What Dental Practices Can Learn from Silicon Valley’s Hottest Start-Ups
submitted on July 12, 2018
By Robbie Kellman Baxter: Consultant, Keynote Speaker and Board Member; Membership and Subscription Model Expert
Dental Practices can apply the concept of “Customer Success” to their own patient engagement processes to build greater loyalty, referrals and satisfaction among the people they serve.
In today’s competitive market, patient engagement (or lack thereof) could determine whether your practice sinks or swims. Due to recent changes in consumer behaviors, wants, and needs, it’s critical to find better ways to connect with and delight existing patients.
It’s part of a shift toward the Membership Economy, a model based on customer-centric strategy using concepts like subscription price, inclusiveness, and digital platforms that draw people in and win their loyalty. At the center is an emerging field you should know about called Customer Success.
Customer Success is a new discipline which has been implemented at nearly all software companies. It goes a step further than customer support. The emphasis is on customers getting the maximum value from the company, rather than just on solving problems when the customer complains. These problem solvers, connectors, and "BFF insiders" can help your patients thrive and keep them loyal to your brand.
Don’t confuse this with Customer Service. That’s the department that handles problems when the patient calls in. Customer Success, or maybe “Patient Success” specialists, are the patient’s BFFs—insiders there to help them get the very most out of their product.
Patient Success could be the ultimate engagement model.
Patient Success Managers (PSMs) should be problem solvers and connectors.
They do whatever it takes to make their patients happy, and prefer to have the flexibility to find a solution, rather than being hamstrung by bureaucracy. A little bit account management, a little bit support, and a little bit consultant, a PSM is like a best friend inside the practice, trying to get the best outcome for the patients she serves.
Even though Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) companies first established Customer Success departments, dental practices can take a page from their model and use it to build member-relationships patients today. Why? Because unhappy patients can easily cancel their subscriptions or memberships to most services. Once they move away from your brand, it’s very hard to get them back. But having a Patient Success function is a proactive way to ensure your patients are getting the highest value out of your products. And if done right, your Patient Success department can be a profit center for your business.
It might start with a call from a Patient Success Manager (PSM) who does an intake meeting before a patient’s first appointment to understand the patient’s concerns, lifestyle and health goals. They might follow up a week after the initial appointment to check in on pain, but also on whether the patient is complying with recommendations around preventative care. They might suggest additional resources, or answer questions that arise between appointments. For example, some patients might prefer cleanings on a more frequent schedule, or be curious about aesthetic treatments.
And once a patient is fully engaged, if the PSM sees a change in behavior, they can check in to see if the patient has concerns about their health or ability to make it in for treatment. The CSM (Customer Success Manager) might also check in by phone, text or email, when a new procedures or products become available, to make sure patients understand how to use it and get value from advances, whether or not additional payment is required.”
PatientSuccess focuses on more than just retention.While retention is probably the most important metric these organizations track, good PSMs don’t focus on renewal alone.
Trying to win a patient back after they’ve canceled is very hard. It’s much easier to make sure that the patient makes your practice a habit in the days, weeks and months after their first appointment.
PatientSuccess wins loyalty through engagement. As with Patient Service, Patient Success starts with a phone call but it’s about more than fixing a problem. If your mom, or a friend called you to ask for help, you’d go out of your way to do what you could for them. You’d use your smarts to find the answer to their problem, even if it wasn’t part of the usual checkup. You’d be honest about whether they should or shouldn’t get the procdure. You’d share insider tips and tricks to get the most out of the services they’re already covered for. This is what you should do in Patient Success.
And you don’t just wait for the call to come in. Instead, you might make an outbound call to see how your patient is doing.
A PSM is ultimately judged on patient engagement, which is a leading indicator of retention, which leads to revenue and profitability. You want patients to be loyal to your practice and not think of you as a commodity.
Additional metrics beyond engagement and retention might include Net Promoter Score (a patient’s likelihood to make a referral), actual referrals made, and willingness to serve as a reference. All of these metrics tie to lifetime patient value (LPV).
PatientSuccess goes beyond PatientSupport.Patient support is about solving problems when patients complain. Patient support is a cost center, and the goal of most patient support teams is to resolve complaints as quickly as possible.
It’s reactive, and often an extra annoyance for the office staff. In contrast, Patient Success is proactive, and a profit center. From the moment of the initial transaction, Patient Success Managers are reaching out to patients, to ensure that they are getting value they are already paying for, with a focus of achieving their health and wellness objectives.
Customer Success has become a hot new career niche—that’s good for Patient Success too.As organizations try to establish strong Patient Success discipline in their organizations, refugees from patient support, account management, and inside sales are flocking to Patient Success in search of a more exciting career. In fact, Patient Success is one of the fastest growing and most exciting careers available today.
Today, CSMs are found mostly in SaaS businesses, but Success teams are popping up in other places as well. Businesses that depend on long-term engagement to maximize LCV such as retail and consumer subscriptions are adding CSMs to their teams at lightning speed. A few unlikely brands with thriving Customer Success functions include Zipcar, Dun & Bradstreet and Visa.
Healthcare is next.
If you care about engagement and retention, you should definitely think about implementing your own Patient Success function. You might discover a great new way to keep in touch with your patients and give them the best-friend-on-the-inside treatment. Watch what happens. When they are engaged and feel cared for, they are far more likely to stick with your practice for the long haul.
Robbie Kellman Baxter is the founder of Peninsula Strategies LLC, author of The Membership Economy, and a LinkedIn Learning course author.
Her clients have included large organizations like Netflix, SurveyMonkey, and the National Restaurant Association, as well as smaller venture-backed start-ups. Over the course of her career, Robbie has worked in or consulted with clients in more than 20 industries.
As a public speaker, Robbie has presented to thousands of people in corporations, associations, and universities. She has an AB from Harvard College and an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
Find Robbie on Twitter @robbiebax. Contact her at Rbaxter@peninsulastrategies.com to set up a complimentary call.
Informational video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQLVR45drwg&frags=pl%2Cwn