Küster Dental Blog

Posts Tagged ‘dental practice marketing’

Gotta Know How to Smile

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


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.

Using Technology to Enhance the Patient Experience

Posted on: February 14th, 2014 by James Kuester No Comments
Creating a comfortable consultation room.

Creating a comfortable consultation room.

Maybe it is just a function of living in the dawn of the 21st century, but technology has reached an ever present point that incorporating it into the design of a dental office just seems natural.  By incorporating technology into the design we can improve both the operational efficiency of the office and the patient experience.  We can also reduce the energy consumption of the office making the dental practice more environmentally friendly.

We’re working on two projects right now with clients to bring technology to bear in order to improve their patient experience.  While the specific details vary slightly between the two clients, the end goal is the same – both clients want to improve their presentation capabilities while meeting with patients.  Designing enhanced consultations rooms is really fun, as they pose different challenges than any other room in the dental office.  The room needs to be comfortable, safe, soundproof (or at least sound deadening), and technologically easy for the dentist or presenter to maneuver through all of the material they want to cover with the patient.  The room needs to create an environment that avoids putting patients in an uncomfortable “weak” position to the dentist so they are not on the defensive when making financial decision related to their care.  We see consultation rooms that are so frequently designed that put the dentist in a power position relative to the patient and we wonder just how much work the dentist has to do to close a sale.  Of course, seeing is believing, and with the ability to show patients exactly what is going inside their mouths through the use of digital x-rays and intraoral cameras we wonder why anyone would refuse to proceed with a recommended treatment.  However, the more comfortable the patient is during the presentation process the more likely they will move forward with the treatment plan.

We mentioned the need to be soundproof, but HIPAA demands that no one walking past the consultation room or standing outside of if should be able to learn anything about what is going on inside.  This requires careful design of the room for visual as well as sound protection of the occupants without just creating a dark, depressing cave.

We’ve had push back at times over the amount of square footage required to create a consultation room as many don’t view this as revenue generating space.  We beg to differ.  If this is the place that larger treatment plans are reviewed and agreed upon, isn’t it important to have a space that more deals are closed than in the past?

One Reason 30 Years May Be Too Long

Posted on: February 10th, 2014 by James Kuester No Comments
Does this chair make a good impression?

Does this chair make a good impression?

While at a party over the weekend one of the other guests after finding out that I design dental offices said, “I’ve been going to the same dentist for thirty years now, and he’s not updated anything in his office this entire time except putting up new wallpaper, once about 15 years ago.”  Really? After hearing this I wondered what his book of business was like.  My guess is that the patient base is dwindling and there are very few new patients coming to the practice.

I fully realize that once one finds a dentist they like, they’ll most likely stick with them through thick-and-thin. New people to an area when deciding to choose a dentist will keep looking when they see a tired, thread-bare office that hasn’t been updated in thirty years.  Patients want to feel confident that they are going to receive good oral health care when they choose a dentist.  They want one they can trust not to cause pain or to oversell services.  The state of the dental office is one of the key criteria people use to judge the quality of a practice.  If the office hasn’t been updated in decades odds are the equipment, techniques, and skills of the dental team haven’t been updated, either.  Dentistry is an every advancing profession, with new technologies and breakthroughs, and patients are fully aware of this.  In today’s fast-paced, high-tech world, patients expect change and improvements and a stagnant office design does not communicate this.

So, why does one care if the book of business is diminishing?  Dentistry is a business like any other and at some point the dentist is going to want to retire.  What’s the exit strategy?  If he’s just going to turn out the lights and walk away then he doesn’t need to worry about the size of the patient base.  He can just keep serving the patients he has until they all age out or move away.  However, if he’s looking to sell the practice a thriving patient base is one of the key assets the business has.  Without one finding a willing buyer may be a challenge.

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.

So It Doesn’t Quite Fit, So What?

Posted on: September 23rd, 2013 by James Kuester No Comments
The awning doesn't quite fit.

The awning doesn’t quite fit.

When they remodeled the Starbucks near my home a couple of years ago they put in a walk-up window.  Great idea, right?  Being in an urban neighborhood there are a lot of visitors to the Starbucks that like to bring their dogs along, especially on weekends and this allows them to be served without having to tie their pups up to the bike rack out front and leave them while they go inside.  Great idea, right?  Then, after a few months of people standing there when it was raining and rain coming in through the window they added an awning.  The awning has great branding with the Starbucks name and signature green so people approaching even from the side of the building can tell there is a Starbucks inside.  Great idea, right?

