One of the stories I tell about my journey through dentistry is how in 1996 I was unable to sell my Dental Practice.
During that year, I had three dentists come and view my practice and I told them all the good things I was doing to advance the practice along with all the competitive advantages I had over my less than competitive neighbouring dental practices.
And my practice was doing well. In fact, it was collecting double what the average dental practice was collecting in my city.
None of these three dentists made an offer to purchase my Dental Practice.
But so impressed were they with the information that I gifted them about my town and about my competition in that town, and also, I assume, about me not going to be around there, that they each either bought a Dental Practice or set up their own dental practices right there in my town.
The three each became my direct competition.
Kind of makes you want to go and take a shower doesn’t it?
The fact that I was unable to sell my dental practice meant that I then had to make a tough decision.
I had to stay on, and work on my practice and grow it.
To do this, I hired a consultant, and worked with him for six months until the day that I found out that although this consultant was working with me in my business, he was also working AS A DENTIST with one of my direct competitors only nine hundred yards down the road from my Dental Practice.
I was horrified at this complete lack of ethics from this fellow dentist.
It was at this point that I had to make some serious decisions.
I remember going home to my wife, with a one year old and a four year old, and telling her that we needed to sell our family home and go rent for a while so that we could take the equity in the home and put it into the business as working capital to help grow the business.
And so that’s what we did.
For five years.
It was 2002 that we then were able to take possession of the keys of the home that we now live in today.
I tell you this story for a number of reasons.
Firstly, to show you, that despite adversity, there can be success.
When all seems lost, when things that are not of your doing have an adverse effect on your plans, your goals and your aspirations, there is a way forward.
So long as you believe that you can succeed, you will.
If you make a plan, and get to work, you will arrive on the other side of the adversity.
One of the things that I did do to succeed and get past my setbacks back then was to find and work with the right Dental Coach who helped me to create the Dental Practice that I had so wanted to create.
The second reason that I retell this story is that history does tend to repeat.
In 2014, I had a dentist apply for a complimentary strategy session with me in my consulting and coaching role, only to find out that he was purchasing a dental practice very close by to my established practice. When he made the application, he used an interstate address. He even came and visited my rooms at my Dental Office.
Time for another shower?
Well, it didn’t really bother me at that point in time. Although I did feel violated, it was at the time that I was deciding to have surgery on my shoulder and my practicing career was at a crossroads.
Still, it wasn’t in my mind the correct way to behave.
Then recently, I was approached to discuss a few consulting issues by a consultant from outside of Australia. Although the questions appeared to be of a general nature, the purpose of their call and intention of the relationship begun was to glean information from me to use directly in that consultant’s business at the expense of my own business. Certainly not an Ultimate Experience for me.
I heard the story of a dentist in the USA who was about to sell his practice to his long time assistant dentist, only to find, at the eleventh hour, that the assistant dentist had set up his own rooms around the corner from this Dental Office. And so the retirement plans of the senior dentist were thrown into disarray as he now had to regroup and rebuild.
A dental consultant that I know helped one of his clients more than double their practice collections in a two year period, only to find that six months after they had stopped working together the dentist client had launched a dental consulting business of their own.
I wrote recently about the specialist dentist who employed a newly qualified specialist, and fed him patients referred to the principal specialist, only to later be greeted with the news that the young specialist was setting up his own rooms nearby.
One of my dentist friends, in fact one of my best friends, often remarks to me at how analytical I am when assessing human purpose and methodology.
Although I am a believer in the “Theory of Abundance” there still exist those whose plan to own the tallest building in town involves destroying all other buildings.
I say “Grow The Pie” and there will be plenty for all.
One of the true differentiators of a great business from a good business from an average business and from a bad business is simply that a great business has a plan for everything.
And that includes having a plan for when things in the business do not go to plan.
How is your business?
What happens in your business when things do not go exactly to plan?
I call this portion of the business the Service Recovery.
Service Recovery describes what your contingency plan is when your business experiences a Service Defect.
