John Austin Practical Application Specialist MGEWant to improve the “customer (patient) experience” in your practice?

Chances are, you’ve heard of a ton of “great ideas” about how to do this. But are you using/implementing them?  And if you have managed to implement some – do they stay implemented? If you’re like the majority of your colleagues, troubles with implementation – and keeping things implemented – are the most formidable barriers to positive change in your practice

So, in this article, I wanted to take a more holistic look at this. I want you to walk away with an ability to actually bring about some of these positive changes you’ve mulling – specifically with relation to “Customer Service.” As an added bonus, you can apply some of the strategies I’ll be covering in this article to any change you want to make in your office.

(Related: 5 Ways to Improve the Patient Experience)

So, with that in mind, how can you not only develop a plan to improve customer service, but also get the entire team on board so that it “sticks”? I have four key pieces of advice:

1. Get all your staff on the same page.

When you make a decision to add new procedures in your office, whether it’s a new marketing strategy or new workflow, it’s critical that the entire team not only knows what’s going on – but that they are on “on board” with any planned changes.

Accomplishing this goes beyond “telling everybody” what you’re going to do. Explaining what will be changed, why you’re doing it and what the expected outcome is, including how it’ll make their job easier and/or positively affect the entire practice, (including the patients), can go a LONG way ensuing your changes “stick.”

If you’ve ever changed something within your practice and noticed it “didn’t work” or staff didn’t comply, there’s a good chance it relates back to this point above. Without providing insight and communicating the importance of what you’re trying to do, it could appear as just more “unnecessary work.” Result: you can confuse the team and make it seem like they “don’t care” or aren’t complying.  And in most cases – this isn’t what’s really going on.

(Related: 5 Ways to Make Your Dental Office Stand Out From Everyone Else)

It’s common sense that a patient is more likely to accept treatment if they understand their treatment plan and the consequences. Well, the same applies to staff; they’re more likely to implement new changes if they understand why they are doing it and how it fits into the greater organization.

We took this to heart when we created the lesson plans for our online training platform www.ddssuccess.com. You’ll notice that the courses include lessons on why things are done the way we’ve explained and how it all works together, and in many cases, we’ve provided the step-by-step instructions. There is a very important reason for that. As an aside, if you’re not already a subscriber – you’re missing out!  To find out more, go to ddssuccess.com and schedule a free demo!

2. Walk through the entire patient experience as if you were the patient.

This is incredibly important. The customer experience starts with their very first contact with your office. In most cases this may be a postcard or ad. Next is a phone call to your front desk.

The best way to “test” your patient experience is to walk through the entire patient process as if you were the patient yourself. Start with a postcard or ad that you’ve sent out. Is the contact information easily visible? Call the phone number that’s on the postcard or ad. Did you reach the office? Was the receptionist friendly? Did they seem like they really cared about you and wanted to help you? Or did they seem rushed and put you on hold right away?

(Related: 3 Ways to Improve New Patient Conversion)

How was the appointment process? Was it easy to schedule it?

Dental Receptionist - The MGE Management Experts BlogIf any of these parts aren’t working properly, you’ll lose out on patients.

Here’s a real example: I went to a practice to help solve some issues they were having. After a little bit of investigating, I saw their postcard they sent out and called the number. I got a busy signal. The office only had two phone lines, and both were constantly being used, which made it impossible for new patients to call and schedule appointments, and most likely a new patient isn’t going to call again after they get a busy signal – they may even think you’re out of business!

And don’t stop there. Take a look at the confirmation – is it too little so patients are forgetting? Too much so they are annoyed by all the texts or calls?

Then actually go outside to the parking lot and walk back in the front door as if you were a patient. Go all the way through the appointment procedure until you come back to the front desk to check out.

(Related: 4 Ways to Get More New Patients Without Marketing)

So, as you can see, walking through the process can help you find issues you can easily iron out. The example above was a simple fix. You may find other “simple fixes” as you go through this. It’s not uncommon to find things that you had assumed were happening that actually aren’t. You may not need a new confirmation procedure – you just need the staff to actually do the procedure that you had thought they were doing in the first place.

If you feel like you aren’t sure what you should be looking for as you do this walk-through, we can help you with an in-depth, no-charge Practice Analysis. Fill out the form here to schedule a complimentary call with an MGE consultant.

3. Look at the entire process as a whole

Maybe this has happened to you: You change one thing in your office to solve a problem. But then a few days later, another problem pops up… you change another thing to solve that problem. And then another problem comes up and… the cycle goes on and on.

I’ll often see this with some of our clients; they really want to fix one problem, so they try to change it entirely without thinking how it’ll affect the other aspects of their practice. Now overdue patients aren’t getting followed up with because the Scheduling Coordinator is busy with this new thing. Or the hygienist is getting backed up with patients. Etc.

(Related: Solving the Biggest Problem in Your Dental Practice)

The issue here is that you’re not looking at your practice as a whole. Step back and look at your entire practice and the systems you currently have in place – kind of like a chess board. What would happen to the other pieces if you moved one? Would it help all the other pieces, or would it just create another problem? Looking at everything from an outside point of view will help you make strategic decisions that will improve the entire office.

Another note I wanted to mention is that you should make all your decisions based off of facts and/or statistics. Do not go off of “I feel like…” or “It seems like…” or “a lot of patients seem to be…” Go off of what is truly happening – an actual number of whatever it is you’re attempting to qualify in many cases is helpful, because 9 times out of 10, what you feel and what actually is are two completely different things.

4. A few tips on creating a great patient experience

Creating a top-notch experience for your patients will dramatically help with word-of-mouth and patient retention and loyalty. And creating a great experience often consists of simple actions that show you care about them.

One example I like to give to show the differences of customer experience is this: Look at Target. You walk around and everything is very much self-serve. Finding an employee to help you might take more work than it would be to just find it yourself. Now, that’s not necessarily bad – some people like to shop on their own, it’s just one type of experience.

(Related: The Difference Between Lowes and Home Depot and How it Applies to Your Dental Practice)

Now, look at Nordstrom. You walk in and you’re instantly greeted by a friendly employee. They ask you if you need help finding anything specific. Say you’re shopping for new shoes. You’d just tell them what type of shoe you’re looking for, your size and they go find them and bring them out to you. It’s an entirely different experience that makes you feel more cared for.

I like to tell that example because creating a great experience doesn’t have to be anything fancy. It’s just thinking of your patients, their needs and predicting what they’ll need before they need it. Maybe most of your patients are professionals coming in the middle of the day – fast service, free, secure WiFi (in case they need to wait or are coming with their spouse and need to work from a laptop or phone), and coffee can all be simple ways to create a great experience for those people.

And most importantly, just being there for your patients along with prompt communication is key. I don’t like the idea of leaving a patient alone in an operatory. If the doctor steps out, then the assistant can be there with them. And if a patient seems upset or overwhelmed, check with them to see how you can help them. Don’t wait for them to bring it up. This kind of personal touch and caring attitude will go a lot further than gimmicks or fancy technology.

I hope these tips help you implement new procedures in your office! If you’d like to learn more, come to one of our free seminars around the US & Canada or schedule a free demo for our online training platform at www.ddssuccess.com.

If you have any questions at all, feel free to email me at JohnA@mgeonline.com or call us at (800) 640-1140.

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