Most of those commenting were in agreement with my opinions that, by offering a low fee entry to our Dental Services for a New Patient Visit, we were also offering a *Slap In The Face* to our loyal existing patients returning for regular hygiene maintenance.
One private comment I received via email read:
“A bad idea on so many levels. It diminishes the value of existing patients and creates sticker shock for the new patient when they are no longer shiny and new. The real question is how many new – discount priced – patients does the practice really keep? My guess would be, not many. Dentistry could take a lesson from the auto industry on how to view an existing patient. When someone walks into an auto dealer, the dealer knows that that person will be involved in the purchase of 20 vehicles over a lifetime.”
Long-term patients come back more often, accept treatment more readily, and refer more people like themselves.
Long-term patients should be valued and nurtured.
Having my long-term patients paying regular fees beside a New Patient paying Pennies In The Pound for the same service is fraught with danger on so many levels.
It’s an insult to the long-term patient who could well have already invested tens of thousands of dollars for their Dental Care with you.
Discounting for New Patients raises an un-asked question:
“Is this the *break-even-point* at this Dental Office?”
Can this offer be telling our regular patients that this service is quite easily sustainable at this low-level entry point?
Are our regular patients thinking:
“How come my regular fee for this service is so high, then?”
It raises a question in our regular patients’ minds:
“If they can do this so cheaply for New Patients, are they *stinging* me then as a regular?”
It’s an interesting conundrum….
No sooner had I published last week’s blog than I was on a call with one of my Dentist Clients in the US who has been using these low fee New Patient Offers.
Our call discussed their efficacy, and revealed that sometimes the results were quite variable.
Overall, the offers were bringing in new business, with good collections being made. My client tracks her numbers well, [which is more than I can say for most dentists].
Anyway, there had been some campaigns where results were poor.
Where new patient numbers were considerably lower.
And we put this down to the fact that there are probably *OTHER* offers from other Dental Offices that week that could be lower cost than my client’s offer….
And there’s the *BIG* gamble…
You never know who else has a similar offer on the table at the same time.
And can you imagine Mr. and Mrs. Consumer out there with all those offers lined up side by side across their kitchen table?
How do they choose between offers?
By the colour of the ad?
By the type and size of the font used?
By the physical dimensions and size of the coupon?
Or by the dollar cost of the offer?
So how do you make *YOUR* low fee New Patient Special Offer stand out compared to all others?
The best way that I’ve seen to make this offer work is to give the service away for nothing.
Yes, you read me correctly…..
And the way you do that is to offer the Fee for a New Patient Special Offer Visit as a donation to a local worthwhile charity.
And publicise this offer.
Herald it from the rooftops!
Let everybody know that this month you’ll be donating all your New Patient First Visit fees collected to ABC Worthwhile Charity.
And next month pick another charity.
Let the local media know.
Celebrate the donation with one of those big BIG BIG cheques!
Sometimes the charity will pre-publish your endeavours to their list of supporters, so the act of charity can benefit your Office in that way too.
In this way, by *Giving* the New Patient First Visit Fee away, and by going public with it, you’ll make your Dental Office stand out in your community as the #1 GOOD GUYS!!
And *that* will build Brand Loyalty.
And *that* will have your existing patients thinking what a great Person you are, Doc…
And that their decision to have you as their Dentist has been the correct decision…
Have you ever looked at your appointment schedule, doctors, and uttered these words?
Spaces you know that are looming, and are going to be difficult to fill.
And then you say:
“It’s just a hiccup…”
“”It’s just this one time…”
And you hope to heck that you’re right.
But deep down, you know, that gaps like these, that days like these, are starting to appear more regularly in your appointment book..
And they do.
They do become more regular occurrences.
And so what do most dentists do?
They say it’s time to start more marketing!!
They say we need to run ads. They say we need to run more ads. They say we need to run bigger ads….
They say we need more SEO…
But sometimes, most times, the answer is not in the marketing.
Or the perceived lack thereof.
The answer is right there in the office.
The answer is in the numbers.
Before I’d be rushing off placing more ads, I’d be looking at some metrics.
What are our New Patient enquiry numbers?
How many of those are booking appointments?
What are our case presentation numbers?
Are patients leaving without appointments?
Are patients calling and cancelling appointments?
What are those numbers?
And who is taking those cancellation calls?
You see, somewhere between the marketing, and the appointment book, there’s a whole number of connections or touch points that could be being broken.
And each one of those breakages, repeated on a regular basis, will have dire impacts upon your appointment schedule.
