Customer Service in the Dental Office

I was recently participating in a discussion about how to survive in a PPO world and the discussion came around to customer service. What does that mean? Sometimes dentists assume customer service means how well the patient’s dentistry turns out. If the veneers are beautiful and the shots are painless that must mean you are providing good customer service right? While dental care itself is obviously important, people often define customer service as a broad mix of services that extend far beyond clinical results. Who are you trying to reach and are you appealing to them? Elderly patients may be looking for a senior discount, convenient parking or a handicap accessible ramp. Moms may be seeking an office where the entire family can be seen, after school or Saturday hours and may want to know if parents are allowed in the operatory during treatment. Some patients will want to know if you offer a payment plan, if you have appointments over the lunch hour, if you see emergency visits the same day, if you accept American Express, if you participate with their insurance. Some patients will return simply because you are nicer and more helpful than any other office they have ever been to. What patients are looking is so broad that it’s important to recognize we can’t be all things to all people. Insurance is one customer service issue. Some patients will not come to your office if you are not on their list, others will look beyond the list if you meet their customer service needs in other areas that are more important to them. Be sure your marketing dollars are focused on the type of patient you are trying to attract and will be a good fit with your practice philosophy. Hire great staff and train them to answer the question “do you take my insurance?” correctly. Whether your office takes PPOs or not, do not let insurance dictate new patient conversations. Remember estimates show that anywhere between 33-50% of the population does not even have dental insurance and those that do are often unaware of how their benefits work in detail. Be sure your staff understands how to discuss the realities of insurance within the context of everything else you offer!