You might think that an incredible dental patient experience revolves around their level of healthcare. In truth, according to a recent study by Becker Hospital Review, the #1 reason most dental patients cite for being unsatisfied with their healthcare is the customer service.
Recently Dental Staffing did a promotional project in Southern Oregon. We went into all the dental practices with a gift for the Office Manager and upon approaching the front desk, no one even looked up. Two of the administrative staff were deep in conversation and when they were through, they still didn’t look up asking: “are you checking in?”
Naturally having been in Dentistry for almost 45 years, I wanted to say something rather sarcastic, however I bit my tongue and put a huge smile on my face. I reported “No, I’m not a patient (and in my head I said ‘had I been a patient, I’d be leaving about now’) and when I presented my gift over the counter, she finally looked up. I believe this situation speaks for itself!
You can be a great Dentist and I mean a great Dentist, but what counts most for patients is the level of customer service from the front of the office to the back and to the front again. So, in order to create a truly incredible experience that your patients come back for time and time again, you’ll need to venture beyond the chair and put these checklist items into place for patient satisfaction success.
Invest in An Online Appointment Scheduling Platform
Most patients state that they want to be able to schedule their appointments online. Patients are more likely to schedule appointments when they have an online scheduling option, and the ease of making an appointment is a great option towards increasing their patient experience.
While new tools and software can be a challenge to launch, it will likely save you time and money in the long run. Online appointment scheduling systems have been proven to not only increase appointment volume, but also reduce no-shows.
You’ll also create greater customer satisfaction by allowing your patients to fill out the necessary paperwork in the same online platform, prior to their appointment. This will decrease the amount of time they spend in your reception area and make it easier for you to review insurance information in advance, track required forms in your system and be ready for their visit.
Hire Really Great Dental Receptionists and Office Managers
When a patient calls your office and speaks with someone on the other end who is courteous, professional and knowledgeable, it drastically increases patient satisfaction. Having a Dental Office Manager who is personable and flexible with patients (and leads a team that exemplifies those qualities), will create an environment that helps patients feel comfortable. It not only goes a long way to allaying the usual dental anxiety most patients feel, but it creates a positive office atmosphere!
Conversely, a negative office environment can be felt by the patients, whether we think they can or not. A positive Dental Office Manager who works on behalf of the patients and the staff creates a positive energy that everyone can feel.
Focus on Punctuality
One of the biggest challenges of running a Dental Practice is staying on schedule. Unlike medical practices, patients expect Dentists and Dental Hygienists to run on-time. Every member of the Dental Team needs to be cognizant of the schedule and it’s everyone’s responsibility to communicate if the patient is late or if procedures are running longer than usual.
One statistic stated that for every 5 minutes a dental patient sits in the reception area, their customer satisfaction level drops. Develop a realistic schedule for each of your Dental Professionals and systems for unforeseen problems. Communicate with patients who are waiting and don’t be afraid to apologize when treatment runs longer than scheduled.
One way to allay the stress of the waiting patient is to thank them for their patience. Tell them this: “if we were to run into something unforeseen with your treatment, we’d work until the issue was resolved as well, irrespective of the schedule.” Having a plan in place decreases stress levels and increases patient satisfaction.
Make the “Shot” Worth It!
When a patient experiences a particularly difficult Dental procedure, think about developing a system to give them a call that night. The best results (in my opinion) is when the Dentist makes the call. However, in knowing we all have families and obligations, a system involving the entire Dental Team can get extremely good results.
I am always amazed at the patient’s response when we call them that night to check and see how they’re doing. They always exude gratitude and I know they tell others about how well they are cared for, because new patients that come from these “word-of-mouth” referrals tell us!
Send A Follow-Up Patient Survey
The only way to truly know if your customer service efforts are really working is to ask your patients! Create a way to interact with your patients and request a review. There are several ways this could be done:
- You could send a short email survey a few days after their appointment.
- A scheduled phone call from your Dental Office team is very personable and allows any grievances to be reported privately.
- You could offer a discount promotion for every dental patient that fills out an online review. Most people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, so this is not only a great way to measure your success in creating an incredible dental experience, it’s also free advertising for you!
- For the patient who wants to express a grievance, offer an anonymous method to let the Dental Team know what happened and how to avoid it in the future.
By making the process of visiting your office as pleasant, easy and pain-free as possible, you will dramatically increase your patient satisfaction. And patient satisfaction leads to practice growth; a practice that thrives and benefits everyone on your Dental Office team.
“Consistently amazing customer service
doesn’t happen by accident.
It happens on purpose.”
Dr. Deborah Marynak is the owner of DentalStaffing.org, a dentist with over 30 years experience, and is committed to helping Dental Professionals find the right fit for both employees and employers. She also works with Dental Offices to help them streamline their clinical systems and teach Dental Teams how to effectively document to avoid risk.