Welcome to the new world

Les Jones explains how technology is improving experiences in and out of dental practices.

I recently took a business trip to New York and flew in and out of Newark International Airport in Brooklyn.

The inward experience was pretty standard – just a case of getting through the immigration checks.

The homeward experience was, however, a little different.

A different experience

Firstly, on arriving at the check-in area, I was invited to check myself in.

This involved scanning my passport on one of a number of freestanding machines, which then gave me the option to choose my seat, confirmed my reservation and then printed out the tag for my suitcase along with my boarding pass.

I attached the tag to the bag, it was then scanned before I put it on the conveyor and away it went.

I then moved to the bag check area, where I was directed by electronic signs to the right lane, and once I’d put my bag and coat in the tray was asked to stand in the full body scanner – directions on the screen told me what to do.

With a clean bill of health, I moved to the other side to pick up my bag and coat.

I then proceeded to the main waiting area, which was full of shops and restaurants, but there was one thing different to what I’d experienced at most other airports – everywhere I looked there were tablet screens – on the restaurant tables, in the shops, on the tables in the seating areas.

I went to one of the retail outlets to buy some US chocolates to take home for the family – which I chose, then scanned and paid for on my own.

Next, I went for some food – I sat at the bar in one of the restaurants where I was faced with a tablet screen, which gave me options to order, a screen for the food menu and one for drinks.

I chose a sandwich and a beer, confirmed my order, scanned in my credit card and a few minutes later the beer was delivered by one of the restaurant staff, shortly followed by the sandwich.

At the end of my snack stop, I completed the transaction on the screen, added a tip(!) and filled out the feedback questionnaire.

So, I’d checked in, got through the bag check, done a bit of shopping and settled back for a relaxing snack and beer…without interacting or speaking to one person!

It was a seamless experience, if a little anonymous.

The surprising thing for me though was, as I looked around, everyone in the airport just seemed to be getting on with it.

No one was flapping, no one looked confused, no one seemed to be struggling – they understood the system and they worked with it.

So, what’s this got to do with dentistry I hear you ask?

Well, it’s a simple observation that, for most people, technology is not a barrier these days – it’s an enabler.

What’s more, it puts them in control – so that they can do things at their own pace without external pressures.

Early adopter dental practices are now embracing technology in ways that were not previously thought possible and they’re reaping huge benefits.

Things like online booking, automated text alerts for appointments, outsourced telephone answering, pop-up chat facilities on websites, e-marketing and online feedback forms are just a few of the things that are helping forward-looking dental practices engage with existing and prospective patients in new and creative ways.

Yet there are some practices who are still working on paper record cards, still closing at lunchtime and flicking the telephone to answer machine, and still thinking about getting a website.

The difference between the two ends of the spectrum is vast – but it is the practices who are embracing and integrating new technologies who will, without doubt, reap the benefits – because it’s what their customers are now beginning to accept and expect as the ‘norm’.

Those at the other end will be lucky to survive.

Which camp are you in?

Of course, there is still no substitute for human interaction and great personal service at key points of the customer experience – but it is the technology that will make those interactions happen more quickly and more often.

If you are interested in finding out more about how we help practices to become more profitable, call 01691 684165 or visit building.practiceplan.co.uk.


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