In spite of opening in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, small town Morrow County Dental has managed to achieve a 4.9 star rating in less than a year, winning the loyalty of patients across Ohio.
We sat down with Dr. Rajendram to find out how he and his team facilitate a five-star customer experience, what patients find at his practice that they can’t find anywhere else, and how to maintain an outstanding online reputation.
“I started at this practice right before COVID hit—a week and a half before…”
What would you say are Morrow County Dental’s core values?
I would say customer experience optimization—treating the patient exactly how you would want to be treated if you were in the chair. Our main philosophy is to put the patient first and never hurt the patient. We do everything we can to help people reach their dental and overall health goals in general.
What is your philosophy when it comes to patients?
In our practice, it’s all about relationships. Building that trust with patients long-term, even if it means not making as much money right off the bat. (We joke that dentistry’s the only profession that actively tries to put itself out of business by getting patients healthier!) Presenting what I would expect if I was in the chair and just being honest with the patients is also key.
What is the biggest obstacle you've had to overcome to get your business to where it is now?
I started at the practice right before COVID hit—a week and a half before. I bought it near the end of January, and I wasn’t actually physically there because I had to finish my previous job in Pittsburgh. I was only there about a week and a half in person, and then we had to shut down for about six weeks. That was probably the hardest part, but we came back strong. Luckily, we were able to open back up in May, and we had a record month and have kept everything going well since.
What contributed to your record month?
It was really the strong team I have behind me, and we just focused on getting those patients in. Over those six weeks, a lot of people had teeth that had broken or other issues, so we had a lot of emergencies that helped us get back into it really quickly. A lot of it was also just adjusting to figuring out the required PPE (personal protective equipment) and how we could protect our staff and patients.
We invested heavily in air purifiers and all the extra gowns, etc., to protect our staff. We were watching every webinar under the sun to try to figure out the best guidelines to follow. We were able to come back strong in May, and have kept the momentum going.
How do you get inspired at work?
I think it’s our team that drives me. They all want to treat patients right and that inspires me to keep working as hard as I can. Being a young dentist, I’ve focused a lot of time and effort into continuing education and have basically taken as many classes I can. Within my first three years after graduating, I’ve obtained over 600 hours of continued education. Usually the typical dentist takes about 40 hours every two years, so I’ve taken quite a bit more than that to make sure I’m at the top of my game and that I can deliver the best quality care I can for my patients.
“You'd be hard pressed to find another place close by that will deliver the same commitment to excellence and treating patients the way we would want to be treated.”
What have you done to create such great relationships with your team members?
It’s a mutual respect really, between the team and myself. Just supporting the team, never throwing them under the bus. If a mistake is made, we talk about how we can do better and things like that. We aim to have a positive outlook on everything in general.
What is something your patients get at your practice that they can’t find anywhere else?
Just a slower pace. Our office is really small. We only have two dental chairs, so we really take the time to focus on doing excellent work and building those relationships. You spend a few extra minutes just chatting with the patient, just catching up, asking about their families and everything. Just really focusing on the relationships that help us get more patients by word of mouth. Actually, our largest source of new patients is internal referrals. Most of the patients hear about us through another patient who had a good experience. That’s the highest compliment we can obtain.
What has allowed you to provide such an outstanding experience for your patients?
Really, we haven’t really been doing anything differently since Podium started. We’ve had patients who, at the end of their time, are like, “Wow, that was great,” or “That didn’t hurt,” etc. You almost want to ask them, “Can you put that in a review?” Luckily, people have been just doing that. Podium facilitates that. The patient goes home and 10 minutes after they leave, an automated text goes out asking them how their experience was. We’ve had great feedback.
We’ve doubled our reviews since June. I’m actually pretty surprised myself at how much of an impact things have made. We don’t incentivize our employees. All we’ve been doing is just the same thing we’ve been doing since I started—doing the best you can for the patient and being nice. That typically resonates pretty well with people.
How do reviews lead to additional revenue for you?
We’ve been surprised, (as a lot of patients have been nervous coming back just with COVID and everything), that we’ve actually had record new patients for the past couple of months. A lot of them just are from Google reviews, honestly. Because nowadays, people just search “dentist near me,” and if they see a place that has high reviews and they can resonate with the reviews that are there, that’s usually a good enough reason to give someone a chance.
What’s the best review you’ve ever received?
Probably one from a patient about a month ago or something, saying she’s excited that this is her “forever dental home.” It was really touching to hear that. Having met someone just one time, for them to say something like that is really nice.
What’s the worst review you’ve ever received?
Knock on wood, I don’t think we’ve had one yet.
What is one thing you think most dental practices are overlooking right now?
Maybe just taking the time to build those relationships with patients. A lot of offices, especially in the cities, are more insurance driven and have to see a lot more patients. Being a little more focused on a smaller office like mine right now, I can spend more time and offer that better experience overall. A lot of patients who are really nervous will come in and see the relaxed environment and the team that’s really nice to them and will have a really good experience. Many are even pleasantly surprised after. They’re like, “Oh, that wasn’t so bad.”
Is there something you do to stay in touch with what customers expect now or what they will be expecting in the future?
A lot of it I just get from dental podcasts. There’s a million dental podcasts that are great resources. I learn a lot hearing the conversations they have about how other dentists around the country are improving their experience and what patients are expecting. You can get exposed to so many different perspectives, different marketing perspectives, and different clinical sides of things too. All the resources that are out there now are pretty fantastic.
Also, having gone to a dental school close by at Ohio State, we have a pretty good network of friends from school to draw on. We all have group texts and ask each other about cases because we’re all figuring out how to run a practice these days, all of us younger people. It really helps having that network to reach out to.
Is there anything in particular you would want people who are looking for a dentist to know about you and your practice?
I would just want them to know how much myself and my team value our patients and the relationships we form and how much effort we spend just trying to deliver that top quality care. You’d be hard pressed to find another place close by that will deliver the same commitment to excellence and treating patients the way we would want to be treated.
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