Patients nowadays are very aware that they have every right to change their dentist if they don’t believe they are getting the standard of service they deserve – which means inter-profession competition has increased significantly. As a result, it is incredibly important for practitioners to be sensitive to the needs and opinions of their patients, to avoid losing business and reduce the risk of complaints.
But not all patients are willing to leave feedback. Admittedly, some are more than happy to make a complaint – or direct an exasperated diatribe at your receptionist – but in most cases, British people don’t like to make a fuss.
Unfortunately, while this may be the easier way out, it isn’t very helpful. Indeed, a patient who is prepared to make their opinions known is far better than one who holds their dissatisfaction back. These are the patients who you will ultimately lose, since their issues will never be addressed.
As such, it’s generally better if feedback, even negative feedback, is out in the open. That way, you can learn from your mistakes and concentrate on improving your service. Indeed, while negative feedback can be demoralising, it can also be a positive learning opportunity – and should always be seen as such.
That isn’t to say that you must feel obliged to tolerate obnoxious comments. A complaint does not have to be insulting or inappropriate and it is usually best to ignore the people who deal with issues in this manner. In fact, it may simply be more worthwhile to ask them to leave. But if a complaint is provided in a polite and reasonable manner, then it is important that you take note and respond appropriately.
The only problem, as we have already suggested, is that many people do not necessarily feel comfortable with leaving negative feedback. Therefore, it’s very important to make sure that your patients understand that you welcome their comments, both negative and positive. You must then provide them with the correct platforms through which they can easily leave feedback. Many people do not like doing this face-to-face, so a different approach should be considered.
One of the most common mediums for review and feedback these days is the internet. More people than ever before place reviews on the web, making it the ideal place for them to do so for your practice. By providing them with an easy to use platform, such as the PatientConnections system from Welltime, your patients will be able to leave vital feedback for you on your own website, allowing you to review and utilise the information as necessary.
Negative feedback can always be a bit daunting, since no one – especially dentists – likes to think that they are not doing a good job. But there is much to be learned by constructive criticism and by giving your patients the opportunity to provide feedback in a number of different ways you can begin to provide a service that is truly exceptional.
While our love of queuing may be integral to our national identity, the truth is that we, just like everyone else in the world, don’t really like having to wait. This is particularly true in the dental practice – with waiting times being a real bone of contention amongst patients.
Of course, it may be impossible to completely eliminate your waiting times – after all, dentistry is a very, very busy profession and, while you will undoubtedly do our best to see patients as quickly and efficiently as possible, the very nature of the work that you do necessitates a level of care that can sometimes result in delays.
Nevertheless, it is always important to strive to ensure that your waiting times in practice are not unacceptable – not only since you have a responsibility to your patients, but because it can also be damaging to the reputation and success of your practice.
Indeed, waiting times can be a very important factor for patients when choosing where to go for treatment. Nowadays, patients are well-informed, organised and far more discerning when it comes to choosing dental care, and are much more likely to conduct their own research before booking an appointment – and if they find reviews of your practice that mention a long waiting time, they may simply choose to go elsewhere.
You also have to remember that this can be true of your existing patients too. Unfortunately, loyalty to one’s dentists is largely a thing of the past. No matter how good the service they receive has been before, if your waiting times begin to increase, your current patients may just leave for a practice that is more convenient for them.
As such, being in control of your waiting times is key to providing consistently excellent customer service. To be a successful, thriving practice in what is becoming an increasingly competitive profession, customer service must be impeccable from the minute a patient first makes contact. Indeed, if a patient does not believe they have received the utmost service in this respect, even if the treatment itself was a success, their opinion of the practice in general may be ruined. After all, if you go to a restaurant and are served delicious food by a bad waiter who made you wait, it’s likely the poor service that will be remembered.
You should also remember that people lead increasingly busy lives nowadays, and sitting in a waiting room is simply a waste of their time – making it unsurprising that so many people are willing to forgo their dental treatments in the first place.
However, by carefully managing our waiting times, you can improve your customer service and strengthen your patients’ positive relationship with your practice. It’s also good for compliance too, since patients who are happy with the service they have received are likely to be more receptive to any advice they are given regarding their oral health. It will also encourage patients to continue attending your practice, helping you build a more personal relationship with them, one that is more communicative and trusting, which will give you the information needed to better treat their problems.
What’s more, managing waiting times will also benefit your staff. Without having to deal with consistently annoyed or impatient patients, your reception staff will be less stressed. They’ll also be able to more effectively get on with their work, without the disruptions caused by potential complaints.
Of course, to set reasonable waiting times, you have to be ruthlessly efficient about how you organise our appointment book. Using an online booking platform is an effective way of achieving this. With complete control, you can upload only the appointments you want to fill, for your patients to browse and book. This allows you to keep your daily and weekly workload at an optimal level, within your abilities to manage, and gives space for any emergencies, routine follow-ups or, in those unavoidable instances, delays. Online booking will take some of the pressure off your reception staffs too, so they can focus more on welcoming the patients who have come into the practice rather than dealing with busy phone lines and bookings.
AppointMentor from Welltime is a perfect example of this kind of system. It affords complete control of your practice’s appointment book, is accessible 24/7, 365 days a year; is easy to use, and simple for you to review and revise.
Ensuring your patients do not have to wait unduly long amounts of time for treatment is a fundamental aspect of good customer service. It will also help streamline your whole treatment system and strengthen the reputation and efficacy of your practice. Look for tools that can help you set reasonable waiting times: they allow people to get actively involved in making decisions about their care and get the most out of you, their dentist.
The UK's largest dentist finder website, www.toothpick.com is pleased to announce a partnership with the UK's leading online bookings system AppointMentor (a service of Welltime Ltd). This joint approach will enable dental practices using iSmile Dental Software to automatically publish the free appointment times they wish to promote to new patients on www.toothpick.com as well as enabling existing patients to book appointments from the practices' own websites using AppointMentor.
With a real need for dental practices to remain competitive and accessible to patients online, this partnership signals the opportunity for thousands more dental practices to be a step closer to achieving this goal.
Toothpick and AppointMentor currently list around 1 in 6 high street dentists, steadily building more local appointment supply for the 30 million British people who have not seen a dentist in the last 2 years. With significant growth in demand for cosmetic dentistry as the economy strengthens, being visible online and removing the barriers for new patients to access high quality dentistry underlies the benefits of the new service this collaboration will provide.
Sandeep Senghera, Founder and CEO of Toothpick added: "Dental practice receptionists are very busy and being able automatically display their free appointments means new patients are the first to see when a slot becomes free. In turn dentists are happier and practice owners can build their business 24/7 - which is critical to all businesses who want to stay competitive today."
Mubbasher Khanzada, Founder and CEO of AppointMentor commented: "Patients are more discerning nowadays, they want top quality service and want it now. They expect to be facilitated according to their lifestyles and that's where online booking with anytime, anywhere, any device capability helps patients and practices both, creating a win-win situation. With intelligent solutions like appointmentor.com available today, service providers who are able to adapt according to patient lifestyles would attract and retain customers in order to grow."
Mohammed Q. Anwar, Marketing Director at iSmile Dental Software commented: "This collaboration is great news for our clients. It opens up a coveted revenue stream with Toothpick's proven online lead generation promise and AppointMentor's best in class online booking system."