How to be in the dental patient experience business
Starbucks knows how to get their customers to come back and back again. Every afternoon Marty walks four and a half blocks to the Starbucks near his office. He can get coffee free at the office yet he walks past two other coffee shops to get to Starbucks where he gladly pays $2.60. It isn’t the coffee! In fact he probably can’t taste the difference between his preferred Starbucks cup and whatever is at the office. But when Marty walks into Starbucks, Jayson is already pouring him his Grande Sumatra, calls out his name and greets him with a welcoming smile. He always leaves a bit of room in Marty’s cup because he knows Marty always adds half-and-half. Marty pays the $2.60 and tosses his customary quarter in the tip jar and climbs on a stool by the front window. Marty isn’t buying coffee, he’s buying an experience. He’s buying a half-hour break from his desk and the incessant e-mails. It’s not that the coffee is worth it – it’s that Marty feels the Starbucks experience is worth it….and even more important that he is worth it. Starbucks is his personal moment in the day, and he would be hard pressed to give it up. Marty gives something to Starbucks, Monday through Friday, but that is because his favorite Starbucks store gives him something back. Lasting, meaningful relationships are always reciprocal.
Today’s successful dental office can duplicate this type of experience in a much more deeply satisfying experience.
The dental office must give the patient more than just “coffee” or a procedure. Successful offices give their patients self-esteem, security, a feeling of “belonging”, confidence and much more. The doctor and team must know the secrets of the “experience” business.
One of the secrets is “do not try to be everything to everyone.” This is not possible in the first place; and secondly, it is so much more enjoyable to be everything to a smaller number of wonderful people.
You want to provide an experience that will appeal to patients who have quantifiable wants, needs, and expectations and who have the wherewithal to satisfy them. Providing a markedly different level of service differentiates the practice and provides a distinctly different value than other offices.
Depending on the kind of experience that is desired for the practice, consider answering the following:
- What would delight them?
- What would be fun for them?
- How could the practice surprise them?
- What would make them feel unique and special?
- What would make them feel good about themselves?
- What would reaffirm the way they see themselves and reinforce that identity?
- How could the office create feelings of validity and satisfaction about themselves?
- What could be done to make them feel safe and secure and give them peace of mind?
- How might the practice help them become the person they have always wanted to be?
- How might the practice give them the ability to do some-thing they have always wanted to do?
For example, there is a very successful office in a major city in which the doctor and team have a very sincere belief in Jesus Christ, which dictates how they behave in and out of the office. Before treatment the doctor and assistant will pray with the patient and Christian music is heard throughout the entire office. At the morning huddle there is prayer for the patients of the day and for the well-being of the office and team members. There is no apology for their beliefs and there is a six-month waiting list to be seen in this office. They know who their target patient is and provide an experience that is satisfying and life-changing. It just happens that is their belief system too.
With the appearance of the chain dental stores, and the growing homogeneous level of service in our country, patients are yearning for something different, something that feels special and unique, services that recognize each person’s specialness, and encounters with their dental office that engage them in experiences that feel more personal and intimate.
Practices that can add value to their list of clinical services by giving their patients such an experience will be wildly profitable.