Category Archives: Patient Loyalty Tips

The Magic of Apple Employee Training

We often hear about how brilliant Steve Jobs was, and what a good job Apple does of marketing its products.  What I want to talk about is their employee training in retail stores, and how it can be applied to any small service business.  (And if you don’t think you’re in retail health care, take some time and read Chapter 3 of my book—it should convince you.)

As you may have noticed, Apple stores are the busiest stores in the mall.  For the statistic-minded, retail stores in malls average sales of $341 per square foot per year.  The top 20 retailers average $787.  Apple stores average $6,200!!  More than twice the next highest retailer, Tiffany & Co., which does $3,000 per square foot.*  And this is just what is sold in the Apple stores, not online.

So, now that I have your attention, here’s an acronym Apple uses in its employee training for the retail stores:

Approach customers with a warm, personalized greeting;

Probe politely to understand all the customer’s needs;

Present a solution for the customer to take home that day;

Listen for and resolve any issues or concerns;

End with a fond farewell and an invitation to return.

Do you see how these might apply to your practice?  I’m thinking they all do.  A warm, friendly greeting by everyone in the office who encounters the patient?  Check.  Probing politely to find out what their dental needs and desires are? Roger that.  Presenting a treatment solution that can be started and ideally completed that day?  Sounds ideal.  Listen for issues they may have, concerns about cost, treatment complexity, time involved, fears or misgivings they may have?  Pathway to success. And finally, ending with fond farewell AND an invitation to return or, better yet, an appointment already scheduled, and expressing how you’re looking forward to seeing them at that time.

In reality, it isn’t magic.  It’s just what we all want, and Apple is just smart enough to do it in a genuine and consistent way.

*Source: RetailSails Company Data 2012

Bring Online Reviews to Your Daily Huddle

I just had a great conversation with Anastasia Turchetta, who is a dental speaker and hygienist, (she’ll be speaking at TBSE this year) and I was showing her our new product, Reputation Monitor.  She immediately had a suggestion which I thought was great, which was to use it in the morning huddle and read the previous day’s reviews to the team.  This serves many purposes.  If there was as negative review, then the team can discuss what went wrong and how to correct it going forward. (It also should be someone’s job to respond to the negative review, but that’s not for the huddle.)  If you had positive reviews, this lets the team know that they are doing a great job and that people are noticing, and gets everyone excited about the day.

It also has the benefit of reminding team members that they are being reviewed, like it or not.  And so that should make them step up their game, and be conscientious, considerate and courteous throughout the day.  And it keeps the idea in mind that they should request that the patients do reviews for the practice, and that they can even do it in the office on their smartphone.  Or the patient could be encouraged to check in on Facebook and post a comment.

Reputation Monitor is a great tool for showing every comment that is being posted about the practice, whether it’s in social media like Facebook or an online review on Yelp or Google.  And this is a terrific way to take advantage of that information.  Thanks, Anastasia!

The Junior Mints Principle

My wife is originally from Thailand, so when we visit there we bring a suitcase full of American items for her friends and family, such as Sonicare toothbrushes, Tide-to-Go, Doritos, and various other bizarre items.  My sister-in-law in particular loves Junior Mints, so we bring several boxes over, as they are not available in Bangkok.  One year, I decided to give her a real treat and brought her some expensive Ghiradelli Chocolates with mint, just so she could experience the next level of quality and flavor.  I gave them to her and she was polite and grateful.  The next year, before we went over, she told my wife, “Just bring Junior Mints this time.”

How often do we do that–automatically assume someone wants a first-class experience when their tastes don’t run that way?  It’s important to keep in mind that many patients don’t need premium-level dentistry. They don’t need a perfect smile.  Some of them have a smile that we can barely look at, but they don’t really care.  As long as they can chew their food, they’re fine.

