Category Archives: Team Building
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.
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
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.
When VCR’s first came out, many people predicted it would be the demise of the cinema business. It didn’t happen. What did happen is that by 1988, video rentals and sales reached $4 billion annually, passing movie sales, which continued to grow. (Oddly, when DVD’s came out, people predicted the same thing, yet in 2011, movie theater revenue was $10 billion.) So what really occurred here is that the category broadened. People assumed it was a zero sum game–people would either watch videos or go to the movies. Instead, they did both.
Similar things have happened in dentistry. Cosmetics barely existed when I came into the dental field in 1986. Now it is conservatively a $10 billion segment of dentistry. When Invisalign came out, many thought it would erode the bracket side of orthodontics. Instead, it broadened the category. Literally millions of people, mostly adults, who would never have considered braces were excited about the idea of Invisalign, and as a result many more patients were treated, and the bracket business didn’t recede at all. Most significantly, it broadened the category of orthodontics for the general dentist.
3D Cone beam imaging is now doing the same thing to implants. Cases that were previously a near impossibility, or at the very least with a high risk of failure, are now done with pinpoint accuracy, much less surgery, faster healing times, and longer-lasting results. And once again, the category is being broadened for the general dentist.
And yet, what I still see is a tendency by dentists to limit themselves to what they already know and do well. It’s a natural tendency. But thriving dentists are broadening their approach to the dental category. They are adapting new technology, getting more training in new procedures, and offering a wider range of treatment to their patients. As a result, their patients are accepting more comprehensive care, getting implants, trying Invisalign or Six Month Smiles, whitening their teeth every two years, eventually getting veneers (I finally did myself in January, and I love them!) And most of all, having a lot of fun in their practice.
But most practices do not tell their patients all the options available to them. This is a marketing misjudgment. We often assume that when we tell people something once, they were actually listening. People don’t listen until they care, and find it relevant to themselves. The most basic tenet of marketing is to tell your customer (your patient) over and over what you do and why it’s good for them. This means newsletters, in-office videos, email marketing to your patients, and most of all, your staff talking to patients about what is possible. Waiting for people to ask assumes they know what to ask for. They are looking to you for professional guidance. Their goal will remain to do as little dental work as possible until you explain the benefits of new dentistry to them.
One my main goals is to broaden people’s appreciation of dentistry from simple teeth maintenance to a service that vastly enhances the quality of their life. So I encourage you to take a look at your practice. How can you broaden your approach to the dentistry you offer your patients? (And don’ t they deserve it, after all?) Think about new courses, new technologies, new services. And then, most importantly, tell your patients about it. The rewards await you!
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.
Last weekend a dentist told me a terrific story that speaks to the whole idea of helping people to understand the value of dentistry. So often we’re challenged with getting the idea across to patients that spending money on their teeth is worthwhile. It’s unfortunate that because health insurance plans exclude the teeth, people assume that they are not as important as the rest of their bodies. And the concept that their overall health is directly linked to their oral health is trickling out very slowly amidst all the noise about health care in the past couple of years.
Anyway, the story. This dentist was planning on doing some painting on his house, so he and his son went to Home Depot to buy a ladder. Once in the ladder section, the father began checking the tags on the ladders, and the son asked, “Dad, what are you doing?” The dentist said, “Looking at the prices.”
And then his son said, “Dad, do you really want to climb up on the cheapest ladder?” Beautiful. So simple. So clear. And here’s the kicker–his son was ten years old! Imagine if we could get people to see that they really shouldn’t want to find the cheapest way to maintain their teeth. If I were a dentist, I would tell this story, and then draw a direct parallel to the patient’s teeth. And explain it to the person like a ten year old!