Stepping up your customer service
Richard Scarborough talks to Ashley Latter about the impact of coronavirus on the demands and needs of patients, and the increasing importance of customer service.
RS: Is good customer service now more important than ever before?
AL: Yes, 100 per cent. The reason being that we are going into a recession, which will probably be one of the deepest ones we’ve ever had. I’m old enough to have already gone through four and I have a feeling this one might last a while as well.
When things are tough and times are challenging, I think people become more demanding. They’re having to work a lot harder; they may have a cut in income or their business might not be doing as well as it should. So, if they are going to be spending their money, they want to make sure that they’re having an experience that’s really positive and memorable, so they can say, ‘Well, a difficult week, but Saturday night we had a really nice time’, for example.
Without a shadow of a doubt, developing a world-class customer culture within your dental practice is absolutely essential, more than ever before. Particularly as we are dealing with a challenging economy.
RS: What does customer service look like in a post-lockdown world?
AL: I think it’s doing something that the patient didn’t expect. It may be something like a handwritten thank you card if they go ahead with treatment, join your practice or refer another patient to you.
It’s something that they will not only be pleasantly surprised by and remember, but it will also encourage them to talk to their friends and relatives about what you have done.
That’s what you want your clients to do, and that can only be good for your business.
Also, and this might sound like silly advice, but actually do what you said you’re going to do or ‘turn up when you said you were going to’. You would be amazed how important it actually is to your patient/customer.
RS: What key things do you think practices could be doing to make sure that they’re delivering excellent customer service?
AL: I’ll give you an example of something that happened to me. I’m looking at possibly changing my CRM system. A company was recommended to me, I contacted them and we arranged a Zoom consultation. So far, so good.
The consultation started and they did a bit of an introduction, and within one minute, the company representative says, “So tell me Mr Latter, what do you do for a living, what is your business?” And I said to them, “Well, have you been to my website to have a look?” And she said, “No, I haven’t. So, tell me a bit about what you do.”
Within two minutes, I’d more or less decided that they were not the company for me because if you want to sell me a CRM system that’s going to help my marketing and my business, but you have not got a clue what I do before you’ve even jumped on the call, then you really have lost it.
Sometimes it comes down to just doing the basics so well that it creates an amazing, positive experience. If that conversation had started with “Hi, Mr Latter, I had a quick look at your website. I noticed that you do training for dentists. How did you get involved with that? You’ve written three books, I’ve never come across anyone like you that caters to this market before.” Then she’s probably got me, because she’s made the experience incredible.
If you’ve got a Zoom consultation with a patient and your receptionist has already noted half a dozen details about them, it’s worthwhile mentioning that at the start of the call. For example, “Oh, I was chatting to Jenny and she mentioned you’re getting married next year, how are the arrangements going, where are you getting married?” That will go a long way to building rapport, winning that patient over and making them feel really good about being under your care.
If you have patients coming to see you who are nervous, you could produce a short video – it doesn’t need to be longer than 90 seconds – that you could send to them in advance to show what is going to happen when they come in. You can even make it humorous. One of my clients in St Annes has produced this 90 second video, and it was really funny. Doing something like that, which the client didn’t expect, will definitely stand you in good stead.
RS: Is there anything that practices could be offering now in terms of extra services?
AL: Although we’re heading into a recession, there’s a bit of a miniboom at the moment with clients who want Invisalign, orthodontic treatments and implants.
It’s important to not only offer these treatments but also additional non-clinical services that make it easier for them to access them as
well. For example, having a patient finance facility is certainly going to be a must. One of my clients has told me that they processed more patient finance applications in the six weeks since reopening after lockdown than in six months last year.
Also, consider your opening hours. There’s going to be a big demand for six-day – possibly seven-day – dentistry, or maybe late nights, so you might need to think about split shifts or bringing in additional dentists to meet demand and keep your patients satisfied.