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.”
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