These days there are many people who will tell you (some for a fee) how to run your dental practice. They may elaborate at length on many ideas to transform your business.
And they have a receptive audience; unfortunately, in the current economic climate, many practices are going backwards in terms of gross fees, patient numbers and new patients.
Travelling around the country, visiting dentists and their teams, it’s clear that many more practices are looking for new solutions to solve the problems of their shrinking practices. However, many are ignoring simple, obvious and proven tactics.
So, in this article I thought I would reiterate the 10 tactics that every practice should have fully implemented before they start to look at more esoteric and sophisticated solutions. In other words, forget the fads, get back to basics and don’t do anything else until you have done these!
1. If you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it! Set daily and monthly gross fee targets for all fee earners with their knowledge and cooperation.
- Use a day-book to have your fee earners monitor their own daily gross fees and meet monthly to discuss their results.
- Reward your fee earners (and their support teams) who exceed their targets with a generous bonus.
- Have your senior receptionist actively manage all your fee earners diaries so that the right balance of work is booked into them and so that they can reach their target gross fees with ease.
2. Control your costs. High costs can kill your profits as quickly as a low gross. Run your practice lean and mean and don’t tolerate profligacy and waste. Set a maximum spend on fixed costs that is in line with your current turnover and stick to it. Only increase this figure if your spending will increase your turnover!
3. Set a profit target every month. Take into account your costs and the performance of your fellow fee earners and then set a target which is a stretch but attainable. Measure your progress towards the target, day by day and week by week.
MARKETING AND SALES
4. Get a website that works. Many dental business coaches and consultants would have you believe that Internet marketing is a black art. It isn’t.
Have a website created by an experienced digital agency (not a man working in his spare room), one that clearly states your proposition, is simple to navigate, with a call to action – and your practice phone number – on every page.
Have it optimised so that you appear on page one of Google when folk search for what you do in your area! Your website must attracts traffic; that is, 300 or more visits per month. Once you have this level of traffic, your website has to convince 5% of the visitors to contact your practice; these are your leads. Then it is up to your reception team to turn them into patients.
5. Get a front desk team that works. During these last few months, the Breathe Team have been mystery shopping a lot of practices and the results have, in the main, been awful!
Your receptionists are your front line sales team. They have to know exactly what you expect of them when dealing with potential, new and existing patients.
Use role-play and scripts and have them practice a lot. Then monitor the results by having an experienced professional mystery shop your practice and report back to you.
6. Check your Kerb Appeal. Go and stand outside your practice and take a look at it as if for the first time. Prospective clients will make all kinds of assumptions by what they can see. That’s great, you can control their assumptions by making sure they get a positive visual impression!
- Have trees pruned so they don’t obscure your practice. Make sure your garden and car park is tidy and swept.
- Use signage like a retailer. Be specific and obvious about what your practice does.
- Put up a colourful banner that makes prospective patients an offer. Change this regularly.
- Make your entrance, impressive, representative, clean and professional.
Then be just as critical inside.
- Get rid of all clutter.
- Don’t display other businesses marketing materials!
- Get rid of blue tac and minimise the number of notices you display. Put the must-have notices in frames or better still on digital screens.
- Make sure that all patients and visitors can easily find out about all the services you offer!
- Ban gossip, the radio, mobile phones, staff hanging around the front desk etc.
- Make sure all your team arrive and leave looking like professionals. No jeans or trainers!
7. Create an effective Patient Get Patient programme. We all know that the most effective and reliable route to getting new patients is to have our existing patients recommend us to their friends, family and colleagues. These folk make great patients as they are pre-sold, willing to buy and trust you and your team from the off.
You can increase this trickle of new patients to a rush by actively seeking referrals. Create an effective patient get patient programme, utilising targets and incentives for the entire team.
You should be aiming for 7-10 new patients per month per dentists from an effective programme.
8. Hire the right people. When Richard Branson was asked how he found the right people, he said that he, ‘failed fast and fired often’. Getting the right team starts with the recruitment process; list both the skills and the behaviours you are looking for remember that behavior is more important than skills. Then, properly induct, train and appraise. Don’t pay people just to turn up, use performance pay. Find people who can:
- Build relationships
- Communicate well
- See their glass as half full
And, don’t tolerate low grossing associates and hygienists who are trying to save your patients money whilst not fixing their periodontal disease!
9. Have many regular meetings. Unless you congregate with your team, you can’t explain to them the strategic objectives you have for your practice and how your team can help you achieve them. This is the time that you get to show up as the leader.
- Hold the meetings in clinical time (not at lunchtime) to underline their importance.
- Start and finish them on time and don’t let them turn into moaning sessions.
- Use them to ‘rally your troops’ and run them very professionally.
- Don’t tolerate people not attending or not doing what they agreed to do in these meetings!
10. Open at hours that suit your clients. Make sure that your hours suit your catchment. You will probably need to offer some appointments:
- Before 0830
- During lunchtimes
- After 1800.
Don’t let your phone ring more than 5 times, don’t ever switch your phone over to answerphone between 0830 and 1800 and if your lines are busy, use an answering service not an answerphone.
Focus on these tactics first and you will definitely raise the performance and profit of your practice quickly. In 2011, in this trading environment, you have to play the game at the right level.
Simon Hocken Director of Coaching, Breathe Business