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Improve your patient experience and get more of what you want from your practice

Dentist and Dental Business Coach, Dr Barry Oulton, shares how to increase the turnover of a practice without working longer hours.

As a dental business coach, when I chat to dentists they tend to want more of one of three things. They either want to increase their income, have more time out of dentistry or they want to be doing more interesting or enjoyable dentistry.

Many dentists are firefighting, problem solving, dealing with emergencies. They’re carrying out a lot of single tooth dentistry and therefore they don’t really have the time to do the type of dentistry they really enjoy doing.

The old model of how to increase income in the business is often based on an hourly rate. You either increase the hourly rate that you’re getting, which strikes fear in people about whether patients will accept it, or you increase the number of hours you work. Both of those work to a degree, but there is a market cap on the hourly rate. However, there are only so many hours in the day and working longer affects your work life balance.

The next thing dentists do is to consider expanding their services. They go on courses covering how to do new dental procedures such as the latest cosmetic bonding, or same day veneers. However, they’re still in the same situation regarding the number of hours that they work, the number of patients they need to see and fitting everything in. So ultimately, my aim is to help people increase their incomes whilst not increasing their time commitment. In fact, decreasing the time commitment and enjoying their dentistry.

Change the model

How do we do that? Our aim should be to maximise our productivity so we do more in the time that we’re working rather than spreading it out, doing single tooth dentistry. We do that by maximising what we’re doing in clinic, and we develop systems that enable us to be more productive rather than just working for longer hours and working harder. Working smarter, not harder.

We need to make use of psychology. We need to find out what our patients’ deep drivers are, what it is they truly want to be. Nobody wants a white smile or straight teeth. What they want is what they believe it will bring to them as an emotion, or what it will help them avoid. They either want confidence, connection, love relationships or they want not to be embarrassed or to feel self-conscious. It’s not the straight teeth per se, it’s the emotion that’s underneath.

Create raving fans

When you find this out, patients start wanting dentistry over just needing dentistry. This makes things more interesting, and it turns dentistry into a game. The game for me is to create raving fans, people who leave my practice and go and tell everybody about how great the practice is. I want to knock my patients’ socks off.

I want to create an environment where they are blown away. Blown away not by the dentistry, but by how the dentistry is delivered. Nobody really cares about your dentistry as long as it’s good enough. If it’s seven out of 10 and it’s good enough, they’re happy. It’s their experience of having the dentistry done that counts.

Customer experience is of paramount importance. Research shows that 73% (around three quarters) of companies that have a reputation for good experience outperform competitors financially. And the same percentage of customers say that a memorable friendly experience is ultimately what makes them stick with a brand. So, for three quarters of people, their perception of a company is all about their experience, not the products, not the dentistry.

What’s more, a staggering 86% of customers are happy to pay more when they have a good customer experience. You will have done this if you have ever paid a tip at a restaurant because of the service you got. The food will have been what you expected, but the way that it was delivered and the enjoyment of that experience put you in a position where you were prepared to pay more for it. And this is the same for dentistry. People will pay more for the experience based on paying the same for the product.

Building loyalty

The real eye-opening statistic for me is that 96% of people cite their experience as the key factor to their loyalty to a brand. Patients can get good quality dentistry at almost any practice. There are some out there producing immaculate dentistry, but most patients care more about how it’s delivered. That statistic of 96% shows it’s all about how they receive the dentistry, not the dentistry that they receive. The American writer, Maya Angelou said “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.“ I believe it’s the same in dentistry.

So, if as a team member you want more income then what you need to do is drive up the gross revenue of the business. You do that by servicing and serving your patients in a better way. Peter Drucker, the founder of modern business management, said “a business has only two major things. It has marketing, which I’m going to call service and it has innovation.” The definition of marketing is the purpose of a business to get people to want to do business with you and for them to do it again and again. That’s dentistry. We want to attract patients in and we want to keep them coming back. Drucker says you do that by falling in love with your patients, not your products. Fall in love with your patients, not the dentistry, and knock their socks off.

I love my dentistry but I can’t do it unless I love my patients. And the way to do that is to serve them at a much deeper level. What is innovation? Innovation is finding a better way to serve them, to continually strive to improve their experience. To continually strive to knock their socks off. And so, for me, there you have a new model of dentistry.

About Barry

Dr Barry Oulton is a practising dentist and founder of The Confident Dentist, a communications training company aimed specifically at the dental sector. The Confident Dentist offers face-to-face training, online courses and one-to-one coaching to help dentists and their team improve their interactions with patients, making their experience in the dental chair as comfortable as possible. Barry is a qualified coach and experienced trainer, certified in hypnotherapy and is a master practitioner in neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), a method of communication that uses language to re-educate the brain in patterns of mental and emotional behaviour.


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