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01st March 2016

Do you have an effective customer care strategy?

The introduction of the Friends and Family Test (FFT) for dental patients brings you a range of valuable information about how your patients perceive your practice, the question you now need to ask is; ‘How can I get the most from this information?’

The retail sector has long since recognised the importance of understanding their customers’ ‘gut responses' to their products, image and customer service. We too need that sort of 3D understanding of our patients’ experiences, beliefs, needs and expectations. To do this, dental businesses must to draw information from a range of relevant sources. This article looks at ways to gain the required insight to build a customer care strategy able drive continuously improving customer care.

In any sector good customer service is a fundamental requirement of customer satisfaction. Although a steady flow of new patients is desirable, those patients who return to you over and over again are a testament to the quality of care they receive. Because they are satisfied they are likely to give recommendations leading to new patients. With each satisfied customer your business is likely to win many more customers through recommendations.

Regulatory standards arising from the Health and Social Care Act (2008) require dental care providers to define their customer care strategy. This should direct your approach to your patients to one that defines patients as, “The people we do things to and do things for”. With this approach we view patients as stakeholders and seek their input when planning their dental care services.

How do you create a customer care strategy?

To begin with you need to define what matters to patients. You can gather information and start a conversation with patients using the free response part of the FFT. Use this information to signpost their objectives and the standards they will use to judge the quality of customer service they receive. Only when these are clearly understood will you be able to set your strategic objectives. Then a range of techniques will need to be used to measure performance toward those objectives. This could include the following:

  • Progressive free text question on the FFT;
  • Telephone mystery patient surveys;
  • Full mystery patient experience surveys.

To create a worthwhile survey begins with the end in mind.

Set your main objectives - of the survey and then it will be clear what questions need to be asked.

Analysis – when designing your survey consider how you will analyse the answers.  ‘Closed’ questions (where the respondents are asked to choose from a limited number of responses) are easier to analyse than questions that are ‘open’ (where the respondent can reply in anyway they want).

Much will depend on the volume of respondents, the higher the volume the more important it is to have an easy method of analysing the results.

Opportunity – Keep in mind that obtaining valuable customer surveys are also a good way to highlight aspects of your service that your customers may not be aware of.

Warts and all – to benefit most from a customer survey you need to be prepared to accept criticism.

A well designed customer satisfaction survey will enable you to identify problems so that they can be addressed; regular customer satisfaction surveys will prevent complacency and give you early warning on where you might be losing out to your competitors initiatives.

Having completed the survey analyse the results. Look for specific areas where customer service needs to be improved. Ask yourself honestly if any criticism that you receive is valid and if there anything that can be done to resolve or minimise the problem?

When an area for improvement has been identified, to build your action plan consider the following:

  • Are all team members properly trained and do they have sufficient knowledge?
  • Do existing customer care measures have the desired effect upon the customer experience?
  • If a customer who has completed a survey has raised a specific issue ensure that they are contacted and their concerns discussed- don’t lose an opportunity to resolve a problem and keep a customer.
  • Based on the survey results make changes and then re-measure by issuing further surveys.
  • Publish the results of the survey in the practice newsletter and on the notice board in the waiting room. “In a recent survey our patients suggested that a result of this we have taken the following action...”

It is essential that the whole team plays a role in meeting patients needs and expectations. Information gathered from patient surveys will provide an excellent management tool for balancing the needs of patients with those of the dental care providers.

Glenys Bridges – QCS Expert Dental Contributor


Topics: Dentists

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