By JONATHAN FINE
By now everyone working in dentistry has probably heard of the ‘patient journey’. It refers to the quality of experience in store for people who engage with a dental practice either as a first encounter or as an ongoing experience.
It includes everything from the first time they hear about you from a family member, friend or Google search to the time they either sing your praises in a testimonial and come back or drop you for the practice down the road.
In any retail or service delivery operation there’s always room for improving the customer journey, and it’s done by understanding the customer. Try this simple exercise in your practice – you’ll be amazed by the results.
There are just four steps.
While this may sound a bit negative initially, close the practice for half a day, assemble everybody that works in the practice, and I do mean everybody – this a team event and when at the end of the exercise there is a series of outcomes you will get automatic team buy-in as the whole process has been done as a team, your team. Start by buying a big stock of Post-It notes (the big A5 ones) and when everybody has settled down with a coffee tell them you are going to look at the practice through the lens of a patient – ask them to think like a customer that is buying a service and to get things going ask two people about their worst buying experience ever.
Ask everyone to list things they know disappoint or drive patients potty, from visiting the practices website, booking an appointment or when they visit. Don’t get defensive, don’t offer solutions – just get everybody to write down what is not great typically; it could be things like perpetually running late, no privacy to discuss payment disputes, the phone constantly ringing, only one loo, nowhere to sit sometimes, nowhere to park, your stuffy patient lounge…
You will be amazed at what comes out. Now group all the concerns into new patient and existing patient categories – you will begin to see patterns.
Map out the existing patient journey step by step. Start with a new patient then do the same exercise for existing patients: from a Google search to sitting in the dentist’s chair, this what happens right now every day in your practice, not what is supposed to happen. Illustrate each step with a separate Post-It note.
Identify the roadblocks. You might need to stimulate the team with compelling concrete examples like why, if we get 482 unique visitors to our website every month, do only 2.9 per cent, or 14 of them, contact us by telephone or email? And more worryingly, why do only seven become paying customers? What do we need to do to change this outcome?
This is the point where you figure out what would fix all the roadblocks and what would reassure those patients that you’re currently losing. Ask yourself:
- How can you realistically deliver that with the people, building and general resource constraints of the practice?
- What are you prepared to compromise on?
- What are you not prepared to compromise on?
Collectively map out the perfect patient journey for your practice. Underneath each of the steps list on a separate Post-It notes what changes you will have to make to enable that step to happen consistently.
I really love running these sessions, particularly for established practices – it’s usually where we achieve our fastest improvements.
Let me know if I can help.