Küster Dental Blog

Archive for the ‘interior branding’ Category

Gotta Know How to Smile

Posted on: May 14th, 2014 by James Kuester No Comments
Smile

Smile

There is a woman that works as a barista at my local Starbucks that makes me cringe whenever she is on the cash register when I come in. Occasionally, as I sit contemplating my next blog post, I’ll watch her and the other baristas as they hustle and work hard to serve up the various coffee beverages and keep the morning line moving. This particular woman probably hustles more than most of her coworkers. She is never idle. If there is a lull in traffic she is immediately looking to see what needs to be done next and jumps to it. There is no question that she takes her job seriously and puts tremendous effort into trying to do it well. However, she doesn’t seem to know how to interact with customers.

Being a barista requires one to interact with the customers. A significant part of the coffeehouse culture, and an area where Starbucks normally shines, is that they have consistently warm, friendly baristas that learn customers’ names, take time in spite of crushing lines to banter with them, and always provide service with a smile. This particular woman doesn’t seem to be able to do this. Perhaps it is her personality. Perhaps the manager has not bothered to coach her on her demeanor. Whatever the case, she is diminishing the coffee house experience with her gruff manner and lack of rapport with customers.

We see this same problem when performing Patient Experience Evaluations for clients. Front line personnel that are gruff and terse with patients have an immediate dampening effect on patient experience ratings. Patients want to be treated with respect and dignity and not like they are an annoying interruption to the person’s day. A warm smile and greeting go a long way toward helping to reduce patient anxiety.

For some people learning to smile, laugh, and engage with patients does not come naturally, especially while under pressure. This behavior requires training and coaching and consistent reinforcement until it becomes second nature. We believe everyone has the ability to learn to be warm and engaging if properly coached. As an employer one doesn’t have to hire for “type” – nor should they. But, one does need to understand the roll doing the entire job right plays in creating a positive patient experience and not just the technical proficiency portion of the job description.

You Have them at “Hello”

Posted on: May 9th, 2014 by James Kuester No Comments
"Hello!"

“Hello!”

Remember the old adage that you only have one chance to make a first impression? Well, we may not have as long as we’ve thought to make that impression. A recent research project has found that we humans form impressions of people from the very first “hello.” Michelle Trudeau on NPR’s “Morning Edition” reported on the research this past week. The way men and women say hello immediately causes us to form instinctive judgments on how trustworthy the speaker is, along with a host of other important attributes that were very important in keeping humans alive over the years.

Think about your dental office and how the receptionist answers the phone or says “hello” to people when they first walk in. I’ve always been shocked at how many offices I walk into to be greeted gruffly or with an irritated tone – like I’m interrupting their day. During our Patient Experience Evaluations this is one of the things we notice right away. If that first word out of the greeter’s mouth isn’t warm, friendly, and welcoming it sets a bad tone for the entire visit. The entire dental team has an uphill battle at that point to salvage the experience and send the patient away happy. Luckily, research has also shown that the way the patient is sent out the door has a very strong impact on how the entire experience is remembered.

Why set the dental team up for this much effort when proper training can avert potential disaster? Evidently, the famous line from Jerry Maquire, “You had me at hello,” isn’t all that far off.

What Sets Your Dental Office Apart?

Posted on: March 24th, 2014 by James Kuester No Comments
A three legged stool - dentistry, service, design

A three legged stool – dentistry, service, design

What sets your dental practice off from all of the competition?  What is your unique value proposition that keeps patients coming back and motivates them to refer their family and friends to your door?  “We provide great oral healthcare,” you say.  “But,” I challenge, so do the guys down the street – and across town, and in the next township over.  I would say that merely providing really good healthcare is not enough to brand differentiate your dental practice from all of the competition. Of course, this is something that every dental practice should be striving for. In fact, I’d contend they should be striving to provide exceptional oral healthcare. However, in an environment where dentistry is viewed as a commodity there has to be more to your brand beyond exceptional care.  The entire dental experience must be exceptional.

The hard part of building a business is in identifying that unique element that sets it apart from all of its competition.  We call this the “defining touch” of the business.  Once identified the business must have a specific plan on how to shape, hone, and refine this touch into the sharp sword of excellence that will give it an edge over the competition.  It is not enough to be good at one does.  One must strive for excellence in order to attract new patients, retain the ones you’ve got, and build a practice that flourishes.  Of course, we firmly believe that the design of the dental office is integral to this defining element and that success cannot be achieved without weaving the design of the physical space and the design of the patient service together into a symbiotic whole.  All three legs of the dentistry, service, and office design “stool” must be strong if it is going to support a winning team.

How Do You Know Whether Your Office is a Hit?

Posted on: March 21st, 2014 by James Kuester No Comments

HandsClappingYou go to a show.  You thoroughly enjoy it.  So do all the people around you.  At the end you, along with everyone else in the theatre erupt into enthusiastic applause and leap to your feet.  As you leave the theatre you can’t stop talking about how wonderful the performance was, which were your favorite scenes – your favorite lines.  The next day you’re still talking about it to everyone you meet.  The sow was obviously a hit.

