All that's new in the world of dentistry
Although dentists are servicing what is in effect a captive market, and so most can expect to maintain at least a minimum, viable level of turnover, a recent survey indicated that nearly a million registered dental practice patients were deferring or declining dental procedures in response to reduced state funding.[i] Surely a clear indication that the current pressure on consumers’ discretionary spending is reaching beyond the High Street and into the healthcare sector.
Competition is a relatively new phenomenon in dentistry, but the ease of comparing practices’ services, options and prices via the internet has coincided with a rapidly growing interest in cosmetic dentistry, and many patients now see themselves as customers fully entitled to shop around for what they regard as the best value. To be successful rather than simply surviving, all practices need to raise their game to encourage loyalty, increase patients’ median spend, and attract new business ahead of their rivals.
Delivering the highest quality patient service is vital, and this can only be achieved if every member of the team properly understands their role and is committed to providing the patient with a positive experience, from their first contact with the practice to the completion of their treatment. The only way to achieve excellence is to constantly strive for it; it’s easy to forget, in the heat of a busy day that ‘good’ is not the ‘best’. Excellent, friendly and empathetic communications, face to face or on the telephone, encourage treatment take-up rates and lead quickly to extra business through personal recommendations. Remember, enthusiastic patients are walking testimonials!
However, it is important to be prepared for the repercussions of something going wrong. Any resulting complaints must be handled promptly, with courtesy and sympathy. Just one unhappy patient can have many friends, and some of them may even be patients at your practice.
Communication is a key element in the 7-Star Dental Practice Programme, and relates to the staff as well as the patients. For staff to be fully committed to their patients they need to have an understanding of the Principal’s vision for the future and their own place in it, and how it will progress their own careers. If you keep your team onside, you’re much more likely to score goals!
Conversations, however brief they have to be, are the route to excellent clinician/patient relationships. Questions and the exchange of information lead to genuine rapport, and it becomes much easier to discuss the financial aspects of treatment plans, or to devise a plan which is affordable for the patient who is keen but has limited means.
Raising the treatment plan acceptance percentage is the quickest way to improve turnover and improve patient education. Stressing the importance of oral health as a proven factor in overall health will resonate with patients and convince them of the importance of the treatment you can offer. Cosmetic patients who are making a significant investment in their smile need to know that you are both striving for the same happy outcome. Education also includes explaining choices, a point well made by the Office of Fair Trading in its latest report on the industry.
Failed appointments are every dentists’ bugbear, but be wary of threatening sanctions; you don’t want to lose the patient (and possibly their friends and/or family as well), whose reason(s) for not attending you cannot know and the ethics, and even legality, of trying to charge for a service you have not been able to deliver are, at best, doubtful. Much better to send polite reminders!
All patients expect their dentist to be properly qualified and highly competent. When two practices offer similar treatments the element of competition is not usually relevant in the area of clinical expertise. The value added which gives one practice the edge over another is in the patient’s appreciation of the entire appointment experience, and it may be worth engaging a reputable company like Milestone Experts to run a course at your practice. Allowing you to be sure that each and every member of your dental team has the skills to make your practice second to none.
Milestone Experts offers consultancy services and training for every member of the dental practice team.
Follow Gary on Twitter: @everycallcounts
About the author
Gary Morgan is the business owner and lead trainer at Milestone Experts.
Gary has over 20 years sales and customer service experience and 12 years experience in training and coaching at all levels. He has compiled a 7-Star Dental Practice Programme, which is designed to increase patient numbers, whilst simultaneously maintaining existing patient numbers.
Gary Morgan’s Milestone Experts offer training, consultancy and coaching for individuals and teams, whatever their role within the dental practice.