Ease the Blow of Economic Woes
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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For those who rode the wave of prosperity the last few years, weathering this latest economic storm may require both a philosophical and practical change in course. You probably won’t be able to dodge the downturn entirely, but you can minimize its impact by following what I call the Four Tenets for Tough Times. Last week I discussed #1: Be Flexible and #2: Get Real & Get Paid. This week: Tenets #3 and #4.
Tenet #3—Marketing Is a Must
The number one mistake dentists make during difficult financial times is to shut down their marketing efforts. Don’t. You may change your strategy somewhat, but you still need to get your name out there. The key is smart, cost-effective marketing. Keep the website up and running and current. This is just as important as your telephone. Continue to regularly reach out to patients with a practice newsletter or periodic letters from the doctor. Perhaps you want to reconsider that great billboard deal or the expensive radio campaign, but this is definitely not the time to disappear from the landscape. Take the opportunity, however, to make the most of internal marketing in every interaction.
Remember, everyone on staff is responsible for marketing. If your front line on the phones is Debbie, and she’s cold, rude or simply indifferent when she’s talking to patients, you’re dancing with disaster. Many patients don’t want to spend the money on dental care at this point anyway (and going to the dentist isn’t something they’re clamoring to do even in the best of times), so you don’t need staff giving them any excuses to take a pass on your practice.
Debbie needs to be a rock star. It needs to come across clearly that she enjoys people, from chatting it up with the grandmas to expertly handling the more challenging patients. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that patients see past a not-so-friendly front line. They don’t.
Your practice must scream superior service. It is the most cost-effective marketing strategy you can implement at any time, and especially during tough times. Involve the entire team in developing service-minded strategies.
Examine the total patient experience from the first phone call to the doctor’s after- treatment follow-up call. And if you’re not making those after-care calls, there’s no better time to start than now. The reception room should be clean, uncluttered and comfortable. The bathrooms must be spotless. The patient should feel she/he is the only person in your practice today because, after all, tomorrow she/he might be.
Reach out to your community. If the schedule no longer has you running from dawn til dusk, use the opportunity to become involved in a local school oral health education program, join the Rotary Club or offer to be the team dentists for a couple of local soccer or baseball teams. Encourage your staff to be involved as well and get the name of your practice out there on a regular basis.
Tenet #4—Make the Most of Your Team
During thriving economic times, dentists argue they are too busy to train staff. Take advantage of slower periods to invest in staff education. It will pay dividends down the road. Send a couple of staff to area dental meetings and ask them to present what they’ve learned during staff meetings. Ask each employee to give a mini-workshop to the rest of the team on his/her specific responsibilities. Educate the business team about dental procedures performed so they can better answer patient questions.
Build on excellence. Take extra care in your hiring decisions. With a slower economy and layoffs, you’ll likely have higher quality applicants to choose from. Carefully evaluate what you want in your next employee. And make the most of applicant testing tools available through McKenzie Management to ensure that your next team member will be a perfect fit for your practice long after this current economic situation is a vague and distant memory.
Finally, along with your team, use this slower period to examine practice systems and carefully look at what could be improved. Now’s the perfect time to implement necessary changes and shore up strategies on everything from patient recall to treatment presentations, scheduling, collections, pursuing unscheduled treatment plans, telephone communication, etc. Bring in outside experts to help guide you through the improvements in management systems so that you are prepared for rapid growth when the downturn is over.
Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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