Listen and learn
For any successful business, keeping clients happy is the number one priority and The Chartered Institute of Marketing often makes reference to the cost of acquiring a new customer being anywhere between three and 10 times the cost of keeping an existing one. Whilst there are clear differences in terms of goods and services being offered and the market in which a business is operating, the principle holds true. A contented customer is a clear indication that you are doing something right and is the most cost effective way to build your business, but in order to stay ahead of the competition you need to do more than just maintain the equilibrium.
Regular feedback is absolutely essential if your business is going to thrive and keep pace with your patients’ expectations. For example, our re-launched web portal and new online patient registration platform was developed with client feedback at its heart. We undertook regular phases of client testing and review throughout the development process, meaning we are now confident that we’ve created a user friendly and intuitive tool to make our customers’ lives easier and help them attract and retain more patients.
Customer satisfaction surveys are a great way to help you make improvements because the feedback comes directly from your patients. Questionnaires are a simple and effective method of gauging opinion and, using online software such as Survey Monkey, they can be distributed and answers collated electronically. Surveys should always be devised with your aims in mind – for example what do your patients value most in your practice – this might be the service, or the range of treatments you offer, but could also reference things such as infection control procedures or the qualifications of practitioners. Start with determining the outcome you want to achieve and write the questions accordingly.
A good example of this is our own annual customer satisfaction survey. In this survey we ask our clients to rate various aspects of our service, such as ‘knowledge’ ‘professionalism’ and ‘attitude’ and I’m delighted to report that in our 2014 survey, yet again, 100% of respondents who had transferred from another provider stated that they were happy they moved to DPAS. The benefit of these types of surveys cannot be underestimated. As well as helping develop an in-depth knowledge of each respondent, it also enables you to identify trends either within your business or within your patient base. A survey also demonstrates to customers that they are important to you and that you value their feedback.
Feedback is not the only benefit to a patient survey. This tactic can help you build positive relationships and create loyalty. Any problems that are highlighted can swiftly be dealt with, while positive feedback can be built upon and gives a morale boost to the whole team. In addition, satisfied customers are more likely to recommend your practice, bringing you repeat business and giving you a competitive edge.
Of course, these days you don’t need to create a dedicated survey to gain patient feedback. There are a number of websites encouraging patients to share their experiences in a ‘Tripadvisor’ style way. From NHS Choices to Google Reviews, patients are now routinely leaving feedback (positive and negative), which is available for all to see. In the same way, dentist-finder websites also include a ‘review’ element, as well as their online booking facility.
The adoption of social media in the dental arena is growing fast, so Twitter and Facebook are other excellent vehicles to gain patient feedback. Make sure to monitor your social media activity regularly, deal with any complaints or criticism immediately and publicly, and celebrate any great comments you receive by re-tweeting and replying.
Also, try to think of new and innovative ways to get your patients to tell you what they think of your practice. At last year’s BDIA Dental Showcase we asked people to tell us the three words that best described DPAS Dental Plans. This turned out to be a fascinating exercise and we got a fantastic response. Our annual customer survey always throws up a swathe of insightful comments and some really useful statistics, but it’s amazing the feedback you get when people are asked to sum up their thoughts in just three words.
The vast majority tallied up with how we like to view ourselves at DPAS, but we certainly learnt a few new things along the way! We were of course delighted when ‘flexible’, ‘value’, ‘comprehensive’, ‘supportive’, ‘efficient’, ‘effective’, and ‘professional’ dominated throughout the show, with other favourites including ‘makes you smile’ and ‘simply the best!’
No matter what the outcome of a patient survey campaign, the insight you will gain will be invaluable and will help you develop a deeper understanding of your patients and your business. Feedback is not something to be frightened of, it should be listened to and acted upon, as whatever type of feedback you receive it can all help your business to develop and prosper.
For more information on DPAS’ flexible, comprehensive and effective dental plans, call 01747 870910 or visit www.dpas.co.uk.