And that has to be all right. Obviously you want to keep your patients informed on treatment that is going to preserve and protect their dentition, but not everyone wants veneers or cares how white their teeth are.  They aren’t going to die if they’re teeth aren’t perfect.  Often we try to impose our own sensibilities on other people, or believe that everyone wants the best of everything. One of the big mistakes people and businesses make in marketing is assuming that everyone is like them.  It’s almost never true. A whole lot of people are content with average, are comfortable with it, and maybe even prefer it.  They’re still going to need restorative dentistry as they age, but they need to know that you’re okay doing the minimum, not the maximum.

(As an aside, let me just say that your smile, and your team’s, should be PERFECT!)

Take the time to really listen to your patients. Find out what they want, make sure they always at least get what they need, and you’ll have a great practice serving a wide range of people.

Also, I believe Junior Mints outsells Ghiradelli Chocolate Mints by about 1000 to one.

Hot Off the Presses–my 4th Edition

The latest edition of my book, “Everything Is Marketing” was just released today.  It has a lot more information on the internet world, from what type of website to have, to dealing with reviews, Google Places, Facebook and more.

For my readers I’m doing a special offer.  You can get the book at the link on this page using the discount code “fred joyal” (with the space and not the quotation marks) and the book is $10 shipped, and the audiobook is $20.  The book is also available on Amazon and Nook. (I’m working on the iBook and Audible editions–whew!)

Howard Farran of Dentaltown fame says, “This book is a must-read for every dentist and everyone on the team.  Fred shows dentists how to think about their business from a marketing standpoint, and offers dozens of ways to put that knowledge to practical use.”  Thanks, Howard!

If you already have my book, the most critical change is in the online chapter, and I’m happy to send you that chapter for free.  Just email me at and ask for Chapter 23,  and I’ll send you a word doc.

Thanks to all my supporters out there, and I hope this book and blog continue to help dentists thrive and enjoy every practice day!

The Last Thing Your Patient Hears

Many times in life, great experiences are completely erased by what occurs in the last few moments.  How often have you loved a movie right up until the predictable (or incomprehensible) ending? Or gone to a fine restaurant, recommended by your friends, and had a fabulous meal.  Great service, unusual dishes, worth the money, terrific atmostphere, and then you waited 35 minutes to get the check!  It wiped out the whole positive experience.  Now when people ask you about the place, you say, “Yeah, great food, but…” It’s that “but” that changes everything.

If you’re aware of the fact that most patients are evaluating your dentistry by the experience of being in your practice as much or more than they by your clinical skills, then you should be thinking about what the last thing is that the patient experiences in their visit.  There are two critical times in any service experience: what happens first, and what happens last.  I speak at length about the first experience–how you answer the phone, how you greet new patients–and those moments are very important, but I want to talk now about what happens last.

The problem is we make this mistake all the time in dentistry.  The last few minutes of the appointment very often involves someone trying to get the money out of the patient, and even worse, having to explain why the insurance doesn’t cover it.  Or trying to get the next prophy appointment scheduled while they’re trying to run out the door to get back to work.  You can have the sweetest people working in your office, in a fun environment, with great technology and wonderful chairside manner, but then the last taste in the patient’s mouth is money issues, and insurance confusion, and your scheduling needs.  Tainting everything.

My point is, take care of all these things sooner. Get the money chairside.  Do the explanation of coverage ahead of time.  You have to do it anyway, so slide it forward.  We love to put off things we don’t like to do until last–it’s human nature.  But you need to override that tendency because it’s tarnishing the experience of the patient visit.  There are thousands of practices who get all the money dealt with chairside, as soon as the diagnosis takes place.  It’s just a matter of changing procedure, and using the right words.  Don’t say, “It’s our policy,” say, “We like to take care of all of this ahead of time, so that you can just leave the office when your done and not worry about it.  We have to take care of it anyway, so let’s do it now.”  Then you know if they have sticker shock about the treatment.  Or if they actually don’t have the money to pay for it, because then you’ll be trying to collect your fee, and hoping to get some percentage of it.  Get all your money, or don’t start treatment.  It’s just a change in procedure.  You are in business to make money, right?  There’s nothing mercenary or unprofessional about it.  You completed an expensive education and set up a facility that is costly to equip and operate.  You should be paid for the services you provide.

