2.16.07 - Issue # 258 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Nancy Caudill
Senior Consultant
McKenzie Management
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Bragging Rights!

A McKenzie Management Case Study

Dr. Charlotte Hill - Case Study #213

For those of us that have “been around a while”…we remember the days when the only ad you had in the yellow pages was a one-liner for your name and telephone number.  You hung out your shingle and “they would come”…just like Field of Dreams.

Dr. Hill called McKenzie Management because she was concerned about the lack of growth in her practice.  Overhead continued to climb but not her collections.  Not a good sign in any business.

When I visited with Dr. Hill, here is what I noted about her practice:

  • 20 year old practice
  • Same location
  • Same number of hygiene days per week since the first year in practice (3 days a week)
  • Office remodeled within past 5 years
  • # of New Patients had steadily declined for the past 3 years….from 20 a month to currently 12 a month.
  • Net collections were also steadily declining at a rate of 10% per year for the past 5 years.
  • The town she practiced in was growing rapidly

COMMENTS:

The average solo-practice needs about 20 new patients (patients that have comprehensive exams and are seen by the hygienist) per month to grow and prosper.  This is assuming that they are losing about 10% per month to attrition.

A 20-year old practice that has not increased the number of hygiene days is NOT growing. It is actually declining in the number of “active” patients.  If you recall from one of my previous articles a hygienist is only capable of seeing so many patients per day.  If you do the math, you will soon see that if a practice has been seeing 20 new patients per month over a 20-year period, the practice must be losing the same number of patients.  Otherwise, the practice would need additional hygiene  days to accommodate the growing number of active patients.

Over a period of time, as the number of new patients decline, the opportunity to perform restorative dentistry also declines.  If 50% of your production is coming from restorative dentistry that is diagnosed in hygiene and 50% is coming from new patients, at some point you will eventually “mine” all the restorative work within your current patient base and you will need to depend on newly diagnosed treatment from your new patients.  If the number of new patients declines, so does your production/collections.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

As I spent time with Dr. Hill, I soon realized that the practice was doing no internal marketing, let alone external marketing.  For the first 10 years of the practice, it wasn’t necessary.  She was seeing all the new patients that she could manage.  However, as the town grew and more dentists starting coming to the area, the competition increased.  Younger dentists were coming in with aggressive marketing campaigns.  How dare they advertise in the yellow pages!  And offer free services…what is that all about?

It is a new world out there.  Dr. Hill accepted the fact that marketing was necessary to increase her active patient base and to “keep” her existing patient base.  Along with a demographic study that McKenzie Management provides to all of our clients, here are some ideas that I suggested to her:

  • Celebrate patients’ birthdays during the week of their appointment.  Have a little “token” with a balloon attached, ready for them at the reception desk.  Not only do you get recognition from the birthday patient, but the other patients will ask and you can say that your practice enjoys recognizing your patients’ birthdays in a small way.
  • Always send a hand-written note from the doctor to all new patients thanking them for choosing your practice.  It MUST be handwritten from YOU!
  • Take before and after photos for your cosmetic patients.  Frame the “after” photo and mail it to their office.
  • Send a handwritten “thank-you” note for  new patient referrals.
  • Call patients after certain difficult procedures.  I know you “used” to do this but why did you stop?
  • Have a website with downloadable forms, directions to the office, information about you and the staff, etc.  Direct all new patients to visit your website for additional information.
  • Be as “high-tech” as you can afford.  Patients like to know that their dentist is “cutting edge”.
  • Use a Professional Marketing Company that specializes in Dentistry.  McKenzie Management recommends Intelligent Dental Marketing.

CONCLUSIONS:

The time has come for dental practices to be proactive in attracting new patients.  There is nothing better than a new patient from a satisfied existing patient.  ASK for referrals from your good patients.  “Mrs. Jones, you are such a pleasure to work with.  I wish all my patients were as nice as you.  If you have friends who are looking for a new dental home, we sure would love to have them here.”   Obviously, this is most effective if delivered by you.  Your team members also have relationships with the patients and can deliver this message.

Recently, I visited a local restaurant for dinner.  The food was average but the staff was knowledgeable and extremely accommodating.  I felt as though they wanted to make me happy.  The next day I received a telephone call from my waiter (they had my phone number from my reservation) thanking me for visiting their restaurant and invited me back again.  I WAS IMPRESSED!  Guess how many people I have told about this restaurant?  How many restaurants have you eaten in and received a telephone call the next day thanking you for your business! 

This is the type of service we must provide to our dental patients as we compete for patients.  Many patients don’t know the difference between good dentistry and poor dentistry.  If they did, we wouldn’t see patients walking around with Chiclets on their front teeth!  But they do recognize customer service and will stay or leave depending on the service they receive from you.

Start marketing to your patients by doing little things that make a big impact on them, and cause them to talk about you to their friends.  Give them a reason to brag about you and your team…they want to!

If you would like more information on how McKenzie's Practice Enrichment Programs can help you IMPLEMENT proven strategies….. email info@mckenziemgmt.com.

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