The practice team as a marketing factor
The practice team as a marketing factor – an underestimated employee competence
The most recent study of “Stiftung Gesundheit” (Public Health Foundation) was published at the beginning of this year titled “Ärzte im Zukunftsmarkt Gesundheit” [Doctors in the future health market]. One of the questions asked of the participating doctors was what they considered the most important practice marketing factors. At the top, ranking even above a website or external presentation, they mentioned the practice team. This result emphasizes the importance of the team in the areas of marketing, service and patient satisfaction. However, how can the practice team be supported to become a positive marketing factor?
In the first place you, the owner of the practice, must be aware that competent service can be learned to a large extent, but your team members must possess the necessary character traits. A receptionist who is naturally of an optimistic nature, who is able to remain calm in everyday situations in the practice and who can easily manage stressful situations, is the ideal person for this position. You approach your profession with anticipation and passion every day, and your practice team should do so as well. People who do not enjoy and are not enthusiastic about their profession will have a hard time inspiring enthusiasm about the practice in patients. You should be aware of this despite the increasing shortage of qualified personnel.
Synergy in the team
Whether you are establishing a new practice, taking over an existing or running an established one – the composition of the team is essential for the functioning of the practice team. Team members should ideally be of different age groups to facilitate the development of natural age hierarchies and promote the exchange of experience. While conducting job interviews, think about how each applicant’s personality will fit into the team. Different personalities should ideally complement one another (rather than compete). If you are not one hundred percent sure of an applicant, suggest a trial day on the job. This will surely be beneficial for both parties. Every new employee should also be assigned a mentor from the existing team to simplify integration into the practice and induction into your processes.
The practice team needs quality management as well
The sore point of many practice teams is excessive turnover, which makes it even more difficult to establish appropriate service quality, since team formation is always in progress. As the practice owner, you should ask yourself why you need to hire so often. What motivates and demotivates the team? What human and spatial factors contribute to improved well-being? How can you achieve staff retention, develop employees and establish long-term employee identification with you and your practice? Do you have the right people in the various areas of responsibility? Does the team feel sufficiently valued? Are there grievances? If so, what causes them? Why is it worth being part of the practice team – is it good pay, individual development, flexible working hours, modern rooms, the attractive break room or the weekly fruit basket? Discuss all the above openly, for example in regular team meetings or during standard performance reviews. If open communication proves to be difficult, an anonymous suggestion box can be set up. Nothing is more useful that honest feedback. Implement internal staff quality management for yourself.
You may of course consider further options such as incentives or team trips. But such things are only useful if there are no serious problems. Otherwise, the mood may change very quickly, and a trip may end up a disaster.
Your team is responsible for the communicating directly with your patients. They do so by email, by telephone or in person in the practice – verbally and non-verbally. In this context, patients decide whether they like or do not like the practice and whether to stay or switch to another. An implant-based restoration or aesthetic dental treatment can be of excellent quality – but if patients do not feel comfortable in your practice, they are not likely to remain loyal. For this reason, your team should always be friendly, cordial, understanding, attentive, respectful, sensitive and empathetic.
A friendly welcome when entering the practice should be standard; optimally, the reception team should be prepared well enough to be able to greet patients by name. There should be plenty of time for all patient questions, and they should be answered politely and courteously. If the receptionist cannot answer specific questions about the treatment plan and cost estimate or the treatment process, the patient should be asked to take a seat, and a team member who is able to answer the question should be called to the front. New patients are automatically given medical history forms, and questions are answered courteously and accurately. Patients waiting for surgical procedures and dental phobic patients tend to become particularly tense. Such patients will need appropriate support before and after their treatment.
Noisy children, a full waiting room, disputes in the waiting room, too many patients suffering pain or staff shortages, e.g. due to illness, are factors that may challenge even the best teams. Discuss sample scenarios regularly and practise how to deal with such situations. Routines, known courses of action and adopting the patient perspective are useful both preventively and in the actual situation. If you and the team have just had some stressful days, follow up on them. What went well? Where do we need to improve? Discussion among the team is often very useful. Always assume that patients possess empathy as well and they will perceive a good or strained atmosphere or even chaos. The atmosphere should always be relaxed, and a bad atmosphere should be corrected as quickly as possible.
Marketing by identification
The practice team is also a visual business card and marketing factor. Make sure you have a uniform for your team, such as in your practice colour scheme or even with an embroidered logo or the names of the team members. This will increase the team members’ identification with the practice, and patients will also appreciate a unified and holistic presentation. Have a dress code. What materials and colours may be worn over shirts on cold days? What colours should shoes and socks be? How should hair be worn, and what are the rules for make-up and jewellery, tattoos, coloured nail polish and unnatural hair colours? Clear rules will help the team.
In large practices, it can be useful to have different clothing for the different types of positions. Dental assistants should be clearly distinguishable from dentists, and dental hygienists may use another colour. A white shirt and scarf are becoming increasingly common in the reception area, similar to the style worn at hotel receptions. And there is a good reason for this – it ultimately emphasizes that service is considered very important here. Dental practices frequently headhunt in the hotel industry, particularly for receptionists. The sense of service and perfect scheduling are very important in the hotel field, just as it is at the reception of the dental practice.
As you can see – there are many options for establishing the practice team as a marketing factor. You should also be aware that this continuous process needs to regularly be refined.