Earlier this year I had discussions about coaching with a dental practice owner who owned three dental practices in a major capital city.
This practice owner was well and truly on top of her numbers.
She knew the production of each practice, and she knew the production of each operator in each practice.
The owner was able to pinpoint easily the underperforming practices and the underperforming operators in her organisation.
The owner was also able to recognise the operators within her organisation that continually produced well for the company, and the treatments that those operators were able to provide to their patients that other providers within the business were not able to provide, or were not providing.
At one of the practices, let’s call it the Bond Street practice*, the owner was hearing from staff at that office that the patients of that office were becoming rather “price sensitive”.
When the owner shared this with me, my initial [internal] response to myself was to wonder [to myself] whether there was an actual “price sensitivity” being expressed by clients at the Bond Street practice*, or whether in fact a “price sensitivity” was being “perceived” by the staff there but was not actually even real?
If in fact this “price sensitivity” at the Bond Street practice* was purely and only a perception by the staff at Bond Street*, and was indeed just that, a perception without justification or evidence or rhyme nor reason, then this supposed “price sensitivity” at the practice could be easily fixed and repaired by working with the team on their belief systems and their behavioural protocols that are framing up these limiting beliefs in the first place.
Years ago in my own practice in 1999, I employed a very good receptionist who came to me one day and said:
“The patients are complaining that your fees are too high.”
This statement took me by surprise, because at that point in time, it had been twenty-four months since my previous price adjustment.
I didn’t really know why these patients were complaining.
For the previous two years, while the country had been experiencing serious inflationary numbers affecting the CPI [Consumer Price Index] and interest rates, I had resisted putting up my fees at all. In fact, my fees and prices had remained constant and had not risen at all during that time.
What was I to do?
I wondered what was I to do?
On the one hand I knew that my business needed to increase the fees it was charging, just to keep up with the forces of inflation.
But, here was I receiving a message from my front office co-ordinator and patient financial advisor that patients were complaining that my fees were too high?
So here’s what I decided to do:
I did not want to disappoint my patients.
If patients were complaining that my fees were too high, and I believed that they were overdue for an increase and that they needed to be increased to maintain the economic viability of my business, then I needed to do one thing and one thing only:
I knew I needed to give my patients something to complain about.
I knew that if they believed my fees were too high, and I believed that my fees needed improving, then it was my job as the business owner to make sure that the prices did go up so that the patients did indeed have something real and tangible to complain about.
And here’s what happened:
After I increased my fees to give the patients something real to complain about, there were no complaints at all about my fees being high.
The only thing that was certain that was happening before I put my fees up was that the perception of my office having high fees was owned 100% by the front of house receptionist, and was not even a consideration of the patients of the practice at that point of time.
The perception was not the reality
Just as it was in my practice, in this other dentist’s Bond Street practice*, “price sensitivity” by the patients was a false perception being arrived at by the team members, and had no relation to the true reality.
In fact, what I found in my office, and have found in my clients’ practices when they raise their fees with conviction is that, to a man, each practice GETS BUSIER and MORE PRODUCTIVE after the fees go up, than they were before the “delayed” fee rises were implemented.
As a warning…
As a warning, every practice owner needs to be on top of the phone answering and techniques and communication skills that their front office team need to be using each and every time that they are scheduling patients and clients and customers into appointments.
All your team members need to know exactly what to say, and to whom, when price and fee enquiries are raised.
Because if you don’t keep on top of this, then bad attitudes, or poor attitudes from your team can drip through to your customers’ psychies by osmosis.
And when that happens, those results for your practice are not pretty to look at…
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