In the article on Sales and Marketing I wrote for the Spring issue, I mentioned that there are two key parts to internal marketing: 1) professional image; and 2) the service (not the technical services of making the dentures). The last article concentrated on image, whereas this one is focused on service. There are millions of ways to service your patients, and I am only going to cover some of the notable points.
Department of First Impressions
We are talking front desk here, not impression moulds! When you or your staff answer the phone, you must be sure to stop and put your best foot forward BEFORE you pick up the phone. Radio announcers, for instance, often have a mirror in front of them to make sure they smile while talking into the microphone, because people can hear the difference at the other end of the sound waves. Put a mirror near the phone and practice smiling while talking on the phone. Other points to watch for are that you are not chewing gum, smoking or laughing when you pick up the phone.
Go for sounding professional and caring. Be interested in what your patient, or a prospective patient is saying on the phone. Do not sound “needy”, overworked or exhausted. These are turn-offs.
To Quote or Not to Quote
Do not quote prices on the phones if you can avoid it. In point of fact, you should not try to diagnose over the phone as you have absolutely no idea what they need until you do an examination. Instead, the person answering the phone should be friendly and interested in the caller at the other end. “Before I answer your question, there are few details I need to know: Do you already have dentures or is this your first time? Are you in pain? Where does it hurt? How long have you had this problem? Does anyone else in your family wear dentures? ” And so on. The caller is usually impressed by the care and attention to detail and is then easily scheduled for their first appointment (a consultation).
Service, Service, Service
You want to deliver absolutely wonderful care to each patient that phones in, or comes into, your practice. Be sure to concentrate on that with each and every patient, no matter how annoying or difficult they may be: they do deserve, as one of your patients, to have the best possible care.
Don’t be fake or phony with patients as they may be as bright as you and see through that false front. Find some things you like about the person and focus on those instead of negative things, and you will soon find your affinity for the person goes up, resulting in more communication and agreement.
New patient arrives in the chair
Obviously, you must talk to the patient first and build a bit of rapport, for example “what are you here for today?” While the patient will tell you what difficulties he’s experiencing or what he perceives needs to be done, you are the EXPERT and must present to him what, in your best judgment, will be the best solution. In other words, if this was your mouth, what would you put in it.
The KISS Principle
You know the saying, “Keep It Simple, Stupid”.
This principle is very important when you are talking to your patients because you probably forget how much you know — a lot of technical terms and concepts. Your patient, however, does not want to become a denturist (at this point anyway). With the first technical or other big word you use that the patient doesn’t know, he starts tuning you out. So you really MUST focus on keeping it simple and understandable or he won’t go ahead with your recommendations.
Address the patient’s concerns and needs as they have stated them to you.
When you have completed a reline or created a new set of dentures and put them in the patient’s mouth, be sure that the patient knows you are on his team. When he leaves the practice, he must know to call you and come in when it starts to hurt so that you can fix the offending spot BEFORE he gets a sore or blister.
If you haven’t heard from him within a couple of weeks, call and see how things are going (diarize the follow-up call). Patients will not always call when there’s a “little” problem — “I didn’t want to bother you.” When you reach out and take care of your patient, this level of care makes the patient VERY happy to have you on his team.
Quality control check
On the patient’s way out, ask him, “Is there any way in which we could have improved our service?’ If yes, make a note (you or the receptionist) and make sure to handle that point so no one else experiences it again. Whether it’s that you ran behind, or they felt you were rough, or said your receptionist was rude, what they are mentioning turned them off enough to mention it. A good acknowledgement of that fact can go a long way to erasing it. Be responsive — possibly it’s a problem you could remedy right then and there.
“You all come back, now!”
After inserting the dentures and before he leaves the practice, schedule the patient for a recall check in a year. You do this because you CARE. Patients need to come in on an annual basis to ensure their dentures are well maintained and they get maximum benefit from them. This is your opportunity, as well, to check for oral abnormalities, i.e. growths, cancer, etc. Waiting 5 years to see their denturist next time may be too long.
When a patient refers someone to you, send him a “Thank You” card to let them know that their friend or family member actually arrived at the practice and that they will be well taken care of. Others have worked out thank-you gifts to send to patients who refer a number of new patients into the practice. If a patient has referred 5 new patients, this calls for a celebration — maybe a prepaid dinner at a nice restaurant, maybe a floral arrangement, a bottle of wine, or a pair of movie passes.
If you give an ABUNDANCE of awesome service to each patient, a huge majority of them will go out of your practice and speak quite kindly of you to family and friends, and possibly co-workers and neighbors. By the way, this does not mean to give discounts or sell below fee guide. As long as the patient gets value and benefits for his hard-earned dollar, he will be happy.
Look your internal service over, as covered above, and be ready for the next article: making a marketing plan.
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