Here we meet one of the people behind the Practice Plan brand – change and service improvement manager, Kerrie Hibbert – to find out how she helps keep the business focusing on the needs of its customers.
When she started her job as a fresh-faced proof-reader with Practice Plan, Kerrie had no idea she would still be working for the same company more than seventeen years later.
No longer a proof-reader, but rather a change and service improvement manager heading up a small team, Kerrie is tasked with making sure Practice Plan continues to make the life of practices easier.
Kerrie’s route to her current role, which she’s held for nearly three years, means she’s well placed to understand Practice Plan’s customers’ needs.
‘After my time as a proof-reader I went into a quality-assurance role, so handled some of the feedback and comments that were coming into the business,’ she explains. ‘Then I moved into the mustomer services manager role, over the customer operations.
‘So, I’ve had quite a lot of exposure to different parts of the business. But also, over that time, a lot of exposure to customers and the different parts of their journey through the business.’
Continuous improvement of the service Practice Plan delivers to customers is one of Kerrie’s main objectives. However, alongside this she’s also looking at ways to improve internal practises, with the ultimate purpose of ensuring Practice Plan remains a sustainable business.
As she explains: ‘It’s about looking for ways we can improve our service offering on a day-to-day basis for customers. One of the things we’re looking at more closely is our online services and how we can improve the user journey of the platform as well as making us more sustainable as a business.
‘To do this, we’re exploring avenues to move some of the legacy, paper-based processes to digital.’
However, the quest for improvement doesn’t stop there. As Kerrie outlines, her team is currently reviewing all of Practice Plan’s technology channels and looking at ways to improve touchpoints with customers. Whether customer contact is digital, via a phone call, or support from the field team she and her team are focused on ensuring that customers have a choice.
Improvements being made in the field include the introduction of a new Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. This will provide greater insights into Practice Plan’s customers to ensure their needs are being serviced in the right way for them.
Another area being given scrutiny is the support provided by the head office customer service teams. ‘We often get great feedback on the service customers get from the team at head office but there’s always room for improvement,’ Kerrie says.
‘So, we want to make sure when practices are contacting the office, they’re having really valuable conversations with the people who are at the other end of the phone.
‘One of the more recent improvements we have made is introducing the role of regional support assistant (RSA) to complement the work of our field based regional support managers (RSMs). The new RSAs allow us to increase our customers’ touchpoints with Practice Plan people should they need it and provides a bigger pool of contacts for them to rely upon.
Although Practice Plan predominantly deals directly with practices, many patients make contact direct. This type of customer contact is another area being examined by Kerrie and her team.
‘At the moment our interactions with patients are heavily paper based, which isn’t ideal,’ she says. ‘So now we are trying to find ways to give patients more of a choice in how they communicate with us, perhaps via a digital portal or online via a website.
‘They’ll always be able to phone in and speak to someone and they’ll always be able to receive documents by post, if that’s what they want to do. But it’s just in this day and age, we want to give customers a choice so they can do business with us in the way that they want to do it.’
The top priority
Gone are the days of a one-size fits all approach.
Despite being in a senior role at Practice Plan, Kerrie sees her position as a behind-the-scenes job. ‘I think, in the nicest possible way, we’re doing the things that customers don’t need to think about. So, as things are changing and moving externally, my job is to help Practice Plan keep pace.
‘So, there’s a lot of hard work that goes on in the background for us to do that, but the customers don’t really need to worry about it. We’re making sure the business is still moving forward in the way that it should.
‘I’ve been exposed to dentistry long enough to know that it’s a really challenging environment that practice teams are operating in,’ she continues, ‘and whatever we do really, at the top of our mind, is not to add to that burden.
‘I guess what we really want to do at Practice Plan is to be the people who make things easier. And make sure we are the company that has got their back. So, in everything we’re trying to do really, that’s the top priority: that we don’t add to the burden. We’re here to support them, I guess, is the crux of what we’re trying to achieve.’
So, what keeps her at Practice Plan after all this time?
‘There has always been job satisfaction in terms of turning things around and improving them, but also there’s been room for personal growth within my role, too,’ she says.
‘Also,’ she adds ‘the people are lovely. I genuinely do really like our customers. I think dentists and their teams are really nice people to do business with.’
Probably the biggest motivator of all for Kerrie is seeing customers benefit from being with Practice Plan.
‘I’ve witnessed how much of an impact moving to private practice has made on individual dentists, where they’ve really struggled with that work-life balance,’ she says.
‘And then when you move them over and you see their plan flourish, they become completely different people. They’ve found themselves again. So, I think you do feel like you’re doing some good in some way, by giving customers this opportunity. For me, that’s a really good reason to keep doing my job.’
Practice Plan has supported more than 1,800 dental practices to transform the profitability of their business through the combination of a well-populated plan and personalised support including marketing, business advice, events and training.