Consumer Analysis - How Would Your Practice Stack Up?
It’s all about relationships. You’ve likely heard that line many times. No matter what the profession, relationships are important. But in dentistry, they are critical. Relationships build or break the practice. The relationships you establish with your patients as you are addressing their oral health care needs and wants can last a lifetime. Once they are in the practice, these patients get to know you and your team. They appreciate what you have to offer.
But what about the individuals who are considering your practice, but haven’t made their first appointment yet and have no established relationship? They are looking at their dental options from a consumer’s point of view. And like it or not, they are judging your practice against others and basing that judgment on criteria you may not feel is fair.
As most of us in the business of providing a service know, consumers have very high expectations. If you had to step back and take a good hard look at your practice from the consumer’s point of view, what would you discover?
Conduct a “Consumer Analysis” of your practice and compare it to two other practices that you are competing with for patients. Develop a series of criteria and score your practice - or ask a friend or relative to score your practice - against the others. Use a scale of 1-5 with 1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest. Then step back and honestly consider how you stack up in the consumers’ minds, starting with convenience.
How conveniently located is your practice compared to your competitors? Is parking a problem, is your practice difficult to find, are their stairs patients have to climb? Do you offer convenient appointment times to accommodate busy schedules? Can new patients get an appointment within two weeks, or is the business staff telling them they’ll have to wait months? New patients will not wait two, four, six months for an appointment. If you don’t make room for them in your schedule promptly, you don’t want them in your practice.
What kind of a first impression does your building make? Will prospective patients say to themselves “That looks like a nice office,” or will they say “I wouldn’t want my car parked in that lot.”
If a prospective patient calls your office, what impression will your practice make? Is the person answering the phone helpful, or does the caller feel like they are just another interruption? Does the front office ask the caller if they can be put on hold, or are they just clicked into silence? Are they prepared to answer key questions that prospective patients are likely to have? Does the person answering the phone have a welcoming or annoyed tone to their voice?
Never forget that the employee answering the phone in your office represents the entire team. And in the first few seconds, the caller is making judgments about the quality of your care and the helpfulness of your staff. It may not be fair, but it’s reality. If you have even a glimmer of doubt about the impression your practice makes with callers, ask a couple of friends to pose as prospective patients and give you feedback on their telephone experience.
Flaunt your expertise. Brag about each other. You simply cannot overemphasize the expertise of the doctor and the team. Take every opportunity to convey the message of excellence and quality. If a patient asks a team member if the doctor is good at a particular procedure, answer with an emphatic “Yes! S/he is the best.”
The new patient packet and the practice website should give information about the entire team’s training and experience, particularly the doctor’s. Routinely, inform patients about continuing education classes staff have participated in. This is as simple as placing an 8x10 frame at the reception counter that highlights the staff member’s accomplishment. For example, “Please join us in congratulating Dr. Jones for her recent certification from the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry.”
Name your price. Make it easy for patients to accept treatment and pay for that treatment. Provide clear financing options that are both practice friendly and patient friendly. Partner with a patient financing company, such as CareCredit. These firms provide excellent financing options that benefit both doctor and patient. Pay attention to the seemingly insignificant details. They have a huge impact on whether the consumer/potential patient makes an appointment with you, or with the dentist down the street.
Want more of me? Click here to visit my blog, The Lighter Side, for more Dental Practice Management info.
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