And do schedule their next appointment chairside as well.  Most people have smartphones with their calendar right there, and you have computer access.  Get it done.  Slide it forward.

So now, instead, the last experience of the practice is you giving them a little goody bag of some floss, toothpaste, a travel toothbrush, maybe a pack of Advil and some home care instructions.  And maybe, just maybe, it’s the dentist giving the patient a call later, or sending a text, asking how the patient is doing.  Now that’s a great way to end the visit, and make it a positive experience right through the finish.  Whatever it is, be conscious of what you’re doing, knowing that it is your last chance to make a good impression.

When It Comes to Self-Financing Dentistry, Shakespeare Was Right!

When the economy shifted a few years ago, many dentists I know starting giving their patients a break and accepting terms, financing treatments themselves on patients who had lost their job or their homes, or who were just tight on money.  And I applaud their generosity.  But the most common experience was they ended up losing both the patient and the money.  Many of these people couldn’t make the payments, so rather than come back they went to another dentist, and often times paid the second dentist to finish the work the first dentist started essentially for free.

Accounts receivable is bad business, to be sure. But self-financing is also bad marketing. Statistically, if you have payments more than 90 days overdue, you can be 90% sure you will never see the money.  So why do dentists do it?  To be a nice person?  Because the patient had been a good patient for a long time?  Because the need of the patient was so extreme they didn’t feel they could ignore it?  All good reasons, but the unintended consequences are most often negative.  As Shakespeare said, “A loan oft loses both itself and friend.”

Sometimes there’s a deeper reason, that dentists are so overwhelmed by the constant whining about the cost of dentistry that they devalue it in their own minds.  And that’s where the unconscious marketing message comes in: when you agree to self-finance, you’re telling the patient that even you don’t believe you deserve the money, that you’re too expensive.  That’s why they’re so comfortable not paying you.  You think you’re building loyalty, but instead you’re compromising on your value position.

I’m going to make an absolute statement. There should be no accounts receivable in your practice.  No more than there are with your  dry cleaners, or any restaurant in town, or your supermarket.  If you are not paid at the time of service, you guarantee a percentage will be written off.   Because when it comes to bills that patients feel required to pay, you don’t make the list.  They pay their rent/mortgage, their car lease, their grocery bill, and their credit cards.  I could add ten more items to the list and you still wouldn’t be on it.

So why not only work on patients who will pay you?  That shouldn’t be a radical concept.  What you offer is valuable, worth every penny, and a better long term investment than almost anything else your patient is spending money on except food for their children.  And that’s the marketing message you want to communicate.  You communicate that very effectively when you insist on full payment for your work at the time of service.

So what should you do when you have a good, long term patient, someone who has been with you for years, and he lost his job?  He comes to you with a broken crown or a cracked molar and simply has no money to fix it.  Instead of financing him yourself, just do the work for free.  Say to him, “Look, you’ve been a good patient for years. This would cost $1000 to do this, and I know you don’t have it.  So I’m going to fix it at no charge.  But there are two conditions: first, you don’t tell anyone that I did this.  And second, the next time you need work done, you’re going to have to pay.  This is a one-time thing.”

You’ve made it clear what you’re willing to do, why you’re willing to do it, but it’s not the way you’re going to continue doing business with this person.  They will appreciate it, and instead of them owing you money and not being able to pay you, you’ve added one more experience that makes this person a loyal patient, and most likely they will soon get a job and continue as a paying patient.  Not all the time, of course.  Nothing works 100% of the time.  But the odds are a whole lot better than when you self-finance and hope to get paid.  Best of all, you’re not devaluing your dentistry.  You’re choosing to be generous with something extremely valuable.  Whole different message.