But what do most dentists do?
They just race out and do more marketing.
Last year, for one of my clients, we looked at New Patient numbers over a two-month period.
She saw eighty-five New Patients.
A healthy number.
But what wasn’t so healthy was the fact that over that same period, twenty-eight patients called and cancelled appointments without re-booking.
And that’s a bad number.
In simple terms, what this meant was that one third of the new patients booking in were there simply there to replace those patients cancelling.
What this meant was that one third of this dentist’s marketing budget was being spent on acquiring patients to replace those being allowed to “drain” out of the Dental Practice.
And that made no sense at all.
So here’s what we did.
We were able to identify the deficiencies in her office that were allowing this high number of cancellations.
And we addressed those areas…
Fewer, significantly fewer, cancellations and reschedules.
Leading to fuller appointment books.
Cost to the practice?
A little extra training and education.
Fixing the leak, for virtually no cost, was like adding a whole pile of new patients for free, because there was no extra spend on marketing…
It became like *Standing Room Only* in her appointment schedule.
Often the reason we have holes in our book is not that we’re not getting enough new patient enquiries.
It’s that we’re not spending the time and the effort on retaining the patients we have.
Or we’re not spending the time on converting all the enquiries we receive.
We’ve got to look after the patients we already have.
And we’ve got to treat those enquiries like gold…
Everything we do in the Dental Office must be focused upon maximising retention of our most valuable asset, our patients.
Wow your patients with World Class Service.
Spend the time with them.
And make sure there’s zero confusion.
There must be absolute clarity.
CLEAR. NEXT. STEP.
With New Patient enquiries, are we spending the time with them so that they know that our Office is the Only Place in Town that they should go to for their Dentistry?
And if we’re not, then why not?
Seems pointless running for the fire hose if we’re leaking gallons out through holes in our barrel.
How’s your barrel?
Got any holes?
What are your numbers?
Seems crazy to be buying more baseballs if your pitcher’s being belted out of the park?
Makes more sense to get better at pitching and throwing..
My One-Day Workshop in May covers in greater depth how to address these two BIG areas of leakage. For more details on the Philadelphia workshop CLICK HERE.
For more details on my Australian workshops CLICK HERE.
The best way to tell the world you have poor Customer Service is to advertise a New Patient First Visit Special Price Offer.
The New Patient First Visit Special Price Offer…
Why not tell the World that you DO NOT value your existing patients?
Because that’s what a New Patient First Visit Special Price Offer is doing.
Yes it is!
It’s telling the world you treat your New Patients better than your existing patients.
Your existing patients will always see your adverts.
What do you think they should think?
After all, why not just send a message to your existing patients saying that you don’t value them?
Because that’s exactly what a New Patient First Visit Special Price Offer is doing.
It’s screaming out to your existing patients, that you are happy to be *DISCOUNTING* your usual fee to *TRY* and attract new patients to your Dental Office.
If I was an existing patient I’d feel shunned.
Why should I, as a loyal existing patient of good faith, with tenure, be unable to access this *discount* plastered out there?
Why should I, as a loyal existing patient, be subsidizing this *grab* for new patients?
It is really a slap in the face, isn’t it?
It’s an advert that screams:
“WE DON’T VALUE OUR EXISTING PATIENTS”
What would you do if one of your valued existing patients asked to be examined, cleaned and x-rayed at the special price?
Would you honour their request?
“That will be my pleasure Mr. Smith”
Would you deny it?
“I’m sorry Mr. Smith. That offer is only for new patients.”
Would you honour it begrudgingly?
“Sure, Mr. Smith. Just for this time. This offer really is for new patients coming to the practice, only, though.”
The concept I totally dislike about a New Patient First Visit Special Price Offer is that just like lemmings, it creates a culture, or a sub-culture of Dentists who feel that they have to *ALSO* offer this New Patient Discount in order to just “keep up”, as you would, with their neighbouring Dental Offices.
And who will win this demeaning battle?
Who will have the lowest price?
Who will be the cheapest?
Whose New Patient First Visit Special Price Offer will be the lowest in town?
Who wants to be known as THE CHEAPEST DENTIST IN TOWN?
Now there’s an honour?
And how long would that title stick, until someone else decided to undercut your low price?
If discounting your fee is the only differential you have for attracting new patients, then frankly, your days of successful dental practice are numbered…
If New Patients have no other differential than price for choosing your Dental Office over another, then whatever else you’re doing or trying to do to attract new patients will become *INVISIBLE* to the prospective New Patient.
