9 ways to improve your dental practice's customer service skills

April 6, 2015

When did we decide that our patients are no longer customers? Are customer service skills dying in the dental field? Regardless of the field in which you work, good customer service is a must. Customers pay for services that they receive and intend to receive, correct? Patients themselves are paying customers, right? So, it makes sense that they deserve good service as well. We need to understand that patients have many choices for their dental purchases these days and that you can be out of business in less than 90 days (I know ... right?). This means that your job must revolve around providing excellent customer service. To do that, you need to understand what true customer service is.

To better serve your patients, here are few refreshers that define “customer service:”

1. Be patient

You must stay calm and patient while dealing with customers in all situations. If you are calm and your tone is controlled, your customer will feel that you are respectful, that you are listening, and that you value his or her business.

2. Be an active listener

How many times do you interrupt someone when they are speaking to you? How many times are you listening to respond rather than listening to understand? Listening to your customers and asking relevant questions that they have not already answered is a large part of customer service. Ask questions to clarify anything that may be unclear. Summarize their issue(s) to verify that you have been listening. If you listen attentively and show genuine interest, you are more likely to receive high praise from your customer.

3. Have great communication skills

Effective communication skills help with integrity. You must know when to listen and when to speak. Remain focused on what your customer is saying. Make sure your customer understands what is being communicated. Always communicate what you can do before you communicate what is not possible.

Example: Customer wants an appointment for Friday

“(Customer Name), we have an availability on Tuesday at 4 p.m. or Thursday at 8 a.m. to take care of your toothache. Would either one of those appointments work for you? Unfortunately, we do not have an availability on Friday.” This is an example of stating the positive before the negative. You have explained what is possible instead of focusing on what is not possible. You will always win with delivering positive information first.

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4. Be honest

Be honest and clear with your customer. Honesty influences your customer to make a purchase or to invest in your company.

Example: Patient asks, “Is this going to hurt?”

The lie would be “ No, you will be fine.” The truth would be “(Customer Name), it is common to feel some discomfort for the next few days, but you will start to feel better soon after that. I’m so glad that you are taking care of this today.”

5. Use positive language

Examine the language you use with your customers; it can encourage customers to make a purchase or to run fast. Always use “please” and “thank you.” Show respect when speaking to your customer. Proactive and positive words such as “Let’s” in place of “Do you” and “We can” instead of “No, we cannot” offer customers what they can have instead of focusing on what all they cannot have.

6. Be an expert on your product

Know your company and the product and services you sell. You should be able to know the answer or be able to find the answer to any question that your customer asks. If there are products with which you are unfamiliar, you need to learn about them and use them. Invest your knowledge with the most current information and resources available. If a customer asks a question to which you don’t know the answer, be positive with him or her and find the answer.

7. Manage your time

Time management is crucial in customer service. Be aware of how long each call or meeting should take. Being conscious of the time each activity takes will help you stay on track.

8. Be goal-oriented

Being goal-oriented will aid you in successful customer service. As you make your goals, you will be an asset to your practice. Show your customers that you want to provide the best service ever.

9. Close the deal

You need to understand the personality of your customer. “Mirroring” is a term that is often used when discussing service. If you mirror the personality of the customer in front of you, you can better tailor your conversation and your responses to their needs.

Example: Detailed questions from a person will require detailed responses in order to provide him or her excellent service. Direct questions will require direct responses .... you get my point. Knowing when to close the deal will depend on the customer in front of you. Making sure that your customer is satisfied is crucial before the conversation ends. Before you end the conversation, ask customers directly if they are satisfied and make sure they are on the right path with the solutions you have offered.

Now that you understand the essentials of customer service, it’s time to evaluate your daily routine at the office and see if you have any areas in which you can provide better service. Knowing how to effectively use good customer service skills will help you connect better with your patients and will make your practice more successful. 

More from Hollie Bryant: 8 ways to put the "fun" back in the phone

Editor's Note: Photo by Rhoda Baer (Photographer) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons