Why patient relationships are more important than crown margins

A few days ago a client asked me to review their three year business plan for a practice they bought some months ago. The plan is essentially a road map detailing the objectives, strategies and tactics that the new owners have come up with (with our help) to evolve and grow the practice during the first 3 years of ownership. Our client asked me a great question, “If you owned this practice, would this be your plan?”

Well, ‘Sort of!’ was my answer. His plan is detailed, radical and innovative for this general private practice, which has been offering maintenance dentistry, to a (robust) list of loyal patients for many years. However, for me, the missing link is the glue that holds practices like these together, that is, what is he going to do to maintain the quality of the patient relationships?

Why do patients keep coming back to a private practice when, in many areas of the UK including this one, NHS Dentistry (at a third of the cost) is freely available? Is it the likelihood of getting better crown margins or is it that they are willing to pay for a relationship they trust and enjoy?

In my experience, they keep coming back because they truly value all of the relationships within the practice. Not just the relationship with their dentist, but also his nurse, the hygienist they always see and the friendly face on reception who knows them well and always enquires after their children.

So, would this be my plan for this practice if I owned it? Well, ‘Sort of’, but my number one priority would be to make sure that all of the patient relationships (which he essentially bought as a goodwill purchase) are intact and are constantly being reinforced by all members of his team.

And my fundamental tactics to make sure that this is happening? Well, I would make sure that:


  • Every patient is booked enough time with their clinicians to allow them to relax with their patients and build rapport and that the clinicians offer superb value beyond the fees they are charging.
  • From the very first contact with the practice, every member of the team is focussed on creating good patient relationships. The team knows how to behave empathically, and the systems mean that the patients can always speak to a warm human being who is knowledgeable, courteous and capable of gaining commitment from the patients. And between 0800 and 1800, patients never have to speak to a recorded message!
  • The patients are asked regularly for their feedback about how they are finding the practice now that it was under new ownership and what might be improved?

Oh yes, if I wanted to make sure the patients come back for their next check up and hygiene appointment, I would set the patient relationship bar high, very high, higher than that of all my competitors.

There’s a great pasty shop near my old practice in Exeter that has a dog-eared notice blue-tacked to the till saying, “Let’s look after our customers really well, before somebody else does!”

If you would like some help in creating a client experience that ensures fantastic patient relationships, why not contact me to discuss how we can help you?

e. simon.hocken@breathebusiness.co.uk

m. 07770 430576

o. 0845 2997209

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