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Inside Dental Technology
August 2018
Volume 9, Issue 8

Building a Dental Laboratory Customer Experience Program

Avoid these five major perils for success

Chad Storlie

The focus on customer experience has exploded over the past several years, according to Google searches and business literature. Broadly, "customer experience" is the totality of interactions that a customer has with a business's products, services, and supporting functions-good, bad, or indifferent. Such feedback can show both the strengths and weaknesses in the company's customer service approach. For example, not long ago mobile phone customers were having highly satisfying interactions with their phones but less than satisfactory experiences with the service, including extra fees and confusing billing. But that industry fixed these shortcomings, boosting the customer experience. The good news is that customer experience initiatives can translate equally well across industries into the dental laboratory.

Dental laboratories can learn from the mobile phone industry, among others, that while great products are vital to business success, so are great billing systems, helpful customer service, and product innovation driven by feedback gathered from the customers themselves. Dental laboratories' customer experience initiatives seek to rapidly understand and mitigate negative interactions with products or services and turn the negatives into positives to create an improved customer experience. Over time, dental laboratories that create progressively better customer experiences begin to create a competitive advantage over their competitors and, most importantly, create dentist customers who become loyal and vocal brand advocates. Creating greater customer loyalty is one of the best financial outcomes of great customer experience programs.

In company customer experience programs, there are still lots of things that can and do go wrong. Below are five major perils that can, and often do, derail these initiatives.

Peril #1: Is Your Company Culture Truly Open To Change?

Fundamentally, great company customer experience programs are driven by a company culture that wants to make things better for its clients. That's it. If your organization is not committed to and passionate about improving customer interactions, then you are better off pursuing other initiatives. Successful efforts are driven by a serious desire to listen and to change in ways that will delight clients and ultimately drive customer growth.

Peril #2: Do You Let Data or Internal Opinion Drive Your Customer Experience Changes?

One of the greatest perils of customer experience programs is assuming what the clients want. Customer experience programs work best when they use surveys, forums, documentation of customer service sessions, and independent product/service evaluations tied to specific stages in the customer journey through the organization. This data gathering should be done at least semi-annually to ensure the freshest look at your customer experience. For effectiveness, it's important to consistently gather client feedback data across all points of interaction—from ordering and delivery to billing and customer service.

Peril #3: Are You Gathering Enough "Voice of the Customer" Data Across All Vital Areas?

A third major peril is an over-focus on perspectives that the company believes are the most important to your clients. Voice of the Customer (VOC) is the gathering of direct customer perspective through interviews, surveys, focus groups, and other analytic techniques. A pure product comparison focus misses vital areas of the customer experience that VOC efforts will capture. How often do customers get first-call resolution when they reach out for help? Does billing go smoothly? These issues are extremely important to customers, but they often go unnoticed by companies because they are only gathering the VOC across areas they think are they most important. Listen to the VOC across all areas that the customer directly and indirectly interacts with the company.

 Peril #4: Is Your Company Customer Experience Program Independent?

When the customer experience data are reported to anyone but the laboratory owner or manager, misattribution of customer feedback is a constant threat. Customer experience needs to be an independent voice that is data driven and collects views from a wide variety of customers. This ensures the true customer voice is heard throughout the entire organization and not just targeted to individual beliefs.

Peril #5: Are You Acting Too Slowly on Customer Feedback?

Customer experience programs energize customers through surveys, presentations by KOLs, and press coverage. However, there is a danger that the laboratory will gather a mountain of feedback and act either too slowly or in areas that are not major pain points. Companies need to act quietly and respond quickly to areas of greatest concern.

While avoiding these five perils won't guarantee a successful program, it can vastly improve your chances. Customer experience is similar to other company quality initiatives—the more you do it and the longer, the better you become. As you build your customer experience program, steer clear of these pitfalls; your customers will thank you.

About the Author

Chad Storlie is an Adjunct Professor of Marketing at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska.

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