Adding Up the Value of Add-Ons
A measure of success for a laboratory may be what can't be inventoried
By Nick Azar
Your dentists may be measuring your laboratory’s value by the nonproduct services you provide to their patients. As part of their dental team, they count on you to pay close attention to their patients’ wishes and expectations, extending patients a warm welcome and acknowledging the patients’ needs for personalization. They also rely on you to let their patients know that the reason these services are extended to them is because your dentist-client is valuable.
More often than not, these value-added services keep your customers returning to you. This also helps them remember you, leading them to recommend you to their colleagues.
Here are some ways that you can go above and beyond good customer service.
Pay close attention: The most important task for the dental team members is to learn more about their patients every time they visit the dental office. Paying close attention to the patients’ likes and dislikes, noting birthdays and anniversaries, or maybe remembering the name of a local vendor that they like to frequent can be the key to making the patient visit a memorable one. Because the laboratory is part of the dental team, the laboratory should make it a point to extend birthday wishes to the patient, or maybe consider including with the case a small monetary gift card for the dental office staff to give to the patient. The laboratory can help give the dental office an edge over the competition and an opportunity to show that they care.
Patients first: This is especially important when a patient is required to visit the laboratory to complete customization on the dental restoration. As part of the dental team, each member of the laboratory team who interacts with the patient should be briefed on the patient’s name, time of arrival, and the work required to be completed during the visit. The first and most important responsibility of each member of the laboratory team is to ensure that patient feels special, is greeted by name upon arrival and by every member of the laboratory team, and the visit has been expected and the laboratory is prepared for the patient. This type of acknowledgement is meaningful and enhances the way the patient experiences doing business with your dentist-client.
Predictive personalization: The more you know about the likes and dislikes of the patients, the more you’re able to predict the needs and wants. As part of the dental team, the laboratory might want to develop a system to ensure the patient preferences are always considered and all customizations are recorded in detail for any future restorations. A personalized certification with the patient’s name to accompany the case, highlighting the shade that was used on the specific case, the brand of materials’ lot numbers (if applicable), and any other relevant information may be one way to accomplish this.
Thoughtfulness and sensitivity: When a dentist-client buys a dental appliance, think about the details and ways you can make their lives easier. For example, when your dentist-client buys a removable appliance from your laboratory, such as a denture or partial, do you ask if they have cleaning solution to go with it? If your pediatric or geriatric dental practice prescribes a mouthguard or denture, do you have a way of imprinting the patient’s name on the appliance for easy identification? Little things go a long way.
Gratitude and appreciation: This can take many forms, from notes to phone calls to small gifts. The entire dental team must remember to practice showing appreciation after every good experience and even the bad ones. The laboratory has many opportunities to demonstrate appreciation: offer discounts on future laboratory work or give free products, such as denture adhesive or cleaning solution, to complement the appliance just manufactured. Sometimes, simply saying, “Your business is appreciated” goes a long way. Your words of appreciation reveal your humbleness and generosity. By appreciating others, your value increases.
A captivating experience: Sometimes the laboratory doing something special, meaningful, memorable, fun, or unusual for patients and dentist-clients can be a captivating experience. Have a contest or drawing and promise to donate a certain amount to the winner’s favorite charity. You can help your dentist-client put a smile on someone’s face who might be underprivileged and can’t afford dental work. While it’s great to get sales for your laboratory service and have dentists buy from you, it’s also great to give your dentist-clients' and their patients' time and money to worthy causes in the community.
The value of these extra services is easy to dismiss or overlook. But add a number of seemingly minor details together, and you end up with something of far more value than you would without them. Anyone can make a crown or denture right; it's the value-added services that differentiate one laboratory from another and that influence dentists to choose one over the other. Often, laboratory owners cut out the little value-added services when times get tough, which is a big mistake. Attentiveness and recognition cost nothing, as do personalization and consideration.
Nick Azar is a DAMAS consultant, business strategist, executive coach, and founder of Azar and Associates in Santa Clarita, California.
Some of the Extras
Here are a few more ways that you can help your customers create positive buzz about their practices.
Have a patient-information brochure. Describe your laboratory services, product options, patient care, and product warranties.
Provide online tools. Make it easy for your dentist-clients to communicate with their patients about the progress of their custom-fabricated dental prosthesis.
Place tablets and pens in the waiting area. Patients can write down questions for their dentist or laboratory technician while they are waiting.
Have a patient appreciation day. Have the laboratory do a free nightguard or whitening tray during patient appreciation day at the dental office.
Bring custom laboratory services to the dental office. Bring laboratory services (custom shades, minor repairs, custom stain, CT scans, etc.) to the patient examination room.
Ask the lab guy. If a patient has a particular need or request, that person can speak directly to the laboratory manager or owner.
Create a contest, such as The Best Dentist Award. These types of contests are low cost, and people can submit entries online—saving you both time and money.
Produce an event. You could feature a famous local speaker, provide great food, and encourage your employees to foster networking. The options are endless.