Every now and then, I ask fellow dentists what they believe sets their practice apart from their competition. To my surprise, time and again, dentists will tell me that their education and expertise, as well as their highly trained staff members are the qualities that make their practice stand out.

Dentists, take note: Your education and expertise is not what makes you stand out. Patients expect an educated dentist and knowledgeable staff members when they walk in the door. Advertising those qualities do nothing to set you apart from your competition.

Think of it this way: Do airline companies advertise that their aircrafts are safe and that their pilots are qualified? No; because that information is already assumed when customers walk in the door. Dental practices are no different. Patients already expect that you are highly educated and your staff is knowledgeable, so there’s no need to advertise that. So, that brings us back to the original question:

What sets your practice apart from your competition?

It isn’t a trick question. It has nothing to do with newfangled technology or innovative promotion tactics. What should set you apart from your competitors is one of the oldest tricks in the book: High quality customer service.

Too many practices put too little effort into customer service, and trust me, it comes back to haunt them. The following are four reasons why you need to work on perfecting your customer service skills:

1. Keep them coming back. This goes without saying, but if a patient feels they weren’t treated well during their visit, you will likely lose their business. Keep them coming back by letting them know you appreciate them.

2. Spread the word. When someone has a good experience, they tell their friends and families. Patient referrals are one of the most effective ways to attract new business. Improve your customer service tactics, and business will boom.

3. Get great reviews. We are past the days of finding businesses in phonebooks; if someone is looking for a new dentist, they are going to do all of their researching online. If your practice has poor reviews on sites like Yelp, you could lose out on a large customer base.

4. Take the dread away from the dentist. A good portion of the population dreads visiting the dentist. Be aware of this, and do your best to make your patients feel comfortable and relaxed. They’ll be appreciative of your efforts.