Do You Have Likeability?
You’re good at what you do, but do people like you? More importantly, do they like those you’ve surrounded yourself with - namely your staff. It’s known as the “likeability factor.” Why does it matter? It matters because more and more, customers choose products, services, and business based on whether they like those that are selling them. Certainly, quality is important, but if two businesses are offering a similar product of perceived equal value, the business with the higher likability factor will enjoy more sales.
Consider “Dr. Barnes.” He is a very likable individual. His patients enjoy his sense of humor, his compassion, his kindness. He’s actively involved in his community, and known for his many charitable endeavors. Dr. Barnes hired “Gail the Business Coordinator” about 12 months ago. He’s been pleased with her organizational skills. She’s tenacious; give her a job and she gets it done. He appreciates that she provides him with necessary reports, keeps him informed, and runs his schedule like a drill sergeant. Dr. Barnes believes that she’s a good balance for him because he readily acknowledges that he’s a bit “scattered.”
The problem: Patients dislike Gail. She is the antithesis of Dr. Barnes. He’s a big teddy bear. She blew in on the polar vortex and seems cold to the bone. He wants to know how you are doing, she wants you to get to the point. He has time to chat, she’s always short on time. For the most part, existing patients have come to accept that they simply must tolerate Gail. For those less-than-satisfied patients, Gail made it easier to leave. While no practice wants to lose patients, in this case, the bigger concern here is the steady drop in new patients.
When prospective patients call the office, Gail is there to “greet” them. She is not rude, but she’s not friendly. Gail is direct and to the point. She doesn’t really like small talk because she has a list of tasks that must get done today, thus running through the new patient scheduling protocol needs to be wrapped up promptly. Those callers better have their information handy; Gail has work to do.
Gail is so focused on tasks, she’s oblivious to the fact that central to the business of dentistry is the business of people - caring for them and caring about them. Patients don’t want a transaction. They want a relationship. Gail is more comfortable with transactions. That’s part of the reason why Dr. Barnes believes she is good for his practice. She’s not. She could be, but at this point, she is completely unaware of how her natural demeanor is driving away patients. She’s not alone.
Most dentists are blissfully unaware of the patients’ experience outside of the confines of the dentist’s direct care. Consequently, they routinely make incorrect assumptions about their patients’ satisfaction with the practice and the staff. The truth is that what people will say to your face and what they actually think and do can be very different. You need to understand how patients, particularly new patients, view your practice.
Time and again, dentists call me asking what they can do to get more new patients. It never occurs to them that the new patients do call; they may schedule an initial visit, but they don’t keep the appointment for a number of reasons. If new patients are not in your chair, they are in someone else’s, and there’s likely a very good reason - perhaps several - as to why. More marketing and advertising might give you a temporary boost, but I can virtually guarantee you’ll be facing the same shortfall a couple of months down the road. You need to discover the “why” behind the loss.
There are no computer reports in your practice software to tell you how many prospective patients are driven away at the first phone call. Are your new patient policies so regimented they are not worth the trouble? Are the staff unaccommodating? Do they unknowingly give the impression that you are too busy for new patients? It simply doesn’t cross your mind that there is a problem, until you feel the financial impact. Yet your livelihood and your practice depend on knowing the why behind the numbers.
Next week, understanding the patient’s perspective.
For more information on this topic, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
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