We are all thinking ahead to the day when we can provide uninterrupted service. Not only are we looking forward to seeing our patients and bring our teams back on board, but our bank accounts eagerly anticipate the normal course of business.

I know I see many of you doing so much preparatory work for what will be our “new normal”.

Great job.

You are working to provide not only the perceived, but the real, enhancements to make your customers feel safe and secure. You do not want them nervous.

But have you forgotten about something?

The Potential “Oops”

But in all this preparation, have we forgotten one thing? Just like your teams are furloughed, many of your patients and families have been laid off. And that may mean an interruption in their insurance coverage. And with orthodontics being paid out over time and coverage must remain in effect for benefits to be maximized, have you made your patients aware?

Oh my!

You may continue receiving benefits from insurance carriers until the backlog of insurance lapses is finally processed. By that time, the practice will have to be paying insurance companies back and notifying families that they now have a larger balance to pay.

So, when do you make this potential bad news be known?

NOW!

Do not let them get surprised or experience “shock and awe” in this negative way when you have foresight that it could happen.

Research

A recent article (March 2020) in the Journal of Marketing (American Marketing Association) spoke to 7 different studies with a multitude of variations to see if it was better to say “Thank you” than “Sorry” after a service failure. The goal was to see what the best strategy was to follow regarding service failures.

Study Conditions

One study provides insights as to why it is always better to make a customer aware ahead of time of a potential upcoming “oops” rather than trying to repair it afterward.

In the study, 197 participants were divided into 4 conditions. The commonality was that all were told they entered a restaurant and ordered a meal before a movie. They were under a deadline. For all groups, once the order was placed there was an extended 30-minute delay before the food arrived.

The four various conditions were:

  • Pre-failure – Apology: After the server takes the order, the server tells them to expect a 30-minute wait before receiving their food. Then the server says, “I’m sorry for keeping you waiting. I apologize!”
  • Pre-failure – Appreciation: After the server takes the order, the server tells them to expect a 30-minute wait before receiving their food. Then the server says, “Thank you for waiting. I appreciate it!”
  • Post-failure – Apology: After the server takes the order nothing is said. After the 30-minute delay and the meal is delivered, the server says, “I’m sorry for keeping you waiting. I apologize!”
  • Post-failure – Appreciation: After the server takes the order nothing is said. After the 30-minute delay and the meal is delivered, the server says, “Thank you for waiting. I appreciate it!”

Tipping Results

Then afterwards the participants were asked about the tip they would provide. Below is the chart of results:

Journal of Marketing, Mar2020, Vol. 84 Issue 2, p133-150

Here is what was found.

  • Letting your customers know of a potential service failure ahead of time is always better than letting them find it out on their own.
  • Letting your customer know ahead of time can be with an apology or appreciation…there was not a statistically significant difference in the tipping amounts between those two variations.
  • If you must recover from a service failure after the fact, it is statistically significant to express appreciation rather than an apology.

Application

So, what this means for your team is to get ahead of a potential “oops” that may happen to several of your families. Filter the message to those patients who have insurance and communicate with them.

An example of what to express is:

Good afternoon to our patients and families.

During this trying time, some of you may experience a lapse in your insurance coverage. We ask that you keep us abreast of any changes. Orthodontic insurance coverage is not paid to us in a lump sum but over the lifetime of treatment. In order to receive your full and expected benefits, coverage must remain in place without interruption. Any estimated benefits unable to be collected due to a lack of coverage will need to be transferred to the responsible party.

We will be happy to help you set up any payment arrangements to help. Please contact us at xxx-xxx-xxxx with any changes in your coverage.

Thank you for your patience as we work to maximize your benefits.

Stay safe!

Dr. Smile and team

Do not let them be surprised in a negative way. Make your families aware and work with them. They will be more appreciative to know ahead of time.

For help in training and coaching your team members with communication skills, contact Communicate Excellence at info@communicateexcellence.com.