Quality in everything we do…on 26th April 2019
Philip Lewis takes inspiration from a visit to the Royal Opera House…
There’s something about quality that is unmistakeable. It’s more than what you see or even expect; it’s a sensation that you get when everything is just ‘right’. It leaves you feeling confident and comfortable. Most importantly it’s something you really want to share with others so that they too can enjoy its benefits.
The demonstration of quality doesn’t happen by chance. It demands proficiency, attention to detail and the addition of that magic which makes ordinary experiences extraordinary.
Recently I went to see a production of ‘La Traviata’ at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. I’ve seen this opera several times before at different theatres but decided it was time to spoil myself. Let’s consider the various stages of this purchasing decision and see how they might compare with aspects of our own profession.
First, I wanted to go to Covent Garden because of the great reputation of this theatre. You don’t hear many negatives about it except possibly the cost of tickets. Cost was quite a long way down my decision-making list because I wanted something exceptional.
Practice Point 1: Work on your reputation! When you become known as ‘the best’ place to visit the high prices you may charge take on a secondary significance in the minds of prospective patients. You have a massive advantage here; unlike major arts venues you don’t need this reputation to be international. Your own local area will be more than sufficient. This is accomplished by providing excellent service across the board, clinical and administrative.
On the website, there were limited tickets left in each area. This is a theatre with a capacity of hundreds running a production over a period of three months! How do you think this scarcity influenced me? Of course, I became even more determined to attend and being able to buy a ticket at any price felt like winning a prize.
Practice Point 2: Don’t try to be all things to all people. Make it obvious you have a place in the market and encourage a discerning clientele who feel it is a privilege to attend your practice. By extension any available places available with you will be coveted.
Despite booking quite a long time ahead of the performance, seats in almost every part of the theatre were limited but there was still a choice. If I’d selected the upper galleries I’d have paid a lot less than in the stalls. If I’d done so I’d still have seen and heard all of the opera. It’s a bit like flying to New York. Economy tickets are a great deal cheaper than first class and we all land at the same time. The difference is simply in the quality of the experience.
Practice Point 3: Offer premium options. While most patients may well be happy to accept the ‘standard’ product there will always be a number who would prefer something a little more special. Don’t deny them the opportunity to choose.
The website itself was brilliant. It displayed all the information I needed to persuade me that I would have a wonderful time, it also included unexpected gems like showing me the actual view of the stage from the seat I selected.
Practice Point 4: Your website needs to stress the benefits to consumers, not dwell on you and what you do. I didn’t need to see ‘We do operas and we do ballets and our fly tower has the very latest in backstage technology…’ and I didn’t get any of that! What I got was what was in it for me. Who’s the most important person in the world to you? Be honest now.
You see where I’m coming from? Staying on the website, once I’d made my choice of seat confirming and booking it was easy.
Practice Point 5: If possible offer online appointment booking. Patients love it and it makes them feel they’re in control. In addition to timely confirmation the theatre then started sending me further emails prior to the performance date.
Practice point 6: Keep in contact. There is so much we can tell our new patients; from what to expect at their first appointment to information about a whole range of services we offer. When I booked my ticket I also bought a voucher for a programme and an ice-cream.
Practice point 7: Upsell is effective. Even if you don’t think it’s appropriate to try to sell actual services at the stage of first contact, include information on your ‘checkout’ page like ‘Would you like to know more about tooth whitening/ white fillings/ cosmetic services etc.? If so click here.’ This is actually a useful information service and can lead to further enquiries.
OK, my ticket is booked, my travel arrangements made and I duly turn up at the theatre. That happens next? How do I perceive the venue? It’s beautiful!
Clean, tidy and obviously well-organised. The staff are friendly and welcoming. Everything looks expensive but in that reassuring sort of way that convinces me this is a high-quality venue and I’ve made a wise decision coming here.
Practice point 8: If you’re trying to run a high-end practice you’ve got to look the part. This doesn’t necessarily mean teams of interior designers but the premises must look carefully thought-out and very well maintained. First impressions mean a lot.
I have not eaten before arriving so enquire what is available. I’m told a whole range of dining opportunities exist from sandwiches to three-course dinners and that I am free to order whatever I want whenever I like.
