Hello and welcome back to another edition of ask T-Bone.
Today I’ve sent a good question that I would love to spend a few minutes talking about. And the question was:
How do Dentist/Dental practices distinguish themselves from other established practices in the area?
And honestly, this is a great question. This is not just about new practices establishing themselves against established practices, but also even those practices who are looking friendship itself, in general. And ultimately for me I look at differentiating itself in three key categories. One, we can clinically differentiate ourselves. Two, we can business differentiate ourselves. And Three, we can customer service different ourselves. Now, I look into those things very differently. So let’s back up for a second and talk about the fact that it’s harder and harder to differentiate ourselves. In today’s world, who isn’t a practice that does good dentistry? Who isn’t the practice that says I we treat our patients well? Who isn’t a practice that doesn’t list out all the services that they provide? Who isn’t a practice that takes insurance? Who isn’t the practice that has technology? Who isn’t a digital x-ray or digital practice, or a camera practice, or digital photography practice? It’s becoming more and more difficult to differentiate ourselves simply on where I consider the basics. So now we have to turn to those three things: Clinically, business and customer service.
I would say to you that clinically quite honestly is the relative the least important part of that. It becomes a bigger issue, and a more important issue as you progress in your career. But I would say that in the very beginning, the most important issue would be customer service.
Now, what I mean but customer service?
Customer service first and foremost is about treating people well. The better you treat people the more likely they are to purchase from you. Customer service starts on the phone from your first phone call. What have you done to have a consistent message from your team members? How do they answer the phone? What training have you done with them? What leadership have you shown with your team members about how you would like the phone to be answered?
Too often I find myself doing this, we ask our team members what they think, how would they like to do it. And that’s a good exercise to do, but too often they’re looking to you for leadership. So when you allow somebody else to dictate how you want your business to be run, that’s not always very good to do. So I encourage you to design your own way of doing it. What would make you happy as the owner of the business and a potential customer. How would you like the phone answered? An outline. You know, how we treating patients when they come in? Are we on time? or we are making patients wait? Little things like that those are the things that are part of customer service. Are we communicating? How we communicate with our patients? Are we communicating staying top of mine with them? Do we communicate with them regularly? electronically? In today’s world? Or we are still sending faxes on the papers that roll up? Times have changed everybody has a Smartphone, everybody wants to communicate via text and email and certainly the phone call goes a long way but for many things text and email. And certainly a phone call goes a long way but for many thing text and email is still the preferred way of communicating. So these are all the little things that I take a look at in service, just a of the things. Things like, are you clean? Many of us think sterilization and cleanliness, as part of clinical. But it’s not. To me that’s part of service. Are you letting your patients know? Are you opening up their cassettes in front of them so they can see that? Are you pointing out to them? Mrs. Jones I want you to see that we are opening a fresh set of instruments for you today. These are little things that differentiate yourself. Everybody does that, everybody has clean instruments, everybody has sterilized instruments. But very few of us point that out. Do we point out the technology? The service? Do we point out to our patients where a restroom is, so that they know? Do we point out to them what are the different technologies that we have along the way as the walking back? Those are the things that I referred to as service. Always friendly on the voice, do we go “aha”, “honey”, “sweetie”? Or are we saying “yes sir”, “yes ma’am” “Mr.” and “Mrs.”?
You can never be wrong for being polite and correct. You can always be wrong for being too informal. So always take a look at those things in terms of service. Now an area that I think is unbelievably important to differentiate ourselves is in business. Remember when I said: number one of the three things clinical business and customer service? and I said those backward and order a customer service business and then clinical in terms of the order of importance? Now, let’s spend a few minutes talking about the business side. So what can we do to differentiate ourselves in business? Number one: I think depending on your market, depending on your practice situation, if we have a situation where we’re not as busy as we’d like to be, and busy doesn’t mean working two columns in my book. Busy means that we have open time on a schedule, we literally sit in the office and do nothing. Then we may want to consider doing some external marketing, some internal marketing or even taking some dental insurance plans. Now when if you are not a prescription provider and you are looking to participating, there are a lot of things that you need to take a look at. So I would certainly encourage you to do some research maybe some reading on some different blog post about that.
