I’ve got two words for you. CUSTOMER SERVICE. Ok, well, let’s make that three words. EXCEPTIONAL CUSTOMER SERVICE. Just what does “exceptional customer service” look like?
It starts with the phone. Every single phone call should be handled with the highest level of friendliness, warmth, patience and focused on connections. Listen to how your phone is being answered, how callers are being spoke to, and what the end results of the calls are. I’m telling you this – If you have NASTY answering your phone, you are severely crippling your opportunity. If you have BUSY or CLIPPED answering the phone, you are allowing a major roadblock to scheduling opportunity. Make your telephone customer service SO genuine, warm and friendly, that even if someone doesn’t appoint NOW, they will remember how wonderful you made them feel. BLOW EVERY CALLER OUT OF THE WATER. Every single caller and visitor. You know, the guy who delivers your water? Potential patient. The guy who changes your reception area rugs out weekly? Potential patient. The fireman calling to ask for a donation? Potential patient. Rock that customer service like no one has ever seen.
- Be honest. Avoiding answering insurance questions to a potential new patient calling in builds distrust. If they ask, be honest. Honesty goes a long way. So does being nice and listening to the caller. I’m certainly not saying to make the initial conversation all about insurance and finances (we make it about CONNECTING) – but it’s a valid concern among every single patient that deserves answers, if they ask. If you tell a patient SURE we accept your insurance, what they are hearing is “yeah, no co-pays for me! FREE cleanings!” and if this is NOT what is delivered, I can guarantee you that you will have patients leaving (and bad mouthing you) faster than they come in. Your care and dentistry warrant your fees and you should never hide them or cringe when quoting. If you do, you’ll notice a reflection of this in your scheduling and treatment acceptance.
- Greet every single patient and person that enters your doors. With a welcome! Hello! Nice to see you! How are you? Whatever the greeting is – do it! Roll out that welcome mat! Every single person in this world just wants to feel special. Be acknowledged. There is nothing worse than entering a medical/dental facility and have to figure out where to sign in on your own, look around and figure you’ll go have a seat, but wondering if someone realizes your there. This greeting costs you NOTHING but will reward you with everything! New patients? Shake their hands! Welcome them and thank them for choosing your practice! (And have every employee at some time during that visit take 10 seconds to welcome that new patient and introduce themselves! – You want to talk about WOW???)
- Go the extra mile. Always. A new patient not sure about their insurance? Verify it. Follow up with your follow-up. Post op calls. Courtesy calls. Personal thank you calls for referrals. The list goes on and on. Leave no opportunity to go the extra mile unattended.
- If you tell a patient something is going to happen, by gosh make it happen! You don’t ever want to get a call from a patient saying “Well, so & so said they were going to call me to schedule this appointment, and I haven’t heard from anyone” or “I have left 4 messages for so & so to call me regarding my bill and no one has got back to me yet”. I personally have a follow-up list, handwritten, by my computer that ensures that I cannot forget to follow-up. On our call logs, we highlight any one who needs attention and make sure that follow-up is consistent. If you need to follow-up with a patient, put it on your appointment book and whomever accomplishes the task needs to initial it. Whatever systems you have, or need to put in place, DO IT and follow them consistently. Reliability goes a long way with patients knowing that you have them taken care of.
- Proper billing and insurance follow-up. We all know insurance is a drag, but for those of you who do balance bill, keeping your insurance aging report stabilized is not only crucial for your cash flow, it’s also part of great customer service. You haven’t followed up on a claim over 6 months old, and NOW want to bill the patient? Ask me how well this technique flies. It doesn’t. Do not allow patients to walk away because of YOUR lack of systems and follow-up.
- Answer your phones, a minimum of 40-45 hours a week. I’m not saying after hours, because frankly, most practices don’t need to. The majority of patients calling are during normal weekly business hours, unless of course there is an emergency. Do you have any idea how frustrating it is for a working mom to finally get the thought and time to call to schedule appointments for her family, only to be greeted with an informal voicemail letting her know that either you are out to lunch or out for the day? Nothing chafes me more than getting a voicemail stating they are out to lunch. I call to schedule appointments and take care of business on MY lunch hour, and I’m the customer! Stagger lunches, whatever you have to do. (and for the love of God, please quit leaving your weekly hours and lunch hours detailed on your voicemail – people hang up when they have to endure that torture)
- Work your schedule. In coordination with answering your phones, working your schedule allows your patients to be taken care of, in their time frames – it also improves your production at the same time! Let’s say you are out of the office on Friday. Somebody calls to cancel for first thing Monday morning and leaves a message (that won’t be checked until Monday morning). You have 5 people on your priority list that want to get in sooner for their appointments yet no one is going to get that message or be able to reach out to the priority list people in time enough to accommodate the patient needs, or support your production. See where I’m going with this?? Show me a phone that is answered minimum of 40-45 hours a week along with a scheduled worked in coordination with that and I’ll show you a pretty banging schedule.
- Don’t be afraid to have charity in your heart. Someone isn’t financially prepared to pay for much-needed x-rays today? Comp them. Let them know you aren’t going to charge them today for the x-rays, but you feel so strongly about their oral health care that with their permission you are going to do them today at no cost. I’m not saying to do this every day, or for every patient that has financial concerns. I’m just saying there is always room for charity and good deeds in this world, and that gesture of kindness will come back to you ten-fold.
There is opportunity in every single second of every single day to provide over the top customer service. How many of these opportunities are you tapping in to?
Let’s face it. To a regular patient walking down the street, a dentist is a dentist and a filling is a filling. The ONE thing that will ALWAYS set you apart from anyone else, is your level of patient connection and care.
Exceptional customer service is the “feel-good” that you want to impress upon anyone who has contact with your practice. People rarely remember what you say, but they always remember how you made them feel.
Here’s to a fabulous week of fabulous patient care – Make this your new normal and watch what happens to your schedule, production, employee morale and job satisfaction!