Friday, May 27, 2016

Dentistry Has Changed Forever

If you own a dental practice, you own a business. In today’s new dental economy, there are too many dental businesses failing, even with gifted and excellent clinicians at the helm. Why? Insufficient training designed to deal with real business situations in a manner that predictably leads to good outcomes. If your business is struggling, it is probably not because of your clinical skillsets. It is more than likely your lack of business acumen, a critical component in today’s competitive dental environment. Let’s face it: The majority of dentists are clinicians with science backgrounds — not executives with business degrees. For example, in the 2010‒2011 academic year, 70 percent of first-year dental students had science degrees, according to the American Dental Education Association.

The majority of dental school programs are devoid of substantive courses in leadership, managerial accounting, strategic management, human resources management, marketing, organizational behavior, entrepreneurship, and more. As hard as it may be to acknowledge, we must admit we possess more intellect about bonding agents, soft tissue pathology, dental implantology, occlusion, endodontic therapy, and the muscles of mastication than how to run an efficient and profitable business operation. Truth be told, our business knowledge is limited. This needs to change. The days of the “cash cow” are gone. Dentistry has changed forever.

“There is nothing permanent except change.”
— Heraclitus

All of us face competing objectives both professionally and personally. As dental professionals, we are accustomed to working in finite spaces while continuously striving to maintain excellence. The demands on the dentist can be overwhelming both clinically and from a business perspective. Maintaining balance can be challenging and difficult. You are not alone.

As general dentists, we must adapt to the new dental economy if we want to maintain our autonomy, remain competitive, and continue to realize enviable profit margins ranging from 30‒60 percent. No wonder venture capitalist, corporate dentistry, and the insurance industry want a bigger slice of the pie. Can you blame them? Follow the money. As a comparison, in 2015, the hotel industry reported a 5 percent net profit margin, grocery chains 1‒2 percent, and the airline industry a hard-earned 5.1 percent. Even Starbucks reported a profit margin of only 11.52 percent in the first quarter of 2016. What do we have in common with these industries? We are in the customer service industry, and patients have a choice of where they want to spend their hard-earned money.

Patients expect more from their doctors and team members, and it is incumbent upon each of us to deliver. By incorporating award-winning business practices, based upon Ritz-Carlton-like service standards, we can discover how a service excellence culture results in a patient-centric environment through engaged employees. Patients purchase from people they trust, and trust is earned by building rapport that creates value in the consumer’s mind.

Employee empowerment that encompasses service excellence, while tapping into the emotional needs of each patient, makes for a better experience with superior outcomes.

Today, our success is not predicated upon our wonderful clinical skills alone. They are important; however, they are not as vital as delivering beautiful customer service based upon establishing rapport, value, and trust. Customer service ingrained in the DNA of each of our team members leads to enhanced treatment acceptance and patient referrals. When patients feel slighted, they will not hesitate to take to the “airwaves.” In 2016, the patient has a seat at the table in the form of access to Yelp, Google, and various social media channels. Remember, it is your name on the door and your team that is being evaluated by each and every patient. You own it — the good, the bad, and the ugly!

It is now time to realize that dentistry has changed forever and retool to meet the demands and expectations of today’s consumer. Our success depends upon it. We are up to the task at hand. Our “niche” should be designed around delivering dentistry with a hospitality flare. We don’t have to look like The Ritz-Carlton; however, we need to deliver like The Ritz does.

Duke Aldridge, DDS, MBA, MAGD

3 comments:

Kevin Tighe said...

You are exactly right. A good exercise you can do is to look at your practice from the patient's perspective. What I mean is eyeball your dental office as if you are a new patient. Listen to how your front desk handles new patient calls, stroll around the parking lot, take a seat in the lobby and view the surroundings. Visit the patient restroom. Sit in each of the dental chairs and look up at the ceiling. Sometimes what you will uncover can really be stunning: Cigarette butts in the parking lot, weeds sprouting up from the cracks, dead flies plastered on windows, last years magazines stacked up in the reception area and chipped paint in the hallways. From the dental chair you might spy cobwebs in the air vents and old water stains on ceiling tiles. At desks and front office workstations you might find "post it" notes stuck on top of post it notes that are stuck on top of post it notes. Take time to stroll around your dental practice, inside and out, as if you were the patient. Make notes and get those things fixed. This is a simple action that only takes me about ten minutes. But it's one of the easiest things a dentist can fix.

Charles Aldridge said...

Hi Kevin,

Thank you for your comments. You are breath of fresh air and by reading your comments I have no doubt that you are a "pro-active" hands on doc who takes great pride in your operation. Congrats and keep up the great work.

Duke Aldridge

Peter Nguyen said...

I agree with you dentistry is changed very much, now people start trusting on us, still need to demolish dental fear from people's mind. At genuine dental arts, we focus on finding ways to do dentistry better.

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