But, you run a dental office, not a theatre troupe.  How do you know if your dental practice is a “hit” with your patients?  You’ve just spent good money remodeling the practice after taking over from the retiring, senior associate.  Was that money well spent?  Have you achieved your goal of providing an exceptional patient experience?  Well, are your patients talking about you?

How would you know whether your patients are talking about you?  One of the first ways is to be tracking referrals.  The time to start tracking both patient referrals and appointment cancellations is before you embark on your remodel or some other major change in the practice operations.  The more baseline data you have the more certain you’ll be of the results after the change.  If you’ve been successful in improving the patient experience you should see referrals go up and cancellations fall.

You can also survey your patients asking them about their experience.  Again, if you can do this before the change doing so afterwards will give you comparative data.  Having a third-party survey your patients is probably a better choice than having someone from the office call.  Patients are more likely to be honest with a third-party than someone in the office they know – especially if they have a complaint.  Email surveys are also good as they are less expensive and you can reach out to every patient that you have an email address for.

Then there is social media.  You can look to see what your patients are saying on your Facebook page.  You can build quick Facebook surveys that can help you ask specific questions about changes in the practice and solicit responses.

As Lady Gaga says, “[we] live for the applause.” In the case of a dental office hit, the applause is a vibrant, growing practice.

Blue – Another Great Color Choice for 2014

Posted on: March 12th, 2014 by James Kuester No Comments
"Blue" jeans

“Blue” jeans

Blue.  More specifically, indigo, is a hot color right now.  Earlier we discussed that Radiant Orchid is Pantone’s 2014 Color of the Year, but Indigo is definitely a hot choice right now among color enthusiasts.  The color watchers at The Wall Street journal are seeing a re-emergence of Indigo in everything from fashion to furnishings and print.

What makes Indigo such an appealing color? Think blue jeans.  Ever since Levi Strauss launched his line of jeans in the 19th century, Americans have been in love with their jeans.  Who doesn’t wear a pair when they are off work and relaxing?  Heck, we’re known to wear our favorite pairs until they have holes and are practically falling off of us.  If one is going to design a dental office and brand it as the ultimate in relaxed, comfortable, and friendly oral health care, what better way to capture this than by using indigo and denim as part of the décor?

The goal is to create a space that people feel comfortable coming to so they won’t cancel their appointments out of anxiety and that they’ll refer all of their family and friends to.  Indigo can be an excellent choice, working well against a backdrop of neutral colors from white to beige to taupe to bring a sense of calm and relaxation to the practice.  Will indigo appeal across genders?  We certainly think so. What man doesn’t own a pair of jeans and have blue in his closet?

Melding Form & Function for a Better Patient Experience

Posted on: February 28th, 2014 by James Kuester No Comments
A beautiful, curving modern design

A beautiful, curving modern design

In order to achieve a great patient experience form and function must meld together seamlessly through the design so that there are no negative pattern interrupts.  This is not always easy to achieve and requires the designer and user to work closely together to understand how a space is going to be used on a daily basis.  If this doesn’t happen things that look good on paper may not work well at all in application.  For example, I recently saw a lovely faucet that had beautiful curved, modern lines; however, to turn the water from cold to hot one had to rotate the control counter clockwise to rear of the faucet.  Anyone that is left handed could not reach the control while standing directly in front of the sink and had to step to their right in order to operate it.  Function Fail.

A more common function fail we see in dental office designs is the lack of anywhere to hang one’s coat.  We understand most patients do not like the idea of leaving a coat unattended in the waiting room, but rarely do we find any accommodations made in the operatory to put them.  Coats end up draped over a side chair or scrunched in the corner of the room.  How hard is it to put a couple of coat hooks in each room?

Positive pattern interrupts are great in design.  They wake people up from the fog they tend to wander through and causes them to pay more attention to their surroundings and makes an experience more memorable.  However, unlike negative ones, the memories are good ones.  For example, a woman walking into the restroom at her dental office to find a special shelf for her to place her purse on so it isn’t merely sitting on the floor or counter comes as a pleasant surprise.

The goal in designing the patient experience is to blend form and function together so the memories are all positive.  When this is achieved patients go away telling their family and friends only good things which generates more referrals and subsequently more patients and the practice grows.  Another good thing.

Getting Your Practice Name to “Go Viral”

Posted on: February 5th, 2014 by James Kuester No Comments

Did you watch the Super Bowl last Sunday evening?  If so, did you happen to see the Coca-Cola “America the Beautiful” ad?  If not, the ad features a wide range of diverse people all singing “America the Beautiful” with sweeping vistas from across the country playing across the background.  At the end the epitomes Coca-Cola bottle spins onto the screen.  While I’m not sure exactly what this has to do with Coca-Cola other than perhaps to demonstrate the breadth and diversity of the people that drink their products, the ad seems to have been very effective in generating a lot of attention.  People all over Facebook, Twitter, and the news networks were talking about it both Sunday night and all day on Monday.  Since the goal of advertising is to get people to remember your company’s name, product, or both, I’d say Coca-Cola and their ad agency scored a hit with this one.

