Customer Service – Keeping Focused in Tough Times

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Practice Plan’s Former Technical Director Graham Penfold shares what he thinks are some of the most important areas to keep your practice at its best during tough times.

Many businesses are having a tough time battling through the recession. So, in times like these, there are three key areas to focus on – exceptional customer service, choice and information.

Exceptional customer service is first on the list and means aiming for the much talked of ‘WOW’ factor. Delivering this will mean your patients feel so special when visiting your practice that they cannot possibly think of leaving, or even postponing treatment because they get such exceptional value for money. Achieving this has to be part of a big team effort involving all the staff in the practice, as one rogue member can spoil the whole show; I’m sure we have all experienced that from time to time!

Next is patient choice. This can range from treatment types and funding options, right through to appointment times and availability. If finances are tight for patients then treatment take-up can slow down. Offering choice on this front is about making treatment more affordable and offering alternative treatments can also be an option. For example, if a crown is refused, due to cost then a large filling may be offered instead. Along with this, offering finance can help the patient say yes to a treatment plan; getting to some kind of ‘yes’ is the important thing.  Other options may lie in opening earlier in the morning or later into the evening to ensure patient attendance;  increasingly more employers are refusing patients to book dental appointments during working hours.

The final area is information, not only for both new and existing patients, but also for the whole practice team. For new patients it could be a welcome pack with information about the practice, how it operates and the range of services available. You might consider a patient satisfaction survey for existing patients to seek their views on the practice and then, if you make changes because of their feedback, you can tell them about it in a newsletter.

For the practice team, you could set up a number of performance measures to monitor key business areas in the practice. This could include a system to identify what prompted new patients to the practice; personal recommendation, website, etc, and also one to check whether appointment books are becoming busier, quieter or remaining stable. There are many more Key Performance Indicators that you could use and they all help check the health of the business and aid you to focus on the most critically important tasks to remain successful.

In challenging times, excellent customer service, underpinned by good clear choices and intelligent information and systems are all valuable tools for toughing it out.

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