When we started Hive back in 2015, we knew how important it was to set out our standard operating procedures. We were an ambitious bunch who wanted to deliver the best service to our clients. Over the years, as the team has changed or the market demands shift, we’ve taken time to develop them.
To start with, our standards included a lot of guidance for updating our internal systems and the minimum expected from the team in terms of communication both with clients and internally. They served us well and helped our new starters understand that we were a serious business and knew straight away what was expected of them. What was missing was what the standards were trying to achieve and the wider picture.
Unless you lived under a rock for the last year, you’ll be aware that the pandemic changed how we office based workers did our jobs. During this time, we learned that what may seem obvious to you, may not be obvious to your team. Once we’d set up our home offices and the novelty of seeing our pets in the background of Zoom wore off, we realised we needed to define those standards once more and so we wrote our digital brand standards.
It’s now feeling like we may be able to get back to what we once knew as normal but we’ve all had a glimpse at how working remotely could work. Most of the team enjoy the benefits of working from home including the unicorn of a work-life balance we could only imagine in 2019. The time has come for us to work out how we can better service our clients with this new way of working and continue providing the best customer service they’ve come to expect from us. We’re in the process of renewing our standard operating procedures once again and this time we want to make sure we don’t just give a set of ‘rules’ to people, we want them to understand why they’re being asked to uphold this standard.
I believe that in any business these three questions are essential for building a set of standards:
HOW DO WE SET THE PACE?
From the minute someone enquires, your team needs to know how quickly they should respond and the importance of setting the pace. If you’re not setting the next action with your patients or responding to their queries in a reasonable timescale, you’re risking losing them to a competitor. Unfortunately, we’re all so used to instant responses and expect better customer service wherever we go, you need to have this one nailed and setting out the way your team can do this in your standard operating procedures is a good place to start.
HOW DO WE BUILD A RELATIONSHIP?
People buy from people they like – I learned this on my first day of my first job in retail. It goes further than that in dentistry and service industries, you also need to be knowledgeable, trustworthy and reliable. At our Treatment Coordinator Workshop last year, there was a whole section on roleplays and dealing with difficult patients because those interactions really set you apart. You need to make sure you’re nurturing the relationship at all times, from the emails you send out to the minute a patient steps in the door for their appointment. Put yourself in your patient’s shoes, would you buy from your practice? Make sure your standard operating procedures include the ways you can build the relationship with the patient at every stage from enquiry to their regular routine check-up years later, what makes them come back?
HOW DO WE ADD VALUE?
Let me start by saying adding value doesn’t mean giving things away for free. Your standard operating procedures have to include elements that ensure you’re adding value to your patient’s journey with you. It could be that you open 7 days a week so they can always get an appointment that fits their schedule or you offer video calls to discuss their treatment plan when they have questions. Be sure to communicate how you add value to your patients when they’re getting ‘above and beyond’ from you by working it into your systems, not by being passive aggressive and punishing the patient for taking you up on your offer.
If you don’t have standard operating procedures in your business, they’re a really useful tool and putting them together is a great exercise to do with your team. If you have them, do you know why each procedure is in place? It’s good to review them to make sure you’re always improving and adjusting as your business grows too.