(Wendy Briggs, RDH, is our guest blogger today at Sidekick Magazine)
Trying to compete on price and succeed? You won’t, it’s impossible. There is always someone willing to lower their fees to almost ridiculous levels. So, the question remains, how do we see success and profitability given our current economic climate? Did you know that in 2009, more dentists went bankrupt than in any year since the Great Depression? Times are tough in many areas of our country. How is it then that some of the practices are having record-breaking months?
In a tough economy, or times of increased competition in order to survive, many savvy business owners realize they must focus on improving the experience their customers are having. These World Class organizations realize that competing on price doesn’t work. If you can compete on Experience however, you can eliminate 80% of your competition. They are the ones slashing fees and cutting services. When you reduce your fees, other things must be reduced as well. I heard from one practice, where every team member was asked to take a $4 an hour pay cut, because of the ʻdown economy’. Yikes! The moment we cut services, reduce staff, or even worse reduce staff pay, we are going in the wrong direction!
World Class Companies often thrive in even the toughest economic times because they have learned how to make price irrelevant. How is this accomplished you ask? World Class Experiences. Several months ago, I held a seminar on World Class Experiences. At this meeting, we compared a good patient experience with one that is World Class. In this article, I hope to share with you what other World Class Organizations are doing to achieve such incredible success, even in trying circumstances. This quote is powerful, “Business has never been tougher than it is today…the only businesses that are surviving long term are fanatical about differentiating themselves through
the customer experience they deliver” —John DiJulius
Are you fanatical about creating a World Class Experience? Or are you among those who have responded to that knee jerk reaction, where fees have been lowered out of fear? When services are reduced or amenities go away, the need for discounting becomes greater. Patients become frustrated if we are understaffed, and they are not being served. This vicious cycle continues on…we continue discounting to make up for a less than desirable experience, and then have to reduce services further as profitability goes down. Supportive team members become frustrated, often because we are trying to push more patients into the schedule, to make up for the reduced fees.
As a team, we just can’t keep up.
Price does drive profits. But Superior Patient Service drives price! When a patient complains about fees, it is not because they are cheap. It is because the experience didn’t measure up to their expectations. In their mind the experience just didn’t warrant the fee. How can we consistently provide a World Class Experience? I want to share with you 6 Principles of World Class Experiences as published by Bruce Temkin of Forrester Research. These principles will help your practice provide a World Class Experience for your patients.
Principle #1 Every interaction creates a personal reaction.
Each time we come in contact with a patient, they will have either a positive or negative reaction. World Class Organizations work tirelessly to ensure that their customers have positive experiences. Experience is in thee eye of the beholder! This is why it is so important to personalize every experience. Add personal touches whenever possible! It is often said that experiences designed for everyone, please no one. As a team, we should sharpen our focus. Focusing on each patient as an individual is critical. No one wants to be invisible. Too often we go through the motions, and lose sight of the individual patients as we go about the technical aspects of our job. Narrow, your focus on each individual interaction.
Principle #2 People are Instinctively Self-Centered.
Everyone has their own frame of reference. Too often we approach patient service from our own ʻemployee’ perspective. This sadly causes disconnect with the patient. Keep in mind that all patients care intensely for their own needs and desires. They could really care less about yours. Brutal, I know! It is true though. Think about the last time you ran behind. Even if we had a good excuse, patients become irritated. As they should! Trying to explain why they were inconvenienced doesn’t change the fact that they were inconvenienced! Their world revolves around them. Employees have their frame of reference also, and a deeper understanding of products and procedures. Sometimes this leads to challenges, as we tend to share too much detail with patients. Team members often have a natural bias for making experiences too complicated. We need to make a greater effort to always approach our patients from their point of view, using terms that they can understand.
Principle #3 Patient familiarity breeds alignment.
A clear view of what patients WANT, need, and dislike can help align decisions and strategies and create better experiences all around. Everyone on the team should share a vivid view of our patients, and have visibility into patient feedback. Are we making an effort to get real feedback from our patients? We have to be willing to ask the hard questions! Become familiar with your patients on a more personal level. What are they looking for? What are they happy with? What could we do better to serve them? These questions will raise the odds that they will stay with you regardless of economic conditions. Patient insight matters to everyone on the team. Front line employees often don’t realize that they have a significant amount of power here. They have the most potential for patient familiarity, which can give us valuable insight into creating World Class Experiences.
Principle #4 Unengaged Employees don’t Create Engaged Patients.
If you want to improve Patient Experience, focus on EMPLOYEES! Team members must be aligned to the effort. A recent article in Business week discusses research from a Gallup poll showing that less than 30% of the corporate workforce is truly engaged in its work. Why does this matter? The article points to some findings at Best Buy: For every one-tenth-of-a-point increase in employee engagement, each Best Buy store increased profits by $100,000 a year! That is huge! We are looking at an incredible opportunity. If we are looking to create more patient loyalty, we need to look at our team members first. Employees with low morale cannot WOW patients! Harvard Business Review in 1994 stated, “Profit and Growth are simulated primarily by ʻpatient’ loyalty. Loyalty is a direct result of ʻpatient’ satisfaction. Satisfaction is largely influenced by the value of service provided to ʻpatients.’ Value is created by satisfied, loyal and productive employees.” A key to note here is that often businesses underspend on training. They don’t realize that you can’t just change business rules and processes and hope that patients will be served better. Your team needs to have help knowing HOW to make these changes, not just the why.
Principle #5 Employees do what are Measured, Incentivized and Celebrated.
Don’t expect people to do the right thing. Team members often want to treat patients well, but management just can’t expect it to be done unless it is measured. What gets measured will improve. This is a fact. This is one reason I feel so strongly about hygiene running a day sheet after every production day. Just by looking at their numbers, most providers will improve them. Another key here is incentives. Production based compensation is a must for profitable hygiene, and if you want to truly see your patients experiences improve, tie incentives to patient feedback. With incentives that are attractive, I have seen team members move from the B team, to the A team! (See below for details) Just think of what would be possible if everyone on your team was an A player.
Principle #6 You Can’t Fake It.
There is No 4th Priority! We all have a long list of priorities, but not many get much attention. Anything below your top three priorities is not really a priority at all. You have to walk the walk when it comes to improving patient experiences. If you aren’t committed, your efforts will fail. The danger here, is that when you say you are going to do something, then don’t follow through, employees get frustrated. Then the next time around, it is harder to get employees engaged in the effort. Where are your team’s priorities? Everyone has to be committed, and work together to change patient experience for the better. Even one person not keyed into the effort can blow it for everyone else.
So there you have the 6 Principles for World Class Patient Experiences. By understanding the fundamental truths about how people and organizations behave, companies can make smarter decisions about what they do, and how they do it. Take these six laws and embrace them! Live them, share them, don’t break them! Listen to what your patients are saying about how things are going, and do what is necessary to thrive, even in these tough economic times.
I am a believer that In order to truly compete on experience, you must have an exceptional team! The team drives success in the modern day dental practice. The reason I find this exciting is because this is something that we can control. With training, goals and some direction even average performers can become superstars. This is also exciting because each individual team member has the ability to determine if they want to become World Class.
In creating World Class Teams, we are helping to make your vision of A World Class practice a reality.
Wendy Briggs, RDH
The Team Training Institute
Worldwide consulting firm dedicated to helping you uncover ʻAcres of Diamonds’ within your practice. To request a complimentary DVD simply visit www.theteamtraininginstitute.com.