Learn how your dental office customer service skills can make your practice shine
Have you looked at any reviews online recently? It’s almost always customer service that either wins a five-star review or gains a two-star rating. Restaurants with perfectly-cooked food get knocked for poor service. Antique shops get five stars because reviewers love the effort the staff took to help them. And let’s be honest, is one antique shop really that much different than another?
How does your dental office customer service measure up?
When people recommend their dentist to a friend, what do they say? Do they rave about the fantastic anesthetic? Do your patients talk about you because your tools are state of the art? Probably not.
Recommendations are based on great service – an organized front office, a timely appointment, a friendly staff, or even the funny picture on the ceiling above the chair. We even know of one pediatric dentist who has vines and monkeys hanging from the ceiling, and her patients adore her.
In fact, dental office customer service can be the single most important skill in differentiating your practice from any other dental office with similar offerings and skills. Customer service is a great equalizer, too. No matter how great or how lacking your customer treatment is, it can always improve.
Here are seven dental office customer service ideas adapted from the professionals in the service industry who know first hand how much great service means.
Dental office customer service techniques
1. First impressions
The way you greet your patients means everything. Your first contact with a patient, whether in person, on the phone, or through an online appointment scheduler, will set the tone for your patient’s entire experience.
What can you do to make the greeting memorable? Use their name whenever speaking with them. Small considerations like that will make a world of difference to your patients.
2. The waiting room
Remember those online reviews? Guess what else comes up frequently? Cleanliness. You won’t see it in every review, but it only takes one or two customers complaining about sticky side tables to begin the downward slope of reviews.
Sure, you sanitize your tools. Everyone wears gloves, and the hygienist is impeccable. That’s all great, but if the first thing your patients see when they walk in is a dusty plastic houseplant and tattered magazines, that’s what sticks. Keep the waiting room clean and your patients will notice.
3. Provide distractions
Despite your amazing sense of humor and gracious bedside manner, people still get nervous when they come to see you. Dentistry has come a long way in the past few decades, but unfortunately, the ghost of procedures past still haunt the present.
Placing a water cooler in the waiting room gives patients a way to alter their focus. Plus, sipping a cup of water is certainly preferable than sipping a can of sugary soda. If you want to kick it up a notch, you could even hand patients a cup of water when they check in.
It may not seem like a big deal, but an organized, efficient appointment is one of the best dental office customer service techniques around. If your patients can walk in, pay their copay, and get in and out of your office in a reasonable time, they won’t forget it. No one wants to sit in a waiting room for 45 minutes.
Keep your schedule on time, and your patients will notice. In fact, they may just rave about how efficiently your practice runs.
Billing is the life and breath of any dental practice. It is also the life and breath of good (or bad) dental practice customer service. No one likes getting bills, but they should never be a surprise. One surprise bill has the potential to ruin all the good will you’ve built up with a patient.
Worse, arguing with a patient over a billing mistake – or making it challenging to correct – is a pretty sure-fire way to lose that patient. We all make mistakes, so when that billing error does eventually happen, do all you can to take care of it for your customer. After all, the more effort they have to put into correcting a bill, the more effort they’ll put into looking for a new dental practice.
6. Take notes
What do your patient notes look like? You probably have a section for health information, a treatment plan, any past or future areas of concern, and a history of previous treatments. Do you know anything else about your patient? If a stranger looked at your patients’ charts (HIPPA issues aside) would they know anything about Dante’s life except where he works and the condition of his teeth?
High-end restaurants keep notes on their guests. When Sheila sits down, her waitstaff knows she loves French wine, and may greet her with a complimentary glass of their latest find from Alsace. That is part of the “wow” factor, and while you may not be offering unique French wines, it is a nice touch when you can learn (and take note of) something new about patients when you see them.
When you remember (or note) seemingly small things like their children’s names or that they went to a wedding in the Bahamas, you are offering a touch of attention and consideration lacking in so many of our daily encounters.
7. Happy staff, happy patients
Dental office customer service isn’t just about the patients. The customer experience starts when we treat our colleagues with care and respect. A happy office creates happy patients. Patients notice when everyone at the dental office is cordial and engaging with each other. That energy is the cornerstone of a positive patient experience. Plus, it’s just nice to work with nice people.
What customer service tips would you include for a dental practice? Let’s continue the conversation in the comments.