Improving Dental Practice Performance
Updated: May 18, 2018
Now, this is a generic overview of the first few things that should be at the top of your priority list when it comes to looking at improving the performance of your Practice. Obviously, there are a myriad of things to consider, but we are all jolly busy, so below I've given a brief timeline (if you will) of those priorities. Simply spiffing! Read on dear Dental friend...
1. Get Your Vision Straight:
Understand what it is you’re trying to achieve. What stage of life are you at? Charlie, who bought Hartley Dental in 2003, is 50 (he doesn't look a day over 49 incidentally!) His vision and focus is now turning to Practice sale-ability. If you’ve just bought a practice, your vision might be different, like: in five years I want X revenue and X number of plan patients, and I want to be working X days a week. You’d need to position yourself a certain way to achieve that. If you want a certain level of personal income, but only want to work three days a week, you’ll need to position your practice and design your services accordingly to ensure you’ve got enough quality patients paying the right fees. So this part is about finding your objectives and figuring out your approach, which leads on to sorting out your product.
2. Know Your Product:
This is one for the whole team. Everyone must understand what you’re offering, regarding treatments, prices, customer service and added value (like free wi-fi, coffee, and allowing a nervous patient’s friends and family into the surgery). How do you treat new and old patients? Your team needs to buy into your core values and your approach to customer service. When this happens there’ll be a palpable customer service ethos that gives your patients confidence in your competence. One mistake a lot of Dentists make is to focus only on the clinical side of things. Obviously that’s important, but this is a service based industry, it’s about how you make people feel. You want to make them feel wanted, interesting, valued and welcome. Some people are better at this than others, which doesn’t have to be a problem. The ones who realise they’re not very good at it can recruit a team around them that is. If the nurses, front of house team and manager are good with people, it will help alleviate that issue.
3. Get Team Buy-In:
If your patients are told things like: “We can sell you this electric toothbrush... but if you go to Boots you can get it cheaper!” or, “I know we’re expensive, but …” they will lose faith in the value of your service, as those phrases show a lack of belief in your own products/services. The message should be: “We’re confident this is the best service and option for you.” If you believe it, they will. We did a sales training day recently, with Martin Crump where we learnt that belief in the product leads to the sale of it. Sales is still a dirty word in this industry, which is ridiculous. When I go to buy a TV, even if I know what I want, if the person selling it isn’t enthusiastic or doesn’t really know their stuff, I’ll begin to have doubts and probably end up looking elsewhere.
It’s the same with dentistry. So I’d advise practices to look at getting the whole team appropriate training, and involve the team in making decisions on how you approach each aspect of your service offering. Team buy-in is about having an inclusive environment where people get listened to, not shot down. Otherwise you won’t hear about that great idea, or worst case scenario, they resign from your Practice and take that great idea to one of your competitors! The other day our hygienist said, "Why don’t we put a shelf in the patients toilet with complimentary mouthwash and toiletries?!" It was a great idea, and we implemented it. Guess what - patients love it! They don't expect it from a Dental Practice - that is the key.
4. Focus On Service:
If all you aim to do is match your competitors, that’s a slippery slope.
You know how much you need to make to cover your operating costs and make some profit, so you’ve got to make sure your services are above and beyond customer expectations to engender sales. That’s everything from how you talk to patients, the music in your waiting room, to how you deliver that all important personal touch. If you learn of important events in your patient’s lives, such as a new house, or a bereavement, make it protocol to send a card. At Hartley Dental we have a stack of cards for this purpose. It takes two minutes. The difference it makes is what counts — not what everyone else is doing. Also, a lot of dentists don’t do annual price increases, which is baffling. I was speaking to the team at a monthly plan administrator recently, and they said some Dentists haven’t changed their prices for 10 years! Premium tax on insurance went up in April 2017, which means all insurance products went up, so everyone in the industry should have put their prices up by at least that amount to maintain the quality of their services - right...? And that’s only one cost increase; there are many others, such as rising material costs as the weaker pound hits imports.
5. Measure It:
You need to make sure what you’re doing actually works, which is where key performance indicators (KPIs) come in. Productivity and actual income are the two basic ones. When you have plan patients, to measure the productivity you need to look at the number of appointments and what they would be worth privately. Then look at your operating costs. You need to measure your marketing to get numbers around how much enquiries are costing you. At Hartley Dental, we record new patient enquiries and then go through the diary and see how many new patient assessments we’ve completed, which gives us a conversion rate. If you know how much you’ve spent on marketing, divide it by the number of assessments and you have the price per enquiry (per month). This is an easy to understand number to share with the team, so you can tell them: “Every time you answer the phone or answer an email it costs the practice £70.” When I did this it was a bit of a revelation for them. I’m dead against free consultations; if you see 30 people in a month and five convert, imagine how much time that takes up, for not a lot of return on investment. If you charge £100 (for example), you’re going to get a better quality of enquiry.
So there you have it dear friends - a bit of a run down of the key focus areas for every Practice. Vision, product, team, services, measurement.
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