A Service Defect is defined as any obstacle or challenge that can occur at any stage of the patient visit or interaction with your office that can ruin their experience.
And therefore Service Recovery describes the ability of your Dental Office to rectify any Service Defects that can occur at any time throughout your day.
Your Dental Office’s Service Recovery systems and the way you seamlessly swing them into action are what defines you as a business that cares unconditionally about your customers.
And so it goes that while these customers may complain about the service defect that just happened to them, they will be in awe at the way your business handles that defect through its service recovery processes.
How are the Service Recovery Processes in your Dental Office?
To truly first understand Service Recovery you need to be able to identify what ALL of your Service Defect possibilities are.
And before that, or to do that identification, you need to be able to identify each and every stage or step or process that your patient has to experience as they travel through the journey of being your Dental Patient.
There are no positives in trying to make up your service recoveries as each defect occurs live in your Dental Office.
You need to be prepared.
“If this [event] happens, then these [specific processes] are the definite steps that we need to swing into action”
The end result of a great Service Recovery process is that the benefit to the business is often greater than if the Service Defect had not occurred.
A great Service Recovery process is seamless.
Here are some poor Service Recovery statements:
“I need to check with the Dentist.”
“I need to check with our lab.”
“What were you eating [when you broke that filling]?”
Great Service Recovery is planned for.
When I coach Dental Office teams on Customer Service we all make sure you know what to do when things go correctly, as well as when things do not go exactly to plan.
So that your team are always ready for all possibilities, should they occur.
One of the major points of differentiation of good businesses from great businesses is that the great business owners have a handle on their numbers.
They know all their numbers, that matter.
For instance, great business owners know exactly how many new patients they see.
They know where these new patients come from exactly, and they know how these numbers compare to the previous month, and to the same month in the previous year.
And probably to the year before that, and the year before that as well.
This is because great business owners know what to measure and in so doing stay ahead of the curve, ahead of the wave, and are leaders and not followers, in their marketplace.
Great business owners know the average dollar value of a new patient to the dollar. Not to the thousand or five hundred, but to the exact dollar.
They know the exact value of each new patient per medium, so that they can ramp up their dollar spends specifically on a variety of media, if and when needed.
With this, a great business owner knows the real dollar ROI as well as the New Patient Number ROI for every dollar spent on each of the forms of marketing and media used to attract patients to the practice.
And by knowing what he spends to attract and acquire a new patient via advertising, a great business owner knows how much he can spend to reward an existing customer who refers a valued friend to the dental practice. [The reward is because that is how much the dental practice would have had to have spent to acquire the unreferred patient]
Great business owners know exactly what they spend on staff. Salaries paid to staff amount to one fifth or more of all dollars collected in a dental office, and sees salaries as an investment in his business rather than being a pure outgoing.
A great business owner will also be able to tell you what his outgoings are in his Dental Office as a percentage of revenue. And he’ll be able to let you know what his costs are for dental lab, rent, and for dental materials, almost to the cent.
A great dental business owner has a plan, or several.
He knows how to grow his business, and he has a vision of how that business is going to look.
And he has an exit strategy as well.
And a date.
If he has a vision, but lacks the “how to”, a great business owner employs a coach to give him advice and to keep him accountable.
Because he knows that as you climb the ladder of success it is less crowded the higher you ascend.
And he knows that the climb, and the journey, are both worth it.
How do you provide World Class Customer Service consistently?
The answer is simple.
Always be mindful of trying to exceed the expectations of your customers.
And achieving that goal.
In dentistry, this really is quite simple.
Because the expectation of the customer is to be hurt, and to be in pain.
So giving the customer an experience, any experience that does not cause pain is a win for your office and a win for your patient.
Probably the answer to this question is even better when we frame it in the negative.
And that is:
Never provide your patient with an experience that fails to meet or is worse than what they were expecting.
It really is that simple.
If you continually exceed the expectations of your customers, and build friendships that are genuine with them, you will create long term relationships with them.
And that’s all that your customers want.
They want to feel engaged, valued and respected.
