Dentistry is just a small consumer driven business. Consumers today decide where they go and where they spend their money and you as a dentist are no different. There is a dentist on every corner, and every potential patient has an invisible checklist of what they are looking for in a dental office. So what are you willing to do? What are you willing to change? How will you adapt to this ever-changing consumer demand? In the end, success in dentistry will be defined by the relationships you can make and keep with your patients. Embracing consumerism should be job one in this new dental economy.
Consumerism Defined: Giving people what they want, when they want it at a price they can afford.
- What they want: You can’t get better at giving people something they don’t want. It is a huge mistake to think that patients need what you have to sell. What do they truly want? Can you give it to them? Will you give it to them? Because if you are not growing, you are not giving patients what they want. Consumers vote with their feet so if you constantly see the back of their head you are doing something wrong. If you have plateaued you are not inspiring the patients you have and you are trying to give them something they don’t want.
- When they want it: Consumer oriented hours are not 8-5 Monday through Thursday.
- Peak Demand times: 7-9AM, 3-5 or 6 PM, Saturdays and yes, Sundays. I had a call the other day from a doctor who told me that Sundays have become their busiest day.
- Bedroom Communities and Commuters: If a lot of the population around your office drives somewhere else to work, you will find that a majority of them will have their dental work done nearer their work address than their home address.
- Corporations and other Patient Alternatives: Potential clients have more options and based on the 7% annual increase of national corporate-owned practices, people have decided that the convenience provided by these corporate practices best satisfy their needs.
- Obligations of Job and Family: Just adding some late hours to your Monday – Thursday schedule won’t work either. Families have obligations with their kids and spouses after 5 PM. They will look for an office that fits their busy schedule. The consumer will ultimately define what works for them and where they go.
- At a price they can afford:
- Fee Schedules: Try to keep your fees comparable for your zip code.
- Financing: Fitting patients dental needs into their already overloaded budgets is the key to case acceptance. Just keep in mind that you need more and better options than just Care Credit. One choice is really no choice at all.
- Taking years to finish a treatment plan is OK: I always felt guilty that I didn’t have loads of patients willing to plop down thousands of dollars for a full mouth rehab. Come to find out, I did more crowns, implants, and bridges than the famous “cosmetic” speakers. I just took several years to do it and at the same time created a lifetime patient that referred everyone they knew because we were sensitive to their budgets as well as caring and compassionate.
In Dentistry, we should have a specific goal. We need to achieve this goal in a consistent manner over the life of our practices. The sooner we realize what a consumer wants, the more success and accolades we will accumulate. The Goal: Someone that shows up, pays for treatment, and refers everyone they know.
- Shows up: This means that they respect you. You have validity and a great reputation within the community.
- Pays for treatment: You have fit their treatment into their budget. It’s not always about cost. It is how they pay for it over time if they trust you.
- Refers everyone they know: The number one key practice indicator is the percentage of direct referrals you get. Your systems are precisely designed to give you the results that you are getting. We call this your Referral Intensity: Case Average times the Number of Direct Referrals/100= PMI. This formula gives you a “batting average”. Anything over 300 is great. Anything less indicates an area that you need to work on.
“Most ailing organizations have developed a functional blindness to their own defects. They are not suffering because they cannot resolve their problems but because they cannot see their problems.” John Gardner
As I look at the numbers, trends, and results in various practices, I see a curious phenomenon. It is called the “rhetoric-reality gap”. This is a contradiction between words (rhetoric) and actions (reality). It’s as if we all know we need to act or do something different (read a book, listen to a lecture, etc.), yet still fail to act. It is this lack of implementation that will define you and limit your success. There is no real learning without application.
As each of us look for direction and begin to look at the changes we need to embrace in this new Dental economy, we should realize that true leadership is not a matter of saying things right. It is actually a matter of consistently saying and doing the right thing! So, how are you self-sabotaging your practice? What is keeping patients from saying yes and referring everyone they know?
Could it be that despite the time, effort, and money we spend to improve, the first place we should look is in the mirror? It takes intentional living to become the catalyst in your office that will take your practice to the next level. Far too often we put our attention on marketing or advertising and forget that advertising brings patients in, but if we do not deliver they won’t return. (Front door/Back door both wide open). Practice growth is the natural result of practice health. Growth occurs when our message and our methods are balanced.
Consumerism is delivering what the patient wants, when they want it, at a price they can afford. This is how you Summit.
Michael Abernathy DDS
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