But let’s talk more specifically about business. Are you providing your patients, patients Centric options to pay? And what do I mean by that?
In other words, today we live in a world where we all buy things based on monthly payments. Now I’m not talking about where we not affording or we can’t afford, and what overextending ourselves but the ability to make purchases that we need, overtime. Now over-extending yourself as buying things you don’t need and making monthly payment on that. But Dentistry should last years, so why not allow your patients to pay for that overtime? Now in a perfect world we would offer third-party financing through services like Care Credit, Compassionate Healthcare, Citibank, all these different companies that may exist today to allow your patients to pay overtime. The multiple Services allow your patients to pay overtime. Because that’s help patients afford the Dentistry that they need and/or want. Or you can be like our practice and consider short-term payment plans within the practice, non interest-bearing, payment plans that are automated with credit card on file, using recurring payment options. This allows your patience to have the dentistry that they need done, right now, and paid it overtime. But also allows you to control your cash flow.
Now I’ve done some episodes where we talk in more detail about the different payment plans that were using it at practice. I encourage you to go back and listen to any of those. Now the last thing I want to talk about with patient-centric is, are you being convenient for your patient? what are your hours? are you standing 8 – 5? You know, if you’re looking to grow and looking to change, you can’t do the same things that other people are doing. So maybe you need to change your hours to 10 to 7, or maybe you need to be open from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Lot of people like those early morning appointment before they go to work. Lot of people like those evening appointments after work. You have to look at your market and serve your Market. I mean until you get to the point where you can call your own shots and do exactly what it is that you want, you have to keep track of those things and be flexible in those things.
What about same-day Dentistry? how often do you ask your patient if you’d like to get that done today? you know a biggest challenge for our patient today is time. They want things that are convenient. So why not give them that option by asking them if they would like to get that dentistry done today. You’d be surprised at how many patients would say yes to that. What about completing dentistry in a single visit using technology. We have patients coming up indirect to our Restorations done in a single visit without impression, without laboratory fees, without having to send things to the lab, without making provisional. Today technology allows us to do that. And it’s almost non-negotiable in my opinion, that these Technologies make sense for their growing and establish practices that want to be more patient Centric and more convenient for the patients.
Lastly let’s say a few words on clinical. Listen it’s important to do good Dentistry. If your Dentistry simply sucks, you’re not going to get repeat business or over time you will have to do so many remakes and redo that will kill and eat into your profitability. But clinical is not everything. 85% of your patient’s perception of your practice is how you treat them and have convenient you are. Not to how good your margins are. Your patients simply don’t know how good your margins are. So it’s not all clinical. But when I say clinical in terms of differentiating our practice, what I really mean is what services are you providing? are you the typical practice that if I come to your office as a patient I’m going to get one of 4 5 things a cleaning a direct restoration and indirect restoration a tooth extraction or a root canal? Or are you at practice when I come in you’re going to get expanded set of services all Under One Roof? Whether do you doing it yourself or whether you’re bringing in other experts to do this for you. Those experts could be specialist, those experts could be other general dentist that really enjoyed doing those very specific procedures. So you have to expand your clinical care and your clinical skill set or you have to expand it through allowing other experts to come in.
So to me these are ways to differentiate our practice. Whether we’re growing or they were trying to compete with established practices or whether we’re established practices looking to make a difference in our lives.
So I want to thank you for this question, I hope you found this helpful. I would want to ask and my only ask on this, this is a free podcast, I’m not trying to sell anything, is to consider coming to any of our workshops. We host them in Raleigh North Carolina at our training center above our office, they’re fantastic they are focus on practice growth and they are all based on those things that we do in our practice, there not “Pie in the Sky” thinking, they based on things that have succeeded and failed in private practice, in a practice that takes insurance that deals with many of the same struggles that you deal with.
Thank you very much and I hope you enjoyed your episode.
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