Dentsply Sirona: customer interaction, virtual education key during pandemic times

June 11, 2020

Dentsply Sirona: customer interaction, virtual education key during pandemic times. Eric Bruno answers questions, provides company updates as dental industry looks to bounce back after mandated shutdowns.

By now, we’ve all heard many stories about how difficult the last two months were on the entire dental industry, but lately we’re starting to hear some good news. Many states began to reopen dental practices in May and now most practices are trying their best to get back on track and to move forward with today’s new normal.

Dentsply Sirona, a global leader in the manufacturer of dental solutions, shifted its focus during the COVID-19 pandemic with new efforts to continue to serve its customers and to keep the industry educated. Like everyone in every industry, Dentsply Sirona is ready to move forward with the hopes that much better days are in store.

Eric Bruno, senior vice president, North America RCO Lead at Dentsply Sirona, participated in this question and answer session with Dental Products Report to share the company’s experiences during the pandemic and to discuss what lies ahead for the company and the industry.

DPR: How has Dentsply Sirona fared during these last couple months during the COVID-19 pandemic?

EB: Two months ago the entire country went from thinking how bad can this be to a global pandemic very quickly. We decided to focus on three key priorities. Firstly, on the interaction with our customers and I’m proud of how our team responded, in particular, how we reached out and connected with dental professionals to better understand what they are experiencing, thinking, and doing and trying to understand how Dentsply Sirona could help. It is absolutely crucial to stay connected with our customers, each of our sales representatives conducted 20 virtual meetings per day.

Secondly, we focused on virtual education. Dentsply Sirona stands for a forward-looking mentality towards customer-oriented digitization. In trying times, this is more important than ever and we see the use of educational technologies as a great way to support our customers. We strongly believe that providing educational opportunities is key to empower dental professionals.

And last but not least, we focused on enhancing our product portfolio.

The most important goal of our company is to increase the patient’s traffic in dental offices. Together with partners like ADA and CDC we would like to create awareness that going to a dentist is safe. We think it is the best support we can give, it is even more important than just a revenue recovery. 

DPR: Were changes made in terms of product launches or even focuses on new, additional products designed to specifically help dentists and dental labs during protect against the spread of viruses?

EB: Great question…the short answer is yes, we made changes but one thing that did not change and should never change is our unwavering commitment to supporting the dental professional and supporting them in a way that is most relevant for them no matter where they are in their post-COVID journey to recovering lost business. On product launches…we actually launched a number of new products right before the country started to shut down and continued to support those new products with professionals during the pandemic. Products like our new Midwest handpieces are getting a lot of interest due to their unique benefits especially right now with so many concerns about aerosols. We also are experiencing unprecedented interest in single use products from across the portfolio and hearing very positive feedback from customers.

DPR: In terms of training and education for dentists, how did that change during these difficult times and with the social distance guidelines throughout the world?

EB: We have a great team of clinical educators who are connected to dental professionals across the country…huge credit to this team for quickly identifying the importance of on demand and virtual education. Within days the team made numerous educational assets available to dentists and engaged more than half the entire population of dental professionals in one form or another. Since the pandemic, in-person professional courses were almost non-existent. Many dental professionals were using the “free” time to improve their knowledge about various dental fields using the Dentsply Sirona online courses. More than 377,000 people around the globe registered for Dentsply Sirona Academy live webinars in 10 weeks. 

In fact, on the topic of infection prevention, our team reached out to 150,000 dental professionals and delivered over 70,000 hours of training in the last two months alone. This commitment to education and engaging professionals on their terms will continue post-COVID. Dentsply Sirona's pace of educational offerings will remain strong. 

DPR: Are there new protocols in place now that dental practices, labs and manufacturers begin to reopen? 

EB: It’s hard not to notice all the new protocols being put in place for dentistry…from CDC guidelines to great information from industry partners like the ADA…dentists are telling us they want to know they are practicing safe dentistry for their staff to be safe and for their patients to feel safe about visiting their office. We are having lots of dialogue with different groups about ways to enabling this in the near future. Importantly, Dentsply Sirona has put its own set of protocols in place for all customer facing employees–primarily our sales representatives who are ready to support dentistry to help ensure we get back to work as quickly and safely as possible. Every Dentsply Sirona representative is required to take several new training modules across a variety of topics all centered around safety and infection prevention. We want our people to know how to engage customers safely and help them ensure safe practices. Ultimately, it’s important to share our people who are engaging customers and invited into offices will always comply with the office protocols in place.

DPR: With many dental practices concerned about costs after a couple difficult months, has Dentsply Sirona implemented any programs to assist these practices such as discounts, financing deals, etc.?

EB: After safety, the most often cited concern from dental professionals is how to navigate the financial health in the near term. We believe patients will return and we also know dentists are looking for ways to navigate the near term financially. We are looking at a number of options with industry partners and look forward to sharing details imminently. In the meantime, here’s what we are hearing from dentists...over 40% are telling us they like to expand into 1 or 2 procedures like clear aligner, implants or endo…this is great as we’ve committed to helping practitioners focus on workflows and enabling the most efficient and effective procedures to build a healthy practice for healthy smiles. Additionally, we are now seeing data indicating the #1 area of interest when considering how to build their practice is single visit dentistry which makes sense intuitively…patients don’t want to make multiple visits if they don’t have to…in fact we have new research from patients showing 8 in 10 adults agree they would prefer AND feel safer having one visit versus multiple appointments.  

DPR: Might there be a new focus to educate dentists on the benefits, return on investment for technologies like CAD/CAM, intraoral scanning and on training for technologies that can allow practices to be more efficient and to deliver additional services?

EB: Absolutely and to help with this, Dentsply Sirona announced earlier this year a partnership with CDOCs to provide new Clinical Accelerators – Advanced Training Kits. 

These are 2-day workshops in Arizona and North Carolina are designed to empower professionals to build a healthy, thriving practice, through a unique combination of Dentsply Sirona technologies, consumables and advanced hands-on education accelerating long term growth with new workflow solutions-all resulting in optimal patient care and more healthy smiles. These are available with the purchase of new equipment at no charge or stand alone and focused on procedural expansion into Endo, Implants, Ortho and Restorative procedures.

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(Above, Eric Bruno talks to attendees at the Chicago Dental Society Midwinter Meeting in February. The file photo took place prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and before health officials recommended the wearing of face coverings. Photo courtesy of Dentsply Sirona.)

In his role as senior vice president, North America RCO Lead at Dentsply Sirona, Bruno is responsible for leading the company’s go-to-market strategy in North America. He has more than 25 years of experience delivering customer value, inspiring employee engagement and driving execution for profitable growth across a diverse set of Medical 

Device, Pharmaceutical and Consumer businesses. Most recently he served as General Manager for Vision Care at Alcon/Novartis. His prior experience includes a variety of commercial, franchise and brand management positions at Alcon/Novartis and Johnson & Johnson. Earlier in his career, Bruno was a brand manager at Procter & Gamble and an engineer at Kraft Foods.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from the Pennsylvania State University and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.