What’s your USP?

Every organization has a USP: a Unique Selling Proposition. It’s what differentiates you from your competition and positions you in the market to attract and retain your ideal customers.

Funny thing is… many people are unable to define or even describe their own USP. The most common answer to the USP question is people. As in “Our People Make the Difference”. In fact, many an award-winning slogan is based on just that. But while it may be true, it’s not enough. Everybody has people. We need to dig a bit deeper.

This was a topic of some examination and discussion at a workshop we recently hosted. Our facilitator urged the participants to go deeper. The group arrived at the concepts of “going the extra mile” and “going above and beyond”.

The discussion leader found that a bit more concrete, but still pushed. She urged us to get as specific as possible. She helped us define expectations and standards. “Until you know what is expected, how can you define what’s extra?” Good question.

She described a very literal but precise example: I’m a female travelling alone on a bus late at night. The bus reaches the end of the line; the driver asks me how much further I need to walk. He then suggests I stay on the bus while he detours slightly to get me to my destination. Wow. I don’t realize that this is the transit company’s policy in such situations; I’m just thankful for the care.

How do you show your patients that you value their business? Does your team know, or might they benefit from a lunch-and-learn discussion on this topic?
a. What’s the basic expectation our patients have of us?
b. How can/do we exceed those expectations and to what extent?
c. What processes do we have in place to meet or exceed customer expectations?
d. What guidelines do we have in place to exceed customer expectations when needed?
It is important to establish such guidelines because recent research1 has shown that magnanimously exceeding a customer expectation rarely pays off unless such an act goes viral.
e. What makes our practice stand out from the competition?
f. What little things can we do to make us memorable?
g. How do we want our patients to feel when they leave?

Our facilitator ended the session with a personal anecdote. She recalled one of her first dental appointments as a young child, terrified at the prospect. The dental assistant rolled her stool close and picked up an orange from a basket. She then picked up a big syringe and inserted it into the orange. The curious, now distracted patient asked her what she was doing. The assistant said, “I’m practising.” She then carefully pulled the needle out of the fruit and squirted a little shot of orange juice into her mouth. “Nailed it!” The little girl laughed until it hurt, opened wide and has been telling that story for more than 40 years.

What are your Wow! moments that will keep you top of mind, and get your patients talking to their friends?

1 from Effortless Experience by Matthew Dixon

Patient Retention: What’s it worth to you?

In any industry, repeat business is a fundamental game-changer. Loyalty has a price tag. In a dental practice it looks something like this:

I have a toothache and come in to your office for a first appointment. Let’s say it costs $200 to treat. You fix my immediate problem – thank you very much – and I’m on my way. I’m in a hurry so I’ll call you to book my next visit… if I think about it.

Or, I could schedule a follow-up exam, after which I receive a comprehensive treatment plan with options and an explanation of the benefits of ongoing care. I then make an appointment for my husband who has also slipped into an irregular pattern of treatment. Then appointments for my 2 children. We all follow a 6-month check-up cycle for 5 years, with a filling or two along the way and discretionary services such as teeth whitening or sports mouth guards.

I’ve gone from one-time revenue of a few hundred dollars to around $10,000, and that’s before any crowns, bridges, orthodontics, implants, and other high-value treatments that we might need.

Think of it another way ā€“ how much does it cost your practice to retain an existing patient? For most, the cost to get them into your waiting room is the time it takes to make a phone call ā€“ or better, an automated email or text message. Even less if a patient books before they leave or calls you for their regular checkups.

Now consider marketing initiatives for new patients: there is a lot of strategy-planning-execution time and expense to take into account. The ROI can make it a no-brainer, when done well, but it’s still an expense. I’ll talk more about marketing for new patients in a future post.

A team focus on patient retention is simply smart business. Now Iā€™m not saying that we should regard every patient as if they had a dollar sign etched on their forehead, but it’s a fact: The more loyal a patient is to your practice, the more valuable they become to your business. So what’s the secret to patient retention?

If I had to boil it down to one thing, clinical expertise aside, I would paraphrase one of my favourite poets, the late Maya Angelou:

People may not remember exactly what you said; they may forget what you did. But they will always remember how you made them feel.

  • Do your patients feel welcome, respected?
  • Are they attended to promptly, and in a friendly way?
  • Are parents with babies and toddlers given TLC ā€“ and maybe a bit of a break?
  • Is your environment calm?
  • Does the team exude confidence and control?
  • Are they discreet with patient information and discussions?
  • Is the team patient when answering questions or dealing with anxiety?
  • Do you communicate with your patients off-cycle through patient portal, emails and/or social media?

On the surface, these things may seem superficial and, well, even obvious. But the busier we get, the more likely we are to bypass the small niceties. With time, patients will forget the needles and the drilling, but we will remember the little things like being recognized, perceiving VIP treatment and personal attention and being treated like a valued customer.