Well, someone messed up.  As the photo attached shows, the awning is not as wide as the window.  Now, perhaps the awning was ordered long before the window was actually installed and there was a size change for the window.  Since the window was truly installed months ahead of the awning there was more than ample time to send correcting measurements to the awning fabricator.  Perhaps there was just an error in measuring the window (my guess) and the awning was made too narrow.  Regardless of where the error was made, the misfit in sizes leaves the window looking less than its best and does not leave a good impression on the project manager or awning vendor.  If this represents the best work they can do I’ll never ask the manager at my Starbucks for the name of the contractor or awning vendor so I can use them on a project.  From my perspective they obviously do not take pride in their work enough to correct the mistake.

As far as Starbucks goes, they obviously don’t have enough pride in their store to make sure it presents a finished look to clients.  I’m amazed they have not demanded the awning be fixed.  If this were my store I’d want it to be fixed right away as it presents a disheveled appearance for the store.  If this were a dental office I’d have wonder whether they’d leave my teeth in such an unfinished manner.  Things like this become part of a dental office’s branding message and where care and precision are paramount can one afford to let something not fit together correctly?  Most of the dentists I know are very particular and want to make sure their brand reflects this care and attention to detail.  A misfit awning certainly doesn’t make the cut.

Colors and Your Dental Office

Posted on: August 28th, 2013 by James Kuester No Comments
Color of the Year 17-5641

Color of the Year 17-5641

Have you given any thought to the colors you use in your dental office design? There has been tremendous research done on what certain colors mean and what reactions people have to them.  Our good friend Starla West wrote this blog post that really does a great job of outlining the various meanings in colors and how people respond to them.

We believe there are no “good” or “bad” colors to use in the design of your office or brand.  The branding of your dental office is a very personal thing and the development of it should be a team effort between you, your marketing consultant, and your dental office designer.  While some research suggests that red isn’t possibly the best choice for dental offices as it is the color of blood and thus, can raise people’s anxiety level, if it fits the character and personality of the dental practice, we say “go for it!”

Here is a great blog post by Lawrence that graphically represents some of the meanings in colors.  We love the way these graphs make comparing colors and their meanings easy.

When choosing the colors for your dental office pay attention to the emotional response you want to generate in your patients and staff.  While I is important to choose your office colors with the patients in mind, don’t forget you and your staff and your response to the colors.  After all, you and your team will be spending much more time in the office than the patients.

Testiment to Exceptional Patient Experience Design

Posted on: August 23rd, 2013 by James Kuester No Comments
Patient Wearing Headphones

Patient Wearing Headphones

I was visiting a design showroom the other day in search of inspiration on a project and while chatting with the showroom manager it came out that I specialize in dental office design. She thought that this was the neatest niche and immediately launched into a description of her recent visit to a new dentist.  She had chosen her new dentist after her crown had come loose, purely by random, having seen their sign on her way to work one day.  She was quite impressed by what she found.  “It was like a day spa,” she exclaimed.  “Nothing like my dentist back home.”  She explained that when she walked in the receptionist greeted her, just like a concierge in a fine hotel.  When she was escorted to the operatory she was given her own headphones to wear with a remote for selecting either music to listen to or movies or television shows to watch on a flat screen mounted to the ceiling above her chair.  She said she’s told all of her co-workers and friends about what a great experience she had.

Unfortunately, I can’t brag that this particular dental office is one that we designed, but the showroom manager’s reaction to her experience is testament to the importance in investing in a memorable patient experience.  When one creates a soothing, spa-like environment and experience for patients they will reward the dental practice with glowing reviews.  Everyone knows that testimonials and referrals are the best marketing one can get but also not something that is easily purchased.  The patient experience, from first greeting all the way through to check-out and follow-up must be exceptional and nothing can be left to chance in its design.

