Recommending and returning – the happy patient
Customer Relation Management (CRM) refers to a quality management system used in business, trade and industry for maintaining customer relationships. It is a strategic approach that can also be adapted for use in the dental practice. After all, if patients are happy, they will come back.
Both actively or passively, we all know and use review sites. Be it a hotel reservation or restaurant booking – the options come under critical scrutiny before they make your short list. The more information provided, the better. In today’s fast-paced world, people ultimately want to make a well-informed decision. The same goes for patients, especially new ones. Patients choose to come to you (or give your dental practice a wide berth) based on recommendations and internet research.
Recognize the potential of medical review sites
The most common way of searching online is via popular medical review sites, which can become both friend and foe to the medical profession. The problem is that you can’t live with them but you can’t live without them, since they’ve recently become such an important marketing tool.
Generally, the vast majority of reviews do reflect what actually happens in the dental practice. Reviews, especially critical ones, should therefore be seen as something positive because open and honest feedback gives practices the opportunity to make necessary adjustments. What went wrong during time period XY? Why wasn’t the appointment system working again in month Z? And why do so many patients have complaints about clarification? There is no greater incentive for self-reflection.
The same goes for positive reviews. One patient is really pleased with the professional teeth cleaning they received from Mrs Moore, others note that they always receive a warm welcome at reception, and many take to the site to say thank you for their new quality of life following implantation. Fantastic! There’s no better way to manage feedback, as there is rarely enough time for it to be given in person during everyday practice. Both praise and criticism should be discussed internally by the team and decisions made as to next steps. These can take place monthly, for example.
Opportunities for intervention
And then of course there’s the unhappy patient, who also knows the power of review sites and uses the opportunity to leave feedback of a very different nature. Reviews that contain false claims, slander or abusive criticism should be clearly contested. In this instance you should submit a statement referring to all the relevant user guidelines that have been breached. The important thing is to keep it neutral and objective.
What many don’t know is that the content of new reviews is not automatically checked by site operators, as this would probably not be viable. Therefore, the first time reviews are checked with regard to quality management is when potential issues are pointed out. The sense of powerlessness that practitioners often attribute to review sites is unfounded. The key message here is to ‘keep at it’ and check your profile regularly.
Tip: If you are unhappy with a review but your appeal has been rejected, think about writing an objective comment on it. Make sure you keep it neutral and objective since you at least have the upper hand in this dialogue as in most cases the reviewer cannot make any further comments.
Consider saying ‘thank you’
Another important thing to consider is replying to positive reviews too from time to time. This shows that you take the reviews seriously and value your patients’ opinions. You can also use this as an opportunity to create an even broader image of your practice. For example, if a patient praises their professional root canal treatment, you could respond by saying that you highly value quality restorative dentistry and therefore only ever perform treatment using an operating microscope.
If a patient praises the pleasant environment, you could respond by saying that you want to ensure that even nervous patients feel as comfortable as possible in the surgery by using bright, cheery colours, and so on. The points made in the reviews can be capitalized upon to convey a broader image of the practice – a brilliant marketing method. You should however ensure that comments are always unique. Copying and pasting comments will do you no favours.
Feedback management in the dental practice
What works on a large scale on the internet, as described above, can also be implemented on a smaller scale for quality management within the dental practice itself. How about providing patients with a feedback form to fill in the dental practice after treatment (not immediately in the case of operative treatments), or posting one out?
Patients are unlikely to be offended or hassled by your request for honest feedback on their satisfaction with previous visits. You are much more likely to find that patients are pleased to have the opportunity to give their opinions, and ultimately it shows them that you value their opinions and take them seriously. For those who are uncomfortable with providing feedback in this way, you could always place an anonymous suggestion box in the waiting room. After all, it is just as important to be able to follow up on negative reviews as on positive ones and it gives patients an outlet for their opinions. And it is always better for these issues to be raised offline in your practice rather than over the internet.