There was much to be celebrated in the overall results of the GDC's Patient and Public Survey when it revealed earlier this year that the UK's satisfaction with its dental care is riding on an all-time high.
For those practice teams who dedicate time, energy and resources to building, developing and marketing patients' trust – in its staff and its dental treatments and the safe environment within which these are delivered – then well done, this is testimony to your hard work.
The estimated worth of the UK's primary care dentistry currently stands at £5.8 billion – but, for those practice owners who work on the principle that 'if we get a % of that, we should be successful', then there is much work to be done.
As we well know, a business does not succeed simply because it exists – whatever the industry.
It is also worth remembering that trust can be really challenging to nurture but is easy to destroy – and losing the confidence of just a handful of patients can ruin the reputation of any dental business.
In this savvy and litigious world, 70% of customers make buying decisions based on online information, everyone has the right to a 'social media' voice and we are all encouraged to give online feedback. A practice's dental marketing activity should therefore factor in these considerations.
Trust is not a generic concept either – what one patient considers important might not tick boxes for another. For instance, it may lie in the longevity of staff employed at the practice, the practice's risk management successes, CQC inspection results or simply in the kind reassurances from one of the dental nurses just before a particularly complex appointment.
What is key to all of these components, however, is a visible demonstration of quality dentistry (and its outcomes), a demonstrable commitment to tailored care and consistent attention to each and every individual during their patient journey – from start to finish and by all members of the team.
Be prepared - review regularly
This continuity of care inevitably requires regular review – after all, not every treatment is a straightforward textbook case and neither are patients. The practice team should be encouraged to inform management of potential flashpoints and with any patients seemingly on the cusp of a complaint.
Effective complaints handling is a GDC expectation, of course – but it is also an important skill for the whole team – front of desk as well clinicians – and it might be prudent to develop customer service scripts that facilitate any potential tricky customer interactions.
Scripts not only empower staff to act swiftly to pre-empt any complaints or halt their escalation. They can also help teams develop the practice's brand, ethically pursue sales opportunities and market treatments as well as explain associated costs and policies – all with clarity.
Simple errors can always be avoided by good communication, so it is vital to keep the channels open not just between team members and their patients but between team members themselves, too.
Each patient should be viewed as an individual with unique preferences, values and expectations – the challenge here is to cater for these specific needs whilst also marketing this tailored approach to other potential customers.
Encouraging feedback ensures a practice maintains its values and ethos and may even act as a springboard for change. So, be prepared to adapt policies and your branding to suit a changing and increasingly savvy patient base. As for so many aspects of dentistry, good communication is vital.
Top tips for getting dental patients' trust
- Make sure the whole practice team commits to the GDC Standards for the dental team. If everyone uses the same point of reference, there is a safe unity in the team's approach
- Patient leaflets, posters and audio-visual aids in the waiting room, together with social media activity and an easy-to-navigate and attractive website, that is full of current practice news and treatment information, are all powerful methods of patient education and communication
- Hold regular practice meetings. In an industry that has its fair share of part-time workers and locums, it may be the only time the whole team is together. Use these meetings as a forum for discussion to achieve best policy as well as a source of new dental marketing ideas to convey your ethos
- Revisit real-life scenarios to seek ways of improving the safe delivery of care. Seek feedback and reflect as a team. This can provide useful prompts and help to cement new improved policies and protocols
- Consider signing up to the BDA Good Practice quality assurance programme that allows its members to communicate to patients an on-going commitment to working to standards of good practice on professional and legal responsibilities.
- Encourage each team member to go above and beyond compliance with the core CPD requirements by topping up with the non-core topics in fields of their special interest, or on topic areas identified – depending on the individual's personal development plan
- Have regular in-house training covering new innovations and clinical developments, and invite external trainers to come in from time to time to deliver the team's education and development needs as they arise. Evidence base is continually shifting, the practice is mindful that interventions need to adapt to reflect any new thinking in clinical practice. Lunch and learns are a great way of pulling everyone together, whether run by dental suppliers and other outside agencies or by a member of the practice team
- Shout about your policies – flag up your good feedback and your success rates on social media, on your website and in-house to encourage others to put their trust in you, your team and, ultimately, your business.
Shaz Memon, Creative Director
Training for the whole dental team
Training Essentials is a portfolio of courses to help meet the training needs of the whole dental team. We offer a range of topics, including all core and recommended CPD areas, regulatory updates, business management and personal development.