The rest of the time, I say get the money chairside.  This isn’t a fantasy.  I can tell you a hundred practices that do it with every procedure, every case.  They simply say, “This is what the treatment will cost, and this is what your insurance covers. How would you like to handle the rest?”  Don’t save it for last, when they’re leaving the office.  I’ll discuss this concept in more detail in my next blog, so stay tuned!

The iPad 3 is here! Time to buy iPad 2s for reviews!

With the release of the new iPad, you can now get the old iPad2 for as little as $400.  For those of you who have heard me speak, you know I suggest getting iPads to have in your office so that patients can use them to “like” your Facebook page and post on your wall, and also do a photo or video that you can use for your website as well as social media.

If you haven’t done it, now is the time, because you don’t need iPad 3s.  All you want is the most basic iPad 2, with just wifi, because it will still do everything, and now it’s cheaper than ever.

This falls into the category of making things as easy as possible to get the most results.  If you want a few reviews, ask people to do them when they get home. If you want tons of reviews, “likes” and comments, get some iPads.  And once get them, go to and buy adhesive covers so that you can put your Facebook username right on the front (like I did here for my book page).  Also put your Yelp address on the bottom, and if your patients do Yelp reviews they can post something nice there as well.

Remember, you don’t want them doing Google reviews from the iPad. Google disregards multiple reviews that come from the same device.  Ask them to do it on their phone.  They can find the office on a Google map and log in (if they have a gmail address) and review your practice.

The extra added benefit is people will see you as a modern, high tech practice. That’s a good thing.

QR Codes and Your Practice

I’m sure you’ve noticed these little black and white bar code squares showing up more and more.  If you’re wondering what they are, they are codes that someone can read with the camera on their smartphone that will automatically lead them to a website, or they can also be any other information you want going to their phone, like your contact information.  You’re seeing them on magazine ads, posters, business windows, and even billboards (which seems a little dangerous, to have people holding their phones up and trying to capture the QR code while they’re driving.)

This goes to to my blog, which you are at already!

If you read my previous post about the explosion of smart phones, and how more internet searches will be done on phones than on computers within the next couple of years, you may realize that the easier a business makes it for people to go to their website on the phone, the more likely they will get a person’s attention and business.  Now, I don’t necessarily believe that you will experience a massive flow of new patients based on these codes.  But I do believe that they have value, if of course you have a good website.

The main reason I like them, and this is a theme I will repeat often, is that it gives your practice “technological cachet”.  By that I mean people will see you as a modern practice, using the latest digital communication tools.  We live in a world where people expect new technology all the time.  They wait in line the day the iPad 2 comes out, even though they already have an iPad, and the only difference in the new one really is a camera, which they already have in their iPhone.  People don’t get a new phone because they lost their old one, now they get a new one every year or two because the features have improved.  This new-tech expectation will transfer to your practice, and if they don’t see new technology, like CEREC or digital radiography, or see you engaging in digital communication like with texting and email, (or QR codes), then they assume you are not a modern practice, and move on to one that is.

So how do you get QR codes, and how do you use them?  Simple.  And free.   You go to Esponce, for example, and put in your website URL, and they will automatically generate a QR code for you.  Then you just send it to yourself as an image (get all the variations). It is just like a digital photo. You can also just get a QR reader application on your smart phone, like the one from TapMedia (search applications for it) and it will not only read QR codes for you, but it will also generate them.

For now, I would put  the code on your business cards as well as any print advertising that you are doing, like direct mail.  You can make different codes that have more information, or send people to a specific part of your website. You can even get more adventurous and create ones that give people special offers or discounts.  My only caution would be to not make a QR code that is essentially a contact card, i.e., all your business information, as the code may become so dense that many phone readers won’t be able to decode it.

I know, one more annoying thing you have to get around to.  But it all adds up.  And it doesn’t take much time. Why not do it now, and get some new business cards, which you probably need to do anyway?

Getting Patients for Life with Gary Takacs

My interview with Gary Takacs on the Thriving Dentist Show just got posted as a podcast. Check it out!

%d bloggers like this: