. Practices that don't go out of their way to help patients, who are generally confused with their insurance, will find some patients leaving.
2. Disagreeing with patients
If you have patients who are upset, telling them they are wrong is one of the worst things you can do. Nobody wants to hear they're wrong. All the patient knows is that something went wrong, it needs to be rectified, and the practice won't help.
We're continually surprised at front desk interactions when patients have reasonable requests and the practice simply won't go out of their way to make it happen. This is tantamount to saying, "We don't care about you." The solution is always to find a solution. It can be a compromise, or it can be giving in.
It doesn't matter as long as you retain the patient long term. Other than an outrageous request, dental practices should have a culture of trying to satisfy every patient. The loss of a few hundred dollars is rarely worth the loss of the patient and family unless the patient is completely unreasonable.
3. Not apologizing for keeping patients waiting
We recommend that if you keep patients waiting, apologize and give them a small gift certificate. The difference between doing this and doing nothing is the difference between a patient who is thrilled and one that's annoyed. A simple apology and gift can convert the psyche of a patient from thinking about having to wait ("This practice doesn't care about me.") to having them feeling great because you took the time to apologize ("This practice cares about me.").
4. Ignoring patients
People don't like being ignored -- especially these days. When staff members are with patients and they check cellphones, answer text messages, or talk to each other or the doctor about other business, they're ignoring the patient. Even as little as 10 seconds of not acknowledging that the patient is there may be perceived in a negative way.
Excellent customer service requires that you focus intensely on the patient. When you focus on people, engage them in conversation, and listen to them, you are perceived as more likable and charismatic. Make it a rule that when you're in front of the patient you never focus on other things, turn your back to them to make notes, or discuss other factors unrelated to them. This is one of the most important mistakes in customer service. Ignore your patient at your own peril.
5. Interrupting patients
Interrupting creates negative energy, bad feelings, and makes the interrupter appear less likable or trustworthy. Of course, that is not the doctor's intention. Dentists often interrupt a patient during a case presentation because they are trying to anticipate what the other person wants to know. You are trying to be helpful.
However, if you interrupt a patient, you must understand that your chances of closing have just diminished. Why? Psychologically people get comfortable by talking through a situation. Interrupting does not allow them to talk through their situation and often results in uncertainty about whether to accept treatment.
Businesses and dental practices make many customer service mistakes. Study the five mistakes explained in this article, and do everything possible to avoid them.
Roger P. Levin, DDS, is the executive founder of the Dental Business Study Clubs.
The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of DrBicuspid.com, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.