The Winter Doldrums

Posted on: January 25th, 2013 by James Kuester No Comments

The Winter doldrums.  How do you shake them?  Normally, I don’t get them until later into February, but for some reason the bitter cold and snow we’ve been having lately has brought them on early.  Ugh.  It just doesn’t seem like I’ll ever see the sun or be warm again- ever!  I am comforted (a little) in the thought that I am not alone in feeling this way.  The fact that so many people suffer from the winter blues, light deprivation, whatever you want to call it, makes it something that dental offices really need to pay attention to how patients and staff are feeling.  We all know that many patients fear going to see their dentist. They make up excuses in order to cancel or postpone their appointments.  If they are feeling down because of the Winter Doldrums, this is just one more reason for them to cancel.

So, what can a dental office do to help counter act this tug to cancel?  How about making sure your coffee bar is well stocked with good coffee, large ceramic mugs, and some biscotti alongside?  For the kids a hot chocolate bar with some whipped cream and sprinkles can be fun.  Make sure your patients are aware that your office isn’t just “a regular dental office” by telling them about your amazingly, warm and comfortable coffee bar when you call to remind them about their appointment.  Coaching your staff to spend a few more minutes on the phone with each patient to commiserate on the weather and mentioning how much easier it is to face with a great cup of coffee and that your office just happens to have a great selection.

Incorporating a coffee bar into an existing dental office design can be such a simple thing.  All you need is a stylish serving car, Keurig-style machine, some snappy looking mugs, and some creamer and sugar.  Easy!  Since most machines will also do hot chocolate you’ve got your younger patients covered, too.  There really is no excuse not to bring a bit more comfort and coziness into your dental office design experience.

What Will Your Dental Office Look Like in 2014?

Posted on: January 23rd, 2013 by James Kuester No Comments

Here we are still at the start of 2013 and in the grip of a cold, dark January and one would think it too soon to start thinking about 2014 already.  However, now is exactly the time to be thinking about what you want your office to look like at the start of 2014.  “We’ve barely gotten started on 2013,” you say. “Why would I need to be thinking about 2014 already?”  Well, typically an office remodel takes about 90 days in design and then another 180 in construction.  This time doesn’t even include the amount of time to think about what changes you actually want to make in your office design as part of the remodel or to interview and select a design team.

In the U.S. there are many things coming down the pike that are going to impact dental office designs in the next 24 months, and we find that many offices have barely started their planning.  There are new ADA requirements for making one’s office more accessible and there are electronic health records requirements as part of the Affordable Care Act.  There are also new enforcement demands as part of HIPAA.  Don’t be fooled into thinking that the HIPAA stuff only applies to hospitals and large health care organizations.  We’ve been hearing that dentists, optometrists, and chiropractors have all been included in this first round of random inspections and they have not been faring well because they made that assumption.

Lastly, the pressures of competition continue to mount, and the need to provide an ever more customized patient experience increases.  Do your 2013 business and marketing plans include enhancements to your dental office design that will enhance the patient experience in your practice?  So, as one can see 2014 really isn’t that far away and now is an excellent time to start the planning process for how your office will reach the next level.

What’s Your Color?

Posted on: October 12th, 2012 by James Kuester No Comments

What is your favorite color? Do you have a favorite?  Some people say they don’t really have a favorite color, but I’m not sure that’s true.  I know my eye is always drawn first to black.  Black clothes, black furniture, black cars – everything I own would be black if I didn’t make a conscious effort to buy other colors.  Black is the color that defines me.  Ruby Ernica says that black, “…denotes independence and Determination.”

The 2012 Pantone Color of the Year is Tangerine Tango.  According to Pantone Color Institute Executive Director, Leatrice Eiseman, Tangerine Tango is, “Sophisticated but at the same time dramatic and seductive.”  The color is, “Reminiscent of the radiant shadings of a sunset, [and] marries the vivaciousness and adrenaline rush of red with the friendliness and warmth of yellow, to form a high-visibility, magnetic hue that emanates heat and energy.”  This sounds like a fun color to brighten up the walls of a dental office design.

What color defines you?  Better yet, what color defines your dental office?  Is there a singular color that marries the personality of you, your staff, and your practice that will stimulate an emotional response in your patients that will remind them of this personality?  When working with new clients we spend time trying to uncover this defining color.  Often times the dental practice has already worked with a marketing consultant to develop a color scheme for the brand and if so, we run with that color palette.  If not, then we really work to uncover what the personality of the dental practice team is so this color will be reflected in the interior branding of the new dental office design.

Think about it.  What color defines you and your brand?  The exercise may surprise you!