Having the name of one’s dental practice “go viral” and be repeated over and over again by patients is the goal in designing an exceptional patient experience.  I’m qualifying the experience as exceptional as I don’t believe any dental practice really wants the kind of word-of-mouth marketing that goes along with offering a poor experience.  I’ve read that patients are ten times more likely to tell friends and family about a poor experience than they are a positive one, so one must be striving for excellence in the experience they offer if talk about the dental experience is going to “go viral” like Coke’s Super Bowl ad.  The design of the dental office is one of the key foundations of crafting an exceptional patient experience.  The colors, light, and texture all play together to set the stage for the human interaction and treatment that patients receive.

Hang it Up

Posted on: December 9th, 2013 by James Kuester No Comments
Hang it up

Hang it up

After my bought with poor customer service while traveling last week coupled with the onset of cold, snowy weather, I’ve really been thinking a lot about the reception dental office provide to their patients when they first arrive at the office.  I really believe the first few moments when a patient arrives at the dental office are critical to setting the tone for the whole visit.  If something happens to upset them, they’ll not go into the rest of the visit in a good mood.  For example, if they are not greeted warmly and with a smile by the reception staff.  Or, if there is no place to hang their coat or place their boots.  The first is a training issue, the second is a design issue.

Unless your dental office is located where it is sunny and warm all the time, your patients probably come to the office with coats at least half the year.  From now until April those coats tend to be heavy and bulky and are shed as soon as they arrive inside.  Affording a place in the design to hang them up not only is courteous to the patients but also keeps them from cluttering up the Waiting Room with them draped over chairs.  We also are aware a lot of patients are wary of leaving their coat in a closet and out of sight during their exam, so having hooks or hangers in each operatory is also a good idea.  Again, this keeps the coats up and out of the way and keeps your dental office looking neat and tidy.  A patient walking in for her appointment is most likely going to have a poor emotional response if she first walks into the office and finds the entire Waiting Room full of discarded coats all over the chairs.

 

Customer Service – Why is it so Hard?

Posted on: December 4th, 2013 by James Kuester No Comments
The Quintessential Doorman

The Quintessential Doorman

Because I travel a lot I get to observe a lot of examples of good and bad customer service.  I will admit that I am not immune to the expectations that certain brands represent in terms of quality of amenities and customer service.  This is what a good branding program is supposed to do.  Consequently, I am particularly sensitive when a property does a bad job of representing their brand.

For example, yesterday I was checking into a Hilton Hotel and pulled my car upfront.  I had a large amount of bags and was hoping to get assistance in transporting them to my room.  No one came out to meet me, so I parked, turned the flashers on and went in search of a bell boy.  Standing at the front door was a doorman in a long overcoat, top hat, and scarf.  I told him what I wanted and he directed me on how to self-park the car and access the lobby via the skywalk.  I again said, “I have a lot of bags.”  He just repeated the directions on how to self-park the car.  In disgust I hopped back into the car and went to park.

This is not the kind of service I’ve come to expect from Hilton – not a lower end brand, mind you, but the full-blown, downtown property type of Hilton.

As a small business owner, dental offices don’t have the same kind of marketing budget that large companies do to develop, promote, and train staff on the branding message so it is especially critical that they be diligent daily in protecting and promoting the branding message.  This means consistent training and reinforcement on how staff behaves and interacts with patients, how the office looks, and how problems are resolved.  Just like with hotels, there are lots of other dentists that people can choose from and one never wants to give a patient an excuse to go searching.

Dentistry is a Commodity

Posted on: November 22nd, 2013 by James Kuester No Comments

Dentistry is a commodity. There’s a dentist on every corner. Anyone can clean my teeth and make sure I have no cavities – right?  Isn’t this what the average “joe” off the street thinks about going to a dentist?  If they are new to an area how do people pick their dentist?  Typically, they ask someone they know.  It may be the new coworker or new neighbor, but people rarely just randomly select a dentist out of the phone book or while driving down the street and passing the office.  Once they visit, however, whether they return a second time depends heavily upon the experience they have while they’re there.

The dental experience starts the moment the new patient first calls to book an appointment.  How are they treated while on the phone?  Is the person that answers warm, friendly, and helpful, or are they curt and rushed?  When they show up for the appointment are they greeted with a warm, smiling face or a glass window and a buzzer? What is the office like?  Is it bright, clean, professional, and relaxing or is it a tired collection of mismatched furniture that looks like it came from someone’s basement? Are there scuff marks on the wall or stains on the carpet?  Once the exam starts does the doctor and staff take the time to explain things or do they just go straight to work and avoid communication with the patient?  As the patient is leaving how are they treated?  Is the staff friendly and courteous or do they treat the patient like a chore that has to be dealt with?

We’ve witnessed the full range of experiences and feel strongly that a positive patient experience is much healthier to a practice’s bottom-line.  Patients are more likely to keep appointments and recommend their family and friends if they have a positive experience when they’re at the dentist than not.  Taking the time to design the patient experience for your office is time worth spending.