Every business owner will say he or she wants to meet and get to know customers. While this is probably true, I am going to take it a step farther and say that if you’re not getting to know them in the right way, you’re wasting your time and theirs.
At my practice, I—and my staff—ask every patient more than just the typical line of questions. Any dental practice can ask for a name and for insurance information. At Today’s Dental, we ask about the patient’s previous dentist, and his or her dental experiences. Often this leads to a great conversation—not only do I learn about this new patient’s expectations, but I also learn what he or she values in a dental office. This is invaluable feedback for me, the business owner, and it also communicates to the patient that we listened.
This is something that every business owner can and should do. Customer engagement is a science, but it isn’t one you need to study very hard to master. Every time a customer walks in your door, you have an opportunity to strengthen the bond between that customer and your brand (your practice).
In this digital age, we have powerful and effective methods to connect with customers. Online, interactive tools like social media are a far cry from one-way communication tools like print advertisements or direct mail. In some cases, feedback has become almost instantaneous. Thanks to these tools, there has never been a better or easier time to foster customer relationships.
The following excerpt is from my new book, “Uncomplicate Business: All It Takes Is People, Time, and Money.” The book comes out in October 2015 and is available for preorder at HowardFarran.com.
Excerpt: It doesn’t matter what business you’re in, gather key information from every customer who walks through your door. Whenever possible, communicate with your customers face to face so that you can establish a personal relationship with them. Face-to-face communication comes easy for some; for others it is a struggle. But it is an opportunity to listen to your customers with your full attention—to learn what they need, what they want, and what concerns they have.
Phone calls to your customer also are a great form of communication. In my dental practice, we make follow-up calls to our patients after any procedure to find out how they are doing. We want our patients to trust that we continue to care about them even after we’ve collected their money.
The downside to phone calls is that they can be expensive and time consuming for your high-cost labor. When a personal call is unwarranted, automate your calls to make your labor more efficient.
Back in the day, my practice used to call patients to confirm their appointments; now we automatically email them two weeks ahead of time, saving on labor. Our automatic email message features “click here to confirm” box. That way we only need to follow up with those who don’t respond online.
Be sure to ask for your clients’ email addresses along with their permission to send them coupons or other special offers.
Asking for permission is vital. Your message is much more likely to be read by a customer who gave her email address voluntarily than by someone whose name you acquired by purchasing an email address list, in which case a spam filter likely will discard the message before the recipient ever sees it. …
Be careful not to email too frequently. If you send too many messages, your customers may unsubscribe and you’ll lose the advantage of a very low-cost mode of communication. Remember: moderation is key.
Texting is among the latest, most rapid forms of communication. Texting is now first in customer communication—ahead of email, websites, and social media. Over 90 percent of texts are read within ninety minutes. If I want my kids to come downstairs for dinner, I don’t yell for them; they won’t answer! But if I send them a text message, they’re downstairs in seconds. Texting has become one of the best and most direct ways to contact your customers, and it gets the best response.
Another perfect way to stay connected with your customers is to develop an app (short for “application”). When I was little, when my mom needed to call the physician, dentist, or pharmacist, she found the phone number on one of the many magnets posted on our refrigerator. The apps on today’s smart phones are just like the magnets on my mother’s refrigerator.
When we send our patients a message, a little red indicator pops up on their app button to alert them that they have a message from their dental office. Imagine if your dry cleaner offered you an app that let you know when your clothes were ready to pick up.
Again, take advantage of the latest technology in staying connected to your clients. Don’t allow yourself to get comfortable with the same old ways of doing things. In the words of Charles Darwin: “It isn’t the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”
I am fifty years old. Over the past two decades, I have witnessed firsthand dental practices that achieved enormous success and others that slowly faded away. The difference was in whether or not they were willing to adapt to new technology.