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The Unbeatable Advantage

Keeping patients happy is the best defense against competition.  The offices that keep their patients happy are virtually unbeatable.

Their patients are more loyal.  They buy more, more often.  They are willing to pay more for the practice’s products, and they stick with the practice through difficult periods, allowing it time to adapt to change.

Nothing Else Comes Close

Nothing matches the long-term protection that keeping patients happy provides.  New competition will not, technology does not, lower labor costs do not, size can not.

What Happened?

In general, however, keeping patients happy merely gets lip service.  This explains why the vast majority of dental offices have failed to  put this marketing concept into practice despite large investments in marketing.

The overwhelming difference between the winners and the others is not in what they do, but rather how they do  it.  There are few if any differences between these offices and their counterparts in terms of the services they offer, the quality of staff, or even the technical skills of the doctor.

The critical difference depends on the fact that there is an emphasis on customer satisfaction at a profit.  These people never forget either of these goals, and their success lies in their ability to take an integrated, holistic approach that balances these two often conflicting requirements without compromising either patients or the bottom line.

Customer Satisfaction Creates Market Success

This is the central premise of the marketing concept: Keeping patients happy is good business.  Our quantitative analysis confirmed these findings.  The Wilson Learning Center found that customer loyalty was intimately related to satisfaction with the product.  The happier patients are with a given service, the more likely they are to buy it again, and the less likely they are to switch to your competition.

Vital Competitive Advantage

Offices who adopt the strategy of maximizing customer or patient satisfaction obtain several vital competitive advantages.  Their long-term profitability is normally higher than their competitors’, they have more protection against shifts in patients needs, and if they should slip up, their chances of regaining lost patients and markets are better.

Higher Long-Term Profitability

By providing superior patient satisfaction, doctors can obtain several competitive advantages that lead to higher profitability.

1. Less wasted motion.  In the process of keeping patients happy, you get to know them so well that you make fewer false starts.  You should know what your patients want even before they are aware of it.  This allows you to anticipate their case acceptance.

2.  The practice gets a price advantage.  In office after office, happy patients are willing to pay extra for the additional satisfaction they derive.  How much extra?  That depends on other factors such as the overall competitive environment, the price sensitivity of patients, the type of purchase, and practice positioning.  However, be it small or large, that extra margin is always there.

3.  Patients come back more often.  Satisfied patients are more loyal to their doctors than are dissatisfied patients.  They’re more likely to come back to your office to buy other services.  Combined with their willingness to pay a price  premium, this higher repeat rate leads to greater revenues and, ultimately, more profits.  This is particularly valuable in a highly competitive industry where the price premium may be tiny (1 to 5 percent), as is often the case in most areas of the country.  In such situations, the slight price advantage, together with the higher loyalty or repeat rate, slowly but steadily adds up to greater long-term profitability.

4.  Transaction costs are lower.  As every Doctor knows, it is easier to sell more dentistry to an existing patient than it is to attract new patients.  Thus, greater patient loyalty means that the office’s continuing overhead expenses are lower.  The office doesn’t have to spend as much time or money on marketing schemes.  The question is no longer why the patient should buy your services.  Instead, the focus is on which services, and how much, the patient should accept.  In many cases, the doctor merely sets up the treatment and answers patients’ questions:  you don’t have to spend much time selling.

5. Communication costs are lower.  Lastly, happy patients act as a volunteer sales force.  They tell others (friends, relatives, and neighboring businesses) while you leverage your presence in the marketplace.

Mike Abernathy