Customer service can be the foundation that supports and strengthens your relationships with dentists. Why? Try asking this question from the dentist’s point of view — what have you done for me lately? It’s vital that salespeople anticipate the dentist’s needs, pressures, challenges, and interests, and then respond accordingly.
As a sales rep, one of your main objectives should be to become a resource for your customer. Go beyond just persuading dentists to buy your products; start thinking in terms of how you can bring real value to dentists. The customer service that happens before and after the sale proves exactly what kind of a resource you are offering to dentists and their practices.
What kind of customer service creates these strong relationships with dentists? It is such a basic question, yet one that can be overlooked by sales reps focused on the outcome rather than the interaction with dentists. Nevertheless, the payoff is the kind of customer loyalty and trust that ensures a continuing relationship with doctors for years to come.
Superior customer relationships can be achieved with six simple steps:
1. Listen to dentists. The very nature of selling often centers on talking, demonstrating, educating, and telling, not listening. When you fail to listen to dentists, they perceive that you’re likely to be of little help. Establish your credibility by practicing active listening.
2. Answer all questions thoroughly and enthusiastically. When doctors ask questions about your services, they are expressing a strong interest in what you have to offer. Don’t respond with incomplete answers or take days to get back to them with requested information. During return phone calls, let doctors know if you’ve found any additional resources for them and convey that information quickly. Do their research for them! Any additional information you can provide means less time spent researching products on the dentist’s part. Helping dentists save time can make an enormous impression. Remember, doctors choose to do business with you. Realize that decision and honor them for it.
3. Learn a minimum of five to 10 personal facts about each dentist. Once you know 10 things about a person, you have the building blocks for a relationship. Simply being nice does not create a relationship. Learning about dentists is the first stepping stone in your relationship — it effectively demonstrates personal interest. This opens dentists up to wanting to share information with you. One of the great questions is, “What’s new in your life?” You will get more of a response than you would with, “How are you?”
4. Look for common interests you share with a dentist. There are two levels to consider here. Level one is broad areas of common interests such as sports teams or hometowns. This is a good starting point. However, the second and much more personal level is looking for specific things for which you both have passion. For example, the doctor and sales rep are both dog lovers or have children of similar age. This level allows a much more powerful and long-term relationship to evolve.
5. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Let them know that you will treat them exceptionally well. Make it clear that if they ever have an urgent need, you will take care of them. Most of all, you should reinforce that you are dedicated to outstanding customer service.
An effective method to communicate promises is with positive and enthusiastic statements such as:
- “I will do my very best to accommodate you.”
- “It would be my pleasure.”
- “Of course I can do that.”
- “That’s no problem.”
6. Guard against preventable disasters. Do not jeopardize your relationships with dentists by going against previously discussed agreements. In the event that your business experiences some type of change, keep your customers informed! Don’t let your doctors be surprised about anything. If you have made an error in calculating their bill, let them know and apologize. They will appreciate you taking responsibility right away and not avoiding it. Inform dentists of any personnel changes. In short, keep dentists aware of everything your business experiences that may have an effect on them — no matter how small.
Customer service is critical to your short- and long-term success. Products may change over the years, but customer service becomes even more important as dentists grow to trust and depend on you. Your goal should be to provide superior customer service, with every dentist enjoying a great experience each time he or she interacts with you.
Roger P. Levin, DDS, is founder and CEO of Levin Group, a leading dental management consulting firm that is dedicated to improving the lives of dentists through a diverse portfolio of lifetime services and solutions. Since the company’s inception in 1985, Dr. Levin has worked to bring the business world to dentistry. Levin Group may be reached at (888) 973-0000, or at www.levingroup.com.