It’s difficult being a dentist. Not just the clinical bit, but also having to ask people to pay for procedures that can be uncomfortable and for procedures that many people dread.
When the patient is faced with your bill, there is a moment (I promise you, every time) when they ask themselves, “Am I happy with paying this fee? Is it good value?” If the answer is yes, you have a content patient, willing to come back (and possibly to recommend you). If the answer is no, you have a discontent patient who may think twice about coming back next time. Your problem is that the patient makes this judgement in your absence and you don’t know whether they are content or discontent.
(Remember that your fee is different to the value you and your practice creates. You can pay £3.50 for a burger and it can be terrible value, and you can pay £50/head for a fabulous restaurant meal and it be very good value…)
A mentor of mine, a long time ago, taught me this useful idea, “They don’t remember what you said, they don’t remember what you did, they do remember how they felt”. And they will remember whether they felt they received good value or whether they felt your fee was high and the value provided was low.
So, how do your patients feel as you accompany them back to your reception? Unfortunately, often they feel: numb, adrenalised, hypoglycaemic and a little traumatised! Then your ever-so-smiley receptionist presents them with your bill. So, apart from the numb mouth or the gritty prophy-paste between their teeth, how do they really feel as they pay your bill?
It’ll probably be a version of one of these three :
- “That was great. It’s quite a lot of money but great value for the care I received and the outcome I got”
- “That was ok. I think they sorted me out. The bill seems high”
- “Oh dear, that’s a lot of money”
What can you do to have more patients feeling like this, “That was great. It’s quite a lot of money, but great value for the care I received and the outcome I got”?
Well, as in the burger/restaurant analogy, it’s not (just) about the fee, it’s also about the value that you and your team provide. In my experience, many dental practices (both NHS and Private) provide poor value. They simply aren’t worth the fee, patients complain a lot and many don’t come back. These practices (many of them are NHS) need high numbers of new patients in order to survive.
In order to lift the lid on the way your patients perceive value, you have to leave your clinical world behind and step into your patients’ shoes. This is not about the quality of your crown margins! How do patients measure the value of what you have done?
Using patient feedback and reviews, we know that your patients are likely to judge the value of what you do using these criteria:
- Did they know what they were doing?! Have they solved my problem? Quickly, professionally, painlessly and for the fee I was expecting?
- Did everything go as I was expecting? (No surprises!)
- Does the result look like I was expecting it to? Does it feel like I was expecting it to?
- Did they see me on time?
- Were they nice/kind/friendly to me?
- Is the facility: comfortable, nice, clean? Is it easy to park?
- Did they go the extra mile for me?
So, how can you make sure that you and your team always score high with your patients when they assess your value?
Well, consider this:
- It’s not all about you (the dentist). A great experience in the surgery can be ruined by clumsy, ill-trained receptionists or over-bearing practice managers.
- Get the dentistry right. Sort them out. Fix it for your patients. Do exactly what you said you were going to do and don’t (ever) hurt them!
- Don’t charge per appointment. (Your patient’s natural response to this is to try and reduce the number of appointments!) Charge for the outcomes. For example, charge a fee for getting rid of active periodontitis, not a fee for every visit to the hygienist.
- Don’t charge in advance for the treatment. Nobody likes paying for something they haven’t had yet. Charge at the end or charge as you go. When you are sure they are happy with the treatment, charge the fee.
- If the patient is not sure they are happy with what you have done, don’t charge them then and there. Book them in again with you and make sure your treatment has worked and that they are happy. Then charge them.
- Don’t talk about your fees a lot, you risk your patient thinking that (you think) they can’t afford it.
- Follow up. Always follow up and make sure your patient is happy with what you have done. Do this face to face or by phone or by email.
Don’t major on the fees. Don’t have them on display everywhere, it makes your patients think you’re concerned that they won’t pay them! Have your fees on your website and also in a leaflet to give patients who ask about them.
Don’t charge for everything or for every visit. If you’re doing a crown prep on a loyal patient and the tooth next to the prep needs a small filling replacing, you don’t always need to charge for this.
And always look for ways to add value to your patient’s visits. It’s how your patients feel when they leave your practice that is the most important element in the continuing success and growth of your business.
If you would like some help in getting your practice onto a growth path, contact me for a chat.
m. 07770 430576