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Inside Dentistry

March 2007, Volume 3, Issue 3
Published by AEGIS Communications


Value Creation and “WOW” Customer Service

Roger P. Levin, DDS

How do you take your practice to the next level? Do you keep doing the same things and expect different results? Or do you find ways to enhance both the patient experience and the services you provide?

It is clear that certain basic management principles are critical to practice success. These include documented systems, team training, and an expanded service mix, to name a few.

While each of these principles will help a practice achieve greater success, they alone won’t result in a practice reaching its full potential. How do you make that giant leap forward? How do you enhance your services and provide more value to patients?

Understanding the concepts of functionality and value creation can help you enhance customer service and take your practice to the next level.

FUNCTIONALITY

Patient care is the top priority for dental practices. To support this mission, practices develop a set of supporting systems, such as scheduling, case presentation, hygiene, collections, etc. Each system can then be broken down into specific activities. Each activity has a defined function or goal that supports, in some way, the top-level mission of providing excellent patient care.

Function means that a goal is set and an action takes place. To use the example of a patient phone call, the main goals are to pleasantly answer certain questions, gather certain information, create the appointment, and end the call. In other words, be pleasant, carry out the function, and move on. This approach results in a certain level of office efficiency, but often detracts from reaching practice potential because no additional value was created during the patient experience. In most offices, the doctor and staff perform the task, do it well, and move onto the next task. Adding value to the experience is often not part of the process.

VALUE CREATION

Value creation is taking a task’s basic function and enhancing it. For example, a new patient phone call could also include information about practice services, the doctor’s background, or the use of leading-edge technologies.

Because of the hectic pace of most dental offices, the natural tendency of any practice will always be toward functionality rather than value creation. The staff is paid to get a job done. They must schedule the patients, sterilize the instruments, clean the room, escort the patients to the front desk, fill out the charts, and so forth. With the hundreds of practice activities taking place every day, there is little time to think about value creation. That is why it must be incorporated into the practice’s customer service system.

Customer service is an overarching system that affects every aspect of practice operations. Achieving “WOW” customer service requires value creation. By enhancing the basic functions of the practice, you create additional value for patients, exceeding their expectations and achieving superior customer service.

Putting the “WOW” into Customer Service

“WOW” customer service is more than simply being nice to patients. It is about step-by-step systems where each step adds to a comprehensive, positive customer service experience. Every step of the system should be analyzed not only from a technical or functional perspective, but also from a customer-service viewpoint.

For example, scheduling is a technical activity. The goal is to get the patient scheduled with the appropriate amount of time. Many scheduling coordinators view that as their entire job. However, the “job” of the entire dental team is not complete unless the patient is highly satisfied. To accomplish this, the patient must not only be scheduled for the right amount of time, but also at a time that the patient perceives to be convenient. If the systems merely indicate that the patient will be scheduled for the appropriate amount of time to complete treatment, the patient may accept the appointment yet not be satisfied with the quality of service. The patient may end up canceling, as people will rarely inconvenience themselves for an appointment they do not value. A more appropriate approach is to not only schedule patients with the right amount of time but also to create a positive experience when they interact with the scheduling coordinator. Below are some ways to make a patient’s experience a positive one.

  • Use appropriate scripting to determine if the proposed appointment is a convenient time for them.
  • Use the patient’s name at least three times.
  • Give patients a minimum of two choices for appointments. This way, patients can think about which is a better choice, rather than what may be the ideal choice that may not be available.
  • Tell patients to call in advance if they have any questions about the appointment.
  • Thank patients for choosing your practice.
  • Tell patients that you look forward to their next visit.

This “value creation” approach turns the technical aspect of scheduling into a positive customer service experience, while maintaining control of the schedule. To achieve superior customer service, value creation should be applied step-by-step to every system in the practice.

Training

Over time, even an office that has worked hard on value creation may slip back into a functional mode. Getting through the day is always the number-one priority. One way to guard against slipping back into functionality is to provide regular customer service training for the entire dental team. Although it may require an extra meeting occasionally throughout the year, focusing on a value-creation approach to customer service can lead to long-term practice growth.

One of the most effective training methods is scripting. It helps team members provide consistent and accurate information to patients during every interaction—a necessity for achieving “WOW” customer service. Nearly every aspect of the patient experience can be documented and scripted. It may seem difficult and time-consuming to script every type of patient interaction, but this means that each step of a system is analyzed to create additional value. The more information you can give to your team members, the more empowered they will be to provide high-quality customer service to your patients.

CONCLUSION

The concept of value creation can help a practice enhance its core functions. Value creation is the basis of “WOW” customer service. Without a strong commitment to customer service, a practice will have difficulty reaching its full potential. Patients often judge a practice more by their overall customer service experience than the clinical quality of care. Excellent clinical care combined with superior customer service is a formula for long-term success.

For a no-cost analysis of your customer service system, please call 1-888-973-0000 or send your contact information to customerservice@levingroup.com with “Customer Service” in the subject line.

This article does not constitute legal or tax advice, nor is it intended to provide specific investment advice. Please consult your legal, tax, and financial advisors if you have any questions.

About the Author
Roger P. Levin, DDS
CEO, Levin Group, Inc.
Owings Mills,Maryland

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