Practice Management |6 min read

Three Steps to All-Star Customer Service

Real World Insights from AADOM Authors - Debbie Jones

Are you creating unforgettable customer service in your dental practice? Does your practice communicate the essence of the Disney lyrics “Be our Guest, Be our Guest, Put our Service to the Test”?

It’s never been more important to develop great customer service. With COVID-19, revenues are down, people are impatient, and demand a lot from customer service professions such as dentistry. The Health Policy Institute in 2021 reported that dentists experienced a 17.9 percent drop in net income after COVID. Eighty-eight percent of those surveyed in 2022 said, “Customers have higher expectations than in the past.” What would happen if you upped your customer service game in your dental practice?

Here’s what some top customer service industry leaders have to say.

“My business grew on my understanding that customers are always looking for somebody who is dependable and polite and will take care of them.”
Truett Cathy – Chick-fil-A

“We are at our best when creating enduring relationships and personal connections…It’s really about human connection.”
Howard Schultz – Starbucks

“It is our relentless commitment to personal service that becomes the foundation for truly unforgettable experiences for our guests.”
Martin Rinck – Hilton

Consider what might happen if you treated your patients like guests at a luxury hotel.

Try implementing these three steps of must-do customer services in your office:

1. A Warm and Sincere Greeting

In your dental practice, potential new patients get a feel for your practice before they ever step foot in your office. Are they receiving positive vibes from these experiences? Many of our referrals come from raving fans within the practice. Your new patients are probably looking for you online. Are you maximizing your online presence by asking your loyal patients for reviews? Is your website attractive to potential patients? What about your social media presence?

“First impressions” are created before the new patient makes contact with your practice and are critically important, especially in areas of the country that are oversaturated with dentists. If they like what they have heard and seen, they might give you a call.

Do you have an outstanding team member who can take a new patient call for up to thirty minutes to genuinely connect? If you’re using online scheduling, what can you do to reach out on a more personal level? A warm and sincere first phone call is a great way to begin developing a long-term relationship.

2. Addressing by Name and Anticipating Needs

Jot down the new patient’s name on an intake form, easily accessed on every phone. While on your Very Important Phone call, repeat their name periodically throughout your conversation. Ask for their preferred name, and, if their name is not familiar or is difficult to pronounce, enter it into your software phonetically. We have a patient named Cari, who likes it pronounced “Car-eee.”

Do you have new patient appointments within seven days or less? If not, begin adding new patient blocks to your schedule. New patients have little allegiance to you and likely will go to a dentist down the road if they can get in sooner. Consider sending a new patient a “Welcome” note. A more recent trend is to send a voicemail drop, letting the patient know you are looking forward to meeting them. Through some patient communication software, you can prerecord a message to send from the dentist, hygienist, or another team member. The voicemail is “dropped” into the patient’s messages.

During the morning huddle, share with the team anything that will help others connect with the patient – what brought them in, who referred them, any personal information, concerns, special dental comfort needs, and so on to help develop rapport and trust. For ease, use an autonote in your software, and chart the new patient information for all team members to be able to read — if you would like my new patient autonote template, please send me an email requesting it. I am happy to share.

When the patient arrives for their appointment, greet them with enthusiasm and excitement and always introduce yourself. Be sincere and welcome them as guests in your dental home. Thank them for filling out any forms online or in the office. If you were not the person who took their call, review your notes from the morning huddle or read the notes in the chart before they arrive so that you can engage with them. Anticipating our patient’s needs and calling them by name help to create connections.

3. A Fond Farewell

Try sending the patient off with a great impression of the practice when they leave. Encourage your back-office team to give an awesome handoff using the patient’s name, sharing how well the patient did, what services were completed, what treatment is being recommended, and how much time will be needed. Encourage the back-office team to ask the patient, “May I answer any questions you may have?” This communicates to the patient that it is acceptable to ask, without putting them on the spot. Using the patient’s name, the assistant or hygienist can offer a warm goodbye, letting them know what a pleasure it has been.

During the final check-out with the admin team, ask the patient how their appointment went, and find out if there was anything that could have made it better. If so, do it! At check out, repeat the treatment and time needed, quote fees, explain and sign the treatment plan and financial arrangements, and offer to schedule future appointments. Collect any patient portion due at that time and give a warm goodbye. With so many other options for dental care, consider sending a thank you note after their first visit, placing a phone call, or leaving a voicemail drop thanking the patient for choosing your practice.

Competition in dentistry is great, and patient expectations are at an all-time high. It is just as important to provide an all-star customer service experience for not only your new patients but also for all your patients. If you want your dental practice to be set apart from all the rest, then become a top leader in customer service.

The Takeaway

By implementing these three steps of service in your practice or teachings from other customer service leaders, you can begin to build a culture of outstanding customer care. How awesome would it be if every patient becomes a “Raving Fan” because they are not just satisfied with the service your practice provides, but they are, “So overwhelmed and floored by the customer service that they can’t stop telling everyone about it.”

In our practice, we asked each team member to read, “Raving Fans” by Ken Blanchard and offered a small financial incentive if they submitted a one-to-two-paragraph response of how they would implement customer service in their role in the practice. We then followed up with a team meeting led by the dentist where we shared our ideas.

I would love to hear what you are doing in your practice to deliver all-star customer service. Please send me an email!

We may be in the business of dentistry, but Horst Schulze said it perfectly, “The key product we deliver is service to human beings.”

About the Author

Headshot of Debbie Jones, MAADOM

Debbie Jones, RN MN, MAADOM is the Practice Administrator for her husband Mike Jones’ General Dental Practice in Newport Beach, CA. She joined him because they thought it would be a good idea for her to help cover for the Admin Team. Little did she know that her career would transition to full-time dental administration.

Debbie is a lifetime AADOM member, received her AADOM Fellowship, (FAADOM) in 2021 and just last month received her Mastership, (MAADOM), as part of the 2022 class. She loves learning and has attended every conference since 2018 when she joined AADOM.

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