4 Customer Service Tips for Dentists
Customer service is the new differentiator in dentistry, just as it is in all customer-facing industries.
But how do you achieve good customer service at your practice? It takes high-quality clinical dentistry, of course, but it takes more than that.
1) Clinical Dentistry as the Base
Excellent clinical dentistry serves as the cornerstone of good customer service; it’s the base upon which everything else rests.
This is what you went to dental school for and why you’ve spent years honing your craft: to keep your patients healthy.
Normally, we wouldn’t have to mention this because it’s so obvious, but the changing nature of dentistry is making it more and more difficult for dentists to concentrate on their core mission.
Running a business today is complicated and requires a lot of time behind a desk rather than over a patient. There are only so many hours in the day.
However, we can never forget that our primary purpose is to provide our patients with the best dental care possible.
2) Healthcare Industry Essentials
As healthcare providers, dentists have some additional I’s to dot and T’s to cross when compared to most customer-facing businesses.
Complicated billing structures and compliance issues may not seem like elements in customer service, but they are.
Billing in the healthcare industry is quite complicated. Patients with insurance can have a variety of insurance carriers and a variety of coverage offered by those carriers. Meanwhile, some patients don’t have any insurance at all.
Without members of your practice clarifying billing, your patients may not understand what they’re required to pay for a visit.
It’s important to inform patients upfront what the costs of services will be and what percentages they will owe. It’s also important to properly and promptly bill insurance companies and Medicare.
Compliance is a major concern for all healthcare providers, because it’s a major concern for all patients and it’s also the law.
If your practice isn’t keep your patients’ sensitive information private, then you’re not providing good customer service.
This includes making sure that no one in your practice gives out patient information – including to family members or friends – and making sure that no one leaves information out (on a counter, for example, or in an email) where someone else may see it.
3) In-Office Care
It’s no secret what patients want while they’re in our offices. They want the kind of service that leaves them feeling like they’re important and been well cared-for. They want service that exceeds their expectations.
This occurs when every interaction has been exceptional, causing patients to be amazed at the level of customer service, making them say “WOW” as they leave the office.
Most dental practices provide good customer service, but it is only a “WOW” level experience that motivates patients to come back for more procedures, say positive things about your practice, and refer others.
Patients should be so impressed by the service they receive at every level — the team’s courtesy, the doctor’s excellence, the staff’s overall attentiveness, and the attractiveness of the office — that they could not imagine going elsewhere for their dental needs.
4) Outside Outreach
Establishing solid relationships with patients requires strong communication, not only during visits but also in between visits.
There are numerous ways to communicate with patients these days. Which you choose depends on whether you’re tech-savvy and have time to devote to communication or whether you’re able to hire outside communication help.
High-touch service includes notifications of upcoming appointments, follow-ups after appointments and other communications including yearly reminders and even holiday and birthday well wishes.
The real question is how you go about it. The telephone is the obvious choice, followed by email and then social media. (Actually, that order may depend on your patients’ age, socio-economic status or comfort with technology.)
Automation is an option, particularly for email communications and social media posts, less so for phone calls. (While automation is also an option for telephone communications, it has a less personal touch.)
A Well-Rounded Effort
Patient care is still the primary concern for any dental practice, but customer service is now a big factor in how dentists differentiate themselves.
Good customer service includes high-quality clinical dentistry, billing and compliance services, in-office care and communications between visits.