2.17.12 Issue #519 info@mckenziemgmt.com 1-877-777-6151 Forward This Newsletter

Is Yours a 'Disposable' Practice?
By Sally McKenzie, CEO

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Ours is a disposable society. Undoubtedly, you've heard that comment before and likely observed it many times. We take for granted that the products, the services, even the people that we rely on and interact with can be replaced. Today, it is often cheaper and less hassle to simply buy a new television than repair the old outdated one. Purchase a major appliance, and you are likely to find that at least some retailers will include the extended warranty at no additional charge. Why? Because they acknowledge that at least one major function of the product will likely go bad within a few years. It's now expected.

Evidently, a fair number of businesses are treating the customer as a replaceable commodity as well. Consequently, consumer loyalty is hitting the skids. Less than one-quarter (23%) of consumers felt "very loyal" to their providers, while 24% said they had no loyalty at all, according to a survey of more than 10,000 consumers by Accenture, a management consulting company.

Although we may expect excellent customer service, only rarely do we actually experience it. Many companies are well-versed in “talking-the-talk” of service, but a select few can “walk-the-walk” and actually deliver it. And it is for that reason that the vast majority of consumers see service providers as disposable as well.

The irony is that we've known for years that excellent customer service is the central ingredient in building and maintaining a successful business. So why is it that poor customer service continues to plague businesses driving consumers away? The main reason:  Service providers of all types make promises they are not prepared to consistently deliver.

Dentistry is no different. Practices assert that patients have minimal wait, only to leave them sitting for 30 minutes. They claim to have “friendly and helpful staff.” Yet, they give little attention to what the words “friendly and helpful” mean to the patient. “Cheryl” the hygienist calls everyone “darlin,” as if she were the “Paula Dean” of dentistry. It’s not okay to call me “darlin” or “honey” or “sweety” or any other term of endearment. I’ve even seen situations in which elderly patients were referred to as “Gramps” or “Granny!” Patients want to be treated with dignity and respect. If you want to give them a name, I suggest using the one that belongs to the patient. Don’t mistake pet names for being “friendly.” For most, those words are like nails on a chalkboard.

On the flip side, there’s “Pat” at the front desk who is so busy filing electronic insurance claims she barely has a second to halfheartedly acknowledge the patient at the counter. The patient is uncomfortable because she feels like she must be doing something wrong and looks around for a sign or something that instructs her as to the “proper” way to check in, so as not to disturb Pat.

The dentist wants to improve production by increasing treatment acceptance, yet he doesn't want to consider the fact that his approach is often abrupt and off-putting for patients.

Certainly, it is much easier to expect excellent customer service from others than it is to take the magnifying glass to our own interactions with customers/patients. Yet, time and again, it is shown that those businesses consistently delivering quality customer service fare far better in virtually any economy. Consider a few statistics:

  • Even in a negative economy, customer experience is a high priority for consumers, with 60% often or always paying more for a better experience. Source: Harris Interactive, Customer Experience Impact Report
  • 81% of companies that deliver excellent customer experience are outperforming their competition. Source: Peppers & Rogers Group, 2009 Customer Experience Maturity Monitor

The top three drivers for investing in customer service training are:

1. Improve Customer Retention (42%)
2. Improve Customer Satisfaction (33%)
3. Increase Cross-Selling and Up-Selling (32%)

Source: Aberdeen report - Customer Experience Management: Engaging Loyal Customers to Evangelize Your Brand

Patients simply will not put up with poor service. We live in a culture that is hyper aware of what good customer service should be. Practices, like most service providers, forget that they aren't competing against the dentist down the street. When it comes to customer service expectations, they are competing with Starbucks, Disney, and Nordstrom. When customers don't get what they expect, they will dispose of you and your business just as thoughtlessly as they will dispose of the paper coffee cup.  

Next week, do you have the “Xcellence” Factor?

Want more of me? Click here to visit my blog, The Lighter Side, for more Dental Practice Management info.

Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email her at sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com. Interested in having Sally speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.

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