Services marketing in the dental practice: This is what counts!A dental practice does not operate in a vacuum; dental practices are also subject to market and marketing rules. If you want to communicate your dental expertise in the best possible way, you should know the basic rules of service marketing.
Just over 70 percent of the workforce in Germany is employed in the service sector. That means seven out of ten work at a bank or as a cook, are employed as flight attendants or marketing consultants, or look after the well-being of their patients as physiotherapists or dentists.
More and more people are seeing healthcare as a health service and less as a medical science. There are many reasons for this change in perception: Minimally invasive surgery, for example, in which the patient is quickly discharged home, or new business models, such as that dental clinic in downtown Cologne that is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week.
Dentistry – part of the service sector
Dentistry is also part of the service sector, so there are definitely parallels to buying a concert ticket or booking a cruise. Because, as with all services, dental medicine lacks physical evidence and immediacy. These characteristics may sound obvious and banal, but they are anything but meaningless. Because even today, bartering seems to be deeply rooted in the mentality of people. This "I give you, in return you give me …" works very well in product marketing: In return for your money, you get fresh strawberries at the fruit store, a new iPhone in the Apple store, and a new tie at Peek& Cloppenburg a silk tie, and that directly. But what do you get from the dentist except the promise that everything will get better?
More and more people are booking their vacations over the Internet: the boarding pass is printed out at home, and the hotel is reserved using an app. And yet, the German DER-Touristik alone operates 2100 travel agencies in the Federal Republic, which continue to serve their clientele. How can it be? Who would like to undertake the long-desired dream journey to Thailand, fetches gladly advice from a professional. An online travel portal is just not enough for that. Strictly speaking, travel agencies also only sell their customers the promise of a great vacation. Similar to the dentist's office, which ares its patients of better health. However, the professionals in the travel agencies know exactly how to compensate for the lack of tangibility and immediacy. Therefore, a travel agency can be quite an interesting model for the patient consultation in the dental practice.
At eye level
No sooner do you enter a travel agency than you are invited to take a seat and make yourself comfortable. After all, customers should feel comfortable and relaxed receiving advice. The tourism saleswoman sits across from the customer and takes her time. The more courteous the customer is treated, the more willing he is to book a trip, even if it costs money. "Please take a seat."A statement that seems self-evident in a travel agency is far from being so in a dental practice.
As a rule, consultations with the patient take place between door and door, for example at the reception or in the treatment room. This may be fine for a simple filling or a routine check-up, but not for complex and costly procedures where the patient requires a detailed explanation.
For such important conversations, the practice's reception desk is not the place to be. Where neither the necessary discretion nor the calmness needed for a convincing patient dialogue is guaranteed. Also the treatment room is not suitable for a relaxed conversation. Most patients do not find themselves again until they have left the dentist's chair. In addition: How should a positive discussion develop, if at the same time the practice assistant prepares the room for the next patient??
Only a few dentists have yet understood how important a relaxed ambience is for the acceptance of treatment plans and cost calculations. They have set up a small meeting room in their practice. There, conversations can be held with the patient at eye level – relaxed and comfortable sitting at the table, similar to a travel agency. At the fruit dealer you can take the display in your hand. About comparing apples with each other. At Peek& Cloppenburg you can feel the tie. Convince yourself of the quality of silk. With a service, on the other hand, this tangibility is missing, in the truest sense of the word. The travel agency makes up for this flaw with a multitude of catalogs and glossy brochures, and when the trip is finally booked, you get a folder with all the documents, brochures and booking confirmations in your hand. Maybe there are even luggage labels as a gift. Why do travel professionals do this? Because they want to materialize their service. Consciously meet the mentality of bartering.
Dental treatment be-greifen
In the dentist's office there are a lot of tools, documents and records used during medical treatment, which could also be used as a support during patient consultations. It's not just about the patient brochures provided by the industry and associations, but also about all the other tools and possibilities that help the patient to better grasp the dental treatment in the truest sense of the word.
This means printing out radiographs and intraoral images and giving them to the patient. Also drawings, which were scribbled as explanation on a sheet of paper, gets this into the hand. The patient should be able to take a copy of the interdental bleeding index home with him, so he can hang it on the bathroom mirror. It may be that the patient does not know how to interpret his X-ray and that the tooth drawing resembles abstract art, but that does not matter, because both still help the patient to better understand, to concretize, to materialize dentistry.
The staff as guarantor
The lack of tangibility of services is compensated for not only by appropriate aids – travel documentation, bank savings books, orthopantomograms – but above all by the competence and friendliness of the staff. After all, it is a person in the travel agency who suggests destinations and excursions, answers questions, eliminates doubts and finally convinces the customer of the cruise through the Norwegian fjords. Bank clerks and tourism clerks not only learn the basic technical skills during their apprenticeships, they are also trained in dealing with customers: Always be friendly, even if you got up on the wrong side of the bed, or how to deal with objections and negative comments.
Service marketing insights should make it clear that practice staff are just not there to assist with procedures, track medical records, and schedule appointments. The employees compensate with their appearance not only the missing comprehensibility of a dental treatment, but they stand also as guarantors for the missing absolute guarantee of a dental treatment.
That's why all dental professionals should not only attend dental continuing education or billing seminars, but also take a conversation workshop or a rhetoric course once in a while. Even if there are no CME points for this, such further training is nevertheless the right way to take account of the peculiarities of service marketing in the dental practice.