All About Marketing

Most of the doctors' offices that I have walked into over the past few years make me feel like a low class citizen. I walk in the office, smile at the receptionist, and she says "Sign in" and turns away. At a local dermatologist's office, I walked in one day with my daughter, signed in, and the young lady immediately slid a glass partition to the closed position and went back to doing her nails.
As a consultant, I had a mini stroke right then and there, and after being revived (just kidding) I almost walked out of the office. I was shocked at how little the staff cared about the patients. But in these days of managed care and discount services, maybe I was expecting too much.
In my own dental practice, we made the effort to greet every patient who walked in the door, and when a new patient entered, we knew to expect them and my office manager made the effort to shake hands, introduce herself, and sit with them and just talk for a minute or two. My staff made sure that they greeted each patient by name, introduced themselves, and presented a genuine air of caring -because they did care, it was quite easy. We all had an understanding that we were there for the patients and we were thankful they were there for us! This attitude was instilled into each and every person who worked for us.
As a customer, or dental patient, you will tend to observe the employees of the business you are working with. If the staff seems downtrodden, unhappy, or downright miserable, you are far less likely to refer friends or family to that business. But, if you walk into a business in which the staff is upbeat and really seems to want to be there, your mind equates this to be a good place to do business. This is free advertising folks! And it is so simple to do. And if the business owner is walking around the restaurant talking to customers, asking how they like their food, and just having fun with everything, this goes a long way. Customers notice these things, and even if it is just on a subconscious level, it works!
Let's run a few scenarios of some my own experiences. First of course is that wonderful dermatology office where the receptionist closed the glass partition in my face so her nails could be done in private. To date, no one in my family has been back to that office. My next experience is at the local grocery store - two minutes from the house. One day, I went there and had to use their restroom. It was so disgusting that I decided it was time for a change. Now, we shop at Wegman's - their restrooms are very clean. My third experience was at the local Greek hole-in-the-wall restaurant - a place called 'Pan Am Family Restaurant' - the staff there said hello, asked about our children, and were generally nice. They all focused on the customers at all times. Now, if anyone asks me where I shop, I tell them "Wegman's" and why, and just this past week I gave out the restaurant's name to two people.
This is part of what internal marketing is about - setting a tone in the business that says you care about the customers without actually saying it. Most of my own consulting work is with medical or dental practices. Generally, the staff in most dental practices is pretty good to work with since they understand what is expected of them. For some reason, it is the medical practices that need a little repair to their staff. I think this is because they are worked hard and have to deal with all these discount insurances - if you ask a staff member for an honest answer, they will usually tell you that dealing with insurance really stinks. This can easily bring a person down, so a good business owner will keep an eye on her insurance handler.
A good way to keep tabs on how you 'present' your business to the world is to do surveys and find out what your customers or patients or clients think about you. In your survey, have them express what they think of your attitude, service, staff, products, fees, etc. You may not like what you hear, but this is a great way to determine what people are looking at and what you can possibly improve. Sure, your feelings will be hurt once in a while....maybe a lot in the beginning.....but as time goes by you can make positive changes. I will admit that my first surveys as a dentist really did bother me a lot) So, be strong, buck up and take it like a business owner, and just find out what people are saying about you - it's worth it!

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