3 Ways You Can Improve Your Dental Practice’s Bottom Line in Three Months

November 1, 2013

Are you looking for some ways to boost your practice’s bottom line as you close out 2013? Here are three ideas …

1. Hire and properly train the right receptionist.

Like many people, I’m not really a fan of going to the dentist. Beyond my dislike of the needle and subsequent pain, it’s more about the inconvenience of taking the time out of my hectic day for a dental appointment. Over time, I learned to squeeze the majority of my dental appointments into my lunch hour. It helped me blend the necessity of good oral care into an action-packed day. The system even helped curtail me from a few of those calorie-ridden business lunches.

Unfortunately, just like any system, my dental lunchtime appointment strategy had its vulnerabilities. One day, I was called into a meeting at the last minute, meaning I needed to cancel my appointment. I remember the call as though it was yesterday, because I don’t think I’ve ever been that uncomfortable before.

As the last syllable of “I need to cancel my appointment” slipped out of my mouth, the receptionist proceeded with a dissertation that would have made Judge Judy proud. For the next two minutes, I learned how the office had a cancelation policy, how the receptionist was disappointed I was canceling, how it was going to cost the office money, how they could not replace my appointment, and how their day was now going to be off-schedule because of my selfish act. I can recall asking myself, “Do I tell the CEO that I can’t attend the meeting because of a dental receptionist losing her mind over a canceled appointment?”

I understand that cancelations are not ideal and there are healthy ways to communicate the urgency and importance of every dental appointment to your patients, but it’s important to not cross the line.

Ask yourself, “How much training and coaching do we offer our staff on managing cancelations?” I hope it’s ongoing, because one session won’t resonate. Dentists can’t simply stress the financial loss, for that message comes across in a harsh manner when it’s delivered to the patient. In this case, the dentist lost me as their patient. As I shopped for a new dentist, one of my priorities was finding an office with a pleasant receptionist, not one that seems overburdened.

 

2. There are smart ways to buy your equipment and disposables

Buying products, supplies, and equipment is a much different game today. As much as you may want to cherish your relationship with Bob the distributor rep (the one who brings you coffee and free samples), you’ll likely be better off buying your own Keurig coffee machine with the money you save spreading your buying power around and shopping for the vendor offering the best price.

By no means am I suggesting you end that relationship with Bob because there is tremendous value in having a loyal rep support your office. However, when operating a dental office in the new economy, one can’t afford to wear blinders. By the nature of their business, dentists purchase more products, equipment, and disposables than virtually any other profession. Therefore, since purchasing plays such a key role in any dental office, why not have a dedicated strategy to always identify the best price?

Loyalty programs, shipping costs, and having an extended history with the vendor may cause you to pay a slight premium in certain cases, but don’t you at least want to know that you’re in control of that decision and not overpaying when it isn’t necessary?

Years ago, I worked in the health and beauty aids industry and I recall a business consultant from Connecticut named Arthur Land. He built a very successful consulting business by managing the purchasing and inventory of the over-the-counter and HBA products at independent pharmacies. He recognized that the pharmacist was an expert in chemistry but had no clue how many L’Oreal lipsticks or Pert Shampoos to order.

Today, dental offices have more options than ever before to shop for their needs. Consider having someone on your team put together a spreadsheet of pricing and vendors for the products, equipment, and instruments you need. You might be surprised how much money you can save and the exercise is a great way to help team members understand the cost of operating a dental office.

3. Examine your marketing strategy … if you have one.

“We get all of our patients by word of mouth so we don’t advertise”

“We tried advertising. It doesn’t work”

“Things are different here”

These are typical quotes that we hear when we speak to dentists about marketing, yet how many dentists invest thousands of dollars and countless hours in the design and decoration of the waiting room and operatories? If you have a beautiful home, don’t you invite people to visit?

Good marketing isn’t easy, but it provides the lifeblood of the practice. Having a balanced community marketing plan, referral marketing plan, eMarketing plan, direct marketing plan, and making the most out of signage and promotional items offered by manufacturers can send a message to patients and those seeking a new dentist that you are on top of your craft and a leader in the dental profession.

Local schools, libraries, and newspapers are always seeking speakers and content for their audience. Sponsoring a little league or soccer team gives you 12 kids and perhaps 20 or more parents to offer a free oral exam, discount on whitening, or just a way to let them know you’re a good person in the community.

A great website is like blinking in the dark if you’re not driving traffic to it. Have you learned about search engine optimization (SEO), which is the way to get your dental office on the top of the Google search engine? Are you sending out email or direct mail promotions? Do you advertise or write a column for the newspaper? Do you appear at community events, fundraisers, or speak on local radio?

To develop and deliver good marketing simply takes a little time, homework, and follow-through effort. Most dental offices are doing minimal marketing, so there is a good possibility you’ll see measurable results when you get serious and start launching new marketing programs.

Some dentists prefer to turn marketing over to an expert. Ross Nash, Gary Kadi, and others have long histories of building megapractices and turning dentists into “rock stars.” It takes a special dentist to make the commitment to a professional practice management team. Remember, you can’t enter the game halfway; you’re either 100% in or 100% out.

A great practice management consultant can help you put things in perspective as they help coach you to stay on track to meet the goals and objectives you set for yourself on that first day of dental school.

That’s right … you don’t have to do this alone.