And that respect, and the feeling of being valued comes simply by spending time with them, listening to their personal stories and investing in who they are as opposed to how much they want to spend in your office.
And if things ever go wrong, or are not to plan, make sure that your service recovery systems are so dynamic that they leave your patients with so much of a feeling of amazement that they marvel at the amount that you and your dental office really care.
Sometimes the acts of recovery are even more impressive to our patients than if we had actually gotten the procedure or protocol right in the first place.
And your patients will appreciate this.
Because it shows them that you really do care about them.
Some people [dental offices] find this difficult to do.
Yes they do.
And therein lies the opportunity.
Find those dentists who are so arrogant, so blazé, and so not invested in their customers, and set up practice as their direct competition.
This is really easy to research.
Every community is screaming out for a caring dentist.
Can you be the one?
If you have what it takes, customers will beat a path to your door and pay you whatever you ask, because they are looking for an experience, not a dental service.
I often see dentists working on pieces of their business.
And while they focus on trying to improve one part of their business, another part of their business is falling apart and so any improvement they might be hoping for is being eroded by the deterioration of the part of the business that they are choosing to neglect.
Does that make sense?
Does it make sense to be so blind to the “overall” of your business that you fail to identify the essential elements needing attention that are in disarray?
I was chatting with a financial adviser today.
And he and I were both in amazement at how many dentists and other health professionals seem to rely on a glimmer of hope, on a “She’ll be Right mate” attitude, that things will somehow magically work out for the best.
Omer Reed told me at the start of this decade that in the USA ninety five percent of Dentists will be unable to retire at age 65 on an income equal to or better than what they were earning at that time.
This means that 19 out of 20 dentists reaching the age of 65 need to keep working because they have to as opposed to stay working purely because they enjoy it.
So here is what I see commonly:
Dentists and their practices start being less busy.
Spaces, and holes, appear in the schedule [or appointment book].
At this point, the worried dentist feels as though they need more new patients.
So they buy some advertisements, some SEO, some adwords.
Here’s what usually happens:
Why is that?
The answer is simple.
It’s not the inflow of fuel that’s the problem. It’s the engine.
It’s not the type or volume of petrol that you’re putting into the vehicle. It’s the broken down motor that you’re trying to resuscitate.
It’s not the water supply to your vessel that’s the problem. The problem is that the bucket is leaking. In several places.
But this is what most dentists do.
They’re blind to the fact that they have few if any systems.
And that the operating systems are never reviewed.
They don’t have a system for how the phone is answered.
They don’t have a system for how the patient is greeted, or how the patient is transported through their appointment.
Nor is there any consistency as to how the patient is looked after and attended to.
There is no consistency of message.
Treatment is “suggested”. It’s never diagnosed.
Patients are given “options” rather than told what is best.
The patients leave confused, without appointments, rather than with appointments, clarity and urgency.
It’s not that we need more new patients.
We need better systems for capturing and converting those who call our practice.
And then retaining those people with our exceptional care and professionalism and our attention to the right details.
A great dental practice and business only needs to acquire one new patient per dentist per day to maintain practice health and grow with consistency.
Once you have a consistent flow of new patients and treatment in your dental practice then you can develop a lifetime savings and investment strategy to provide for your family and for your retirement.
The book, “The Richest Man in Babylon” by George S. Clason, provides a simple foundation for building wealth.
Remember, you deserve a reward for the time, study and monetary investment that you have put into your education, along with the capital that you have invested in either purchasing or starting up your Dental Office.
To go through a life unrewarded for these is a tragedy.
Yet only five percent truly gain independence at age 65.
They are not looking at the business as the sum of its whole.
They are only looking at selective areas of the business and they are neglecting other key areas.
What are you measuring?
There’s a direct relationship between what gets measured and results.
Dental businesses with poor results measure not much at all.
What gets measured gets improved upon.
And the more you measure the more that you will improve.
The more that your income and your bottom line will improve.
So that you can run a successful business.
With comfort and surety.
Why traumatise yourself and deprive yourself by failing to look at the whole?