In our last blog (“3 Reasons Why Collaboration Can Pay Off for Your Dental Practices,” November 1, 2017), we discussed Ryan Kh’s views (see “How Effective Collaboration Equals Great Customer Experience,” Customer Think, October 9, 2017”) on the rationale for collaboration in an organization. Today, we talk about another topic that interests him, “What are the secrets to a collaborative customer service?” His answers (1,2) and one from us (3) that we recommend for your dental practice:
- Supervisors should set aside time to walk in their employee’s shoes. To understand the problems confronting subordinates, and ensure that the latter are provided with the right tools, supervisors need to spend time interacting with customers. We at iDENTIfy wholeheartedly agree and encourage dental practice leaders to allow both supervisors and employees alike to participate in ‘job shadowing.’ In addition to injecting an element of fun into the work environment, job shadowing can help foster improved engagement and deeper respect for co-workers. When employees respect each other they are more likely to respect your patients resulting in a better customer experience. Other important benefits include more informed decision-making and a deeper understanding of the practice as a whole.
- Position people according to their specialties. Says Kh: “Customer service professionals tend to be more specialized these days. Brands need to identify their service professionals’ strengths and make sure that they are assigned to handle challenges they are best equipped for.” We agree and encourage you to refer to our November 1st blog entitled Millennial Employees: 6 Things for Dental Practice Leaders to Consider, on the topic of utilizing strengths and talent in your dental practice, so as to gain competitive advantage.
- Eliminate silos. Disconnected individuals and/or departments can wreak havoc on your customer experience and future referral business. For example, one of the most off-putting things that a patient can experience is to hear an employee say, dismissively, “I don’t/ or my department doesn’t handle that.” and then being referred to multiple people while being asked to repeat the same information over and over, before finally meeting the person who can solve the problem.
Great teamwork, collaboration and empowerment (all indicators of a healthy customer service oriented culture) can be your ‘secret sauce,’ helping to minimize delays and make your practice a joy to do business with, thus enabling your dental practice to rise above the competition. Our 3-year pilot study revealed that the ‘happiness’ factor – experiences that can make patients feel like ‘welcomed guests’ – can positively affect patients’ overall impression of your practice. People want to get in and out quickly and easily, and if they have fun and enjoy themselves in the process, that’s an added bonus that is likely to improve your conversion ratio.
As a quick test, ask yourself, “Is my practice easy to do business with?” For a better and more accurate test, ask your patients the following: “ How can we improve communication with you?” “What can we do to improve your experience with us?” “How can we make your visit more enjoyable?” We recommend a good e-survey platform, in use year-round, to ensure you’re always listening and responding to patients’ wants, needs and concerns.
You might ask, “What are some ways that I can eliminate silos within my practice?” At iDENTIfy we recommend a couple of steps. First, do your best to hire people who would rather work in a team environment as opposed to working alone. They are less likely to adopt the “us against them” mentality. From our experience from conducting Hogan Personality Profiles, those who score low on the “Sociability Scale” prefer to work alone, and are also quieter and more reluctant to seize the initiative – in short, the kind of employee unlikely to ‘consistently’ win patients over. Hiring the right people is always a high bar; don’t be fooled by the fact that most candidates can be taught to say exactly what you want to hear during an interview. We encourage you to check out our October 2nd blog, (Part3) More Root Causes and Lack of Empathy in Your Dental Practice for a more in-depth discussion, and tips that can help you hire people who are the right fit for your dental practice.
Some effective interview questions recommended by Hogan that we ourselves have utilized include:
- “How important is it for every team member to contribute in a meeting?”
- “Do you tend to work better on group or individual projects? Why?”
- “How do you balance talking with listening to engage in effective communication?”
Second, you should offer opportunities for dental team members to collaborate on a regular basis, i.e., organize frequent team building activities, lunch-n-learns and meetings across teams and departments. The benefits of conducting these collaborative events will outweigh the minimal cost. You may also benefit from utilizing this time to celebrate small wins. Note: these opportunities are in addition to the recommended daily huddle.
Finally, consider adopting ‘collaboration’ as a core value of your practice. This can optimize the capacity of your team members to extend beyond their comfort zone (something that is not easy for most people), develop, and in turn, stretch the boundaries of the practice. This can give your dental practice a competitive advantage because knowledge helps prevent missed opportunities including those that commonly leave money on the table.
We recommend that you appoint at least one champion of collaboration (preferably a practice manager or owner) charged with showing the practice’s commitment to it, as well as with working on continuous improvement of the practice as a whole. Change and leadership author John P. Kotter (2012) said, “Major change is often said to be impossible unless the head of the organization is an active supporter.” From our experience, when the conversation about an initiative ends, so does the initiative. Our advice: keep it fresh on their minds through fun daily conversations and colorful graphics and metrics so that your priorities and initiatives remain top-of-mind.
Now that you know these ‘secrets’, we hope that you will avail yourself of this knowledge to boost collaboration among the members of your dental practice team, thus improving your customer experience and giving your practice the competitive edge.
Read our other articles regarding High Reliability Concepts below:
Trude Henderson is the founder of iDENTIfy, Inc., a startup elective dental and medical practice improvement software company. In 2016, she was the first to introduce High Reliability Organizational Concepts to the dental industry. For questions, contact her directly at Trude@GetIdentify.com. Follow Trude on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/trudehenderson/ (no email required)
Go to iDENTIfy’s website: www.getidentify.com