All that any town or city with a series of Dental Offices offering New Patient First Visit Special Price Offer Prices does is create a merry-go-round of bargain hunting patients who value a cheap clean over the continuity of a professional service provided by an educated health care professional with a long term dedication to quality care for his patients.
Because these “Bargain Hunters’ will simply flip from one discount New Patient Offer to the next at every six month interval so as to pick up their cheap cleans, to the detriment of their long term health.
Because in so doing, in price shopping, they deny their Oral Cavities of the long-term benefits of a relationship of trust built over time.
As Discount Dentists, all we’d be doing is supporting this societal misconception that
Cheap is OK.
Or worse still, we’d be upholding the Premise that
Cheap is just as good as Regular.
And we know that can’t be so.
So where do you want to be with your Dental Office?
Is this the Dental version of the $7.00 haircut?
Is that what our noble profession has become?
Are we really to become a pack of “No Win No Fee” Health Care Professionals?
I shudder at the thought….
So what should you do if you feel your service is being compromised by a spate of Discount Dentists popping up in your town?
I know of a hair stylist who was concerned about the same thing in his town, as $7.00 haircut shops started popping up, one after another after another.
A recent survey conducted at one of my client’s Dental Offices identified two areas of the process of running a business that we need to keep front of mind.
The thing is, that as dentists, and as dentists owning a business, we tend to get caught up in our own little world of doing the dentistry rather than the processes required of keeping the business running smoothly.
As such, we tend to “bury our heads in the sand” sometimes and concentrate on the doing of the dentistry rather than think about the business of dentistry.
Now this choice may be by default.
Or it may be made by definite decision.
And the reason for the making the choice of doing the dentistry may be only because as business owners we sometimes don’t know the best way to go about teaching our team what they need to do and what needs to be done.
Fortunately, in the case of my client, that’s not the reason.
The other reason that we choose “the doing” of the dentistry is because there fortunately is so much dentistry to do, that we just choose that first and foremost.
And so the “business” of dentistry is often put aside.
In the world of business, the dental model is not your typical business.
In typical business, people working in the business have a supervisor or manager overseeing their processes, so that procedures, protocols and systems are covered and carried through.
This manager is usually “on the floor”, with them, helping them.
This manager then reports to other supervisors, and so on, in a structured, layered sort of way.
In dentistry, the dentist is often the manager of the small group of employees.
But unlike traditional business, he has to cease managing many times a day, and for much of the day, and start drilling, because it’s the drilling, or the “doing” of the dentistry that needs to be done, because that’s what is required to pay the bills of the Dental Practice.
And so, while he’s drilling away and meant to be focusing one hundred percent on the task at hand, he often has a multitude of business thoughts passing through his poor little head.
How the heck do you run a business optimally with that sort of infrastructure?
It has to make things difficult right from the get-go…
The answer is, and my client’s office worked this one out for themselves, the answer is that you need good communications in place and you need good systems in place.
Systems are paramount.
A well run dental office needs to have documented, clear and specific ways of doing things.
Each and every time.
So that if there is a question or query, the document can be referred to for clarification.
Everything that can be done in the Office needs to be written as a system into that document.
The second requirement, for running a great Dental Practice, is that there also needs to be a relevant and workable process of communication between all members of the Office team.
How do we approach each other about questions and concerns?
When is the best time to speak to those we need advice from?
And what’s the best way of organizing that?
It’s interesting…. as humans, we tend to want to find out the answers to our questions the moment those questions arise.
Doing it this way may not always be the best way possible in a Dental Office.
I saw an office where the Dentist one time, while treating a patient, was interrupted unnecessarily by an Office Staff Member only to ask the Dentist his uniform size!!
And another time, I saw a Front Office member enter a treatment room and ask the dental assistant if she knew the birthday of one of the other Office employees, right while the dentist was working on the patient!
Clearly in both these cases, the questions were not urgent life and death matters and the requirement for immediate answers could have been put on hold until a better, more appropriate time became available.
Communication in the Dental Office between team members needs to be structured.
And times for those communications needs to be allocated, so that the business always functions at its best.
Allow times for verbal communications.
Have a book for questions and answers that can be checked during the day, for when written answers will suffice.
Sometimes if the question is written in the book, sometimes the solution to the question may become apparent before the question ever gets read?
The key here is that Dentistry is different…as a business.
Different from other businesses.
However, the processes of good business must be adhered to if the Dental Office is to become a *GREAT* Business.