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7.11.08 Issue #331 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Seven Strategies For Success - Part Two
The "Little Things" Are Huge
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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Oftentimes it’s the little things that make all the difference. Our opinions of each other are shaped by them. Our perceptions of the products and services we purchase are influenced by them. And our views of the people who are selling or delivering them are directly affected by them. What are they? They are those seemingly intangible influences that give us a sense or feeling that this business or that office is a quality operation, that those people are truly a caring team or a trustworthy group. It’s the little things that are the “value added” bonus that reinforces what patients want to believe.

They are already convinced that you’re well trained and qualified to perform dentistry. What they don’t know and what you need to repeatedly show them is what separates you from every other dentist in your area and why you are worth their investment of time and money.

Patient opinions and perceptions are shaped by multiple variables, many of which tend to be subtle and vague. Often it’s the intangibles, the seemingly insignificant little details that have a powerful impact on your success.

Last week I shared with you four of the Seven Subtle Strategies for Success. This week, I’ll share three more “little things” that can make a big difference in every practice.

#5 Follow-Up
You’ve heard this before, but I’m going to say it again. Make follow-up phone calls to your patients the evening after more invasive procedures to demonstrate to them that you care about how they are doing. This is the single most important “little thing” that you can do and it will have a huge impact on how patients feel about you and your practice. I guarantee it.

#6 Conduct Regular Attitude Inventories
Evaluate your staff’s routine communication with patients. If necessary, train them to ensure that friendly people are prepared and ready to answer the phone with smiles on their faces and in their voices. Current and prospective patients want to feel that the entire staff cares, not just the doctor.

Pay attention to routine communications that can inadvertently send prospective patients down the street. For example, a new patient  who calls to schedule an appointment and is greeted with a conversation like, “Do you have insurance? No? Let me tell you about our financial policy,” immediately feels unwelcome and defensive. Educate patients first on the excellence of the doctor and team. Get into the rules and regulations later.

Acknowledge patients when they walk in the door. Under no circumstances should a patient ever be ignored. Greet them with a smile and a sincere “Welcome to Dr. Keith’s practice, Mrs. Jones. We appreciate that you chose this office,” or, “Good to see you again, Mr. Brown. How are the kids?”

#7 Stick with Straight Talk
…particularly when it affects patients’ busy schedules. The reality is that there are times when you are running behind, when things aren’t going as expected, etc. If the doctor or hygienist is significantly delayed—more than 20 minutes—make some effort to let patients know before they leave home or the office. They will appreciate your efforts and, if they have to wait a little longer one day, they will already know before they walk in your door. They will appreciate the fact that you cared enough to let them know.

Provide complete information. Patients expect to be able to ask questions and receive clear answers. They want to understand the treatment options that are available to them and why you are recommending a particular course of treatment. Education and information are keys to helping patients feel that they are making informed decisions. Make use of educational materials and websites when presenting your case, and train your entire team to answer basic questions about dental procedures. It will reinforce patient confidence in not only the doctor but also your whole staff.

Pay attention to the little things that influence how patients perceive your total practice. Step back and evaluate your office experience from a patient’s standpoint. What are the subtle differences that give patients reasons to return rather than going to the office across the street? Use my Seven Subtle Strategies for Success as a starting point for examining what you can do to distinguish your own practice from the others.

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