Practice point 9: Make life as easy as you can for your patients. Book them appointments that are convenient for them, not necessarily you. Give them options at times which are possible, ‘I’ve got an appointment next Wednesday at 10 on another the following Monday at 3.’ This approach is perfectly reasonable. I might have wanted to watch La Traviata on a Tuesday morning at 10 – not possible, but I was very happy to be offered a number of choices. I chose a sandwich during the first interval. It cost me over £12.00!
It’s not about price; it’s about value. The Opera House sandwich was something else. Smoked salmon, eggs, truffles and a host of other delicacies beautifully served at my own private table. Ready the moment I arrived.
Practice Point 10: ‘Wow’ your patients! Your services mustn’t be every-day-average. If you’re going to charge premium prices you’ve got to provide premium services. Ensure every aspect of your operation exceeds expectations. Make sure you’re perceived as really special and your patients will be happy to meet your fees.
I moved into the auditorium. Stunning. Opulent. Yes, the good and the great were there; a number of familiar faces from television and politics. How reassuring! If they valued this experience how could I fail to?
Practice Point 11: Get testimonials. It’s so important these comments are signed or even better presented as video testimonials. In a local community the chances are that people know each other and many may admire those who give such testimonials. Is this an aid to patient confidence?
Act 1 passed by in an instant. After Act 2 I enjoyed my ice-cream. Giving in a ticket was so much easier than searching my pockets for change. I really appreciated the simplicity of this.
Practice point 12: Make things as easy for your patients as possible. Keep them fully informed. Get involved with your local community. It adds credence and makes people feel you really care about your local area. Throughout the production the singing and acting was superb but you know, that didn’t impress me at all. This was the Royal Opera House after all. I would expect excellence as a ‘given’. It certainly shouldn’t be a surprise! What really impressed me were all the things mentioned before.
Practice point 13: Our patients expect excellent clinical expertise as a ‘given’ too. It comes as part of the package. Clinical excellence is simply expected. If we fail to offer it we’ll soon be found out so of course colleagues must constantly improve their skills to be able to offer our valued patients what they want and need.
At the end of the performance hundreds of people needed to leave the building. Even here adequate staff were on hand to help everyone, including those with disabilities.
Practice point 14: Don’t overwhelm your patient after their appointment. Just as a fine opera can leave you feeling overwhelmed in itself, a dental visit – however expertly provided – can leave a patient feeling unable to cope with anything else too. There’s time to contact them later.
To keep the experience fresh in my mind Covent Garden continues to send emails describing future productions and giving booking details.
Practice point 15: Offer loyalty schemes and don’t confine them to the usual formula of ‘two examinations and two hygiene appointments each year’. Be creative! How about holding occasional ‘Patient Parties’ where a small number of members only (and their guests!) can enjoy a glass of wine and some nibbles. These events really make people feel special; as if they are part of an exclusive club. They can become a talking point which may encourage others to join the practice.
Do you think the Opera House has developed its outstanding customer service and its influential business-growth protocols by chance? I don’t think so. I suspect they’ve spent a great amount of time and effort working on it. The point is when the quality is there then promoting it properly is nothing short of a service to the public. Independent dental practices might not have the marketing resources large organisations enjoy, but there’s no reason not to copy their techniques. It’s that quality that’s vital.
Practice point 16: Whatever else you do, don’t leave your patient in floods of tears at the end of their appointment. That may be okay after watching an exceptionally fine performance of La Traviata but it sure isn’t okay in practice!
A special experience
Hopefully, none of us leaves our patients weeping after appointments but there’s much more to practice promotion than that. In these increasingly competitive days just ‘satisfying’ patients is not enough. We’ve really got to ‘wow’ them and that isn’t difficult if we take care of every aspect of our service including clinical excellence and superb customer care. Essentially we’ve got to let them know how special their experience will be. We’ve got to exceed their expectations and encourage them to recommend our practice to their friends and we do this by engendering trust and confidence so that they’ll be proud to promote us to others.
Whether you enjoy performing arts or not visit outstanding venues like the Royal Opera House. Their challenges for retaining and increasing their client base are remarkably similar to our own and you’ll be amazed by how many parallels you can draw and how much you can learn.
PHILIP LEWIS BDS qualified in 1977, and is a practice principal in Freshwater on the Isle of Wight. He has special interests in aesthetic dentistry and postgraduate education. He writes extensively for the dental press and has appeared on television and radio in his capacity of media spokesman for the British Dental Association. Philip is an ambassador for The Mouth Cancer Foundation charity and clinical lead of its Mouth Cancer Screening Accreditation Scheme.