Let's talk about fees

By Sally McKenzie, CEO Printer Friendly Version

The need to raise fees is a subject most dentists would prefer to avoid. They’re afraid they’ll lose patients if the price of dentistry goes up, so they keep their fees the same year after year. While that may seem like the safe way to go, it really isn’t.

If you’re one of these dentists, I suggest you take a look at your fees and determine if it’s time for an increase. Don’t be surprised if you find you’re undercharging patients, which isn’t doing them or your practice any good. The truth is, patients actually expect fees to go up every now and then. How else will you be able to invest in technologies that make your team members more efficient, or that improve the patient experience?

I know. You’re still hesitant to raise your fees. To help you get over your fee-raising fears, I’ve put together a few signs it’s time for a price bump, along with a little advice to help make raising prices on your services as painless as possible:

It’s been years since you raised your fees. Can’t remember the last time you implemented a fee increase? Then it’s safe to say you’re past due. If prices haven’t gone up in several years, I can almost guarantee you’re undercharging your patients. And if you’re undercharging your patients, your practice is losing money.

How bad can it be? Let me put it into perspective. If you’re undercharging patients by as little as 7-8%, you’re losing thousands of dollars every year. Undercharging by 40-50%? Your practice is taking a serious financial beating.

It’s time to start charging what your services are worth. What does that look like? I suggest establishing a solid fee for every service you provide, and then adjusting those fees twice throughout the year. The first increase should be 2%, followed by 3% for an annual yearly increase of 5%. You’ll see a significant boost to your bottom line, while patients will barely even notice the higher prices. And trust me, if patients are happy with your practice, they won’t jump ship over a few extra dollars.

You have no idea what other dentists in your community charge. This is common. Dentists set their fees without even thinking about what patients pay at other local practices, which means their fees could be much lower (or higher). I suggest you do your research to find out how your fees compare to the competition, and then make adjustments accordingly.

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I also recommend contacting your Chamber of Commerce to get information about your area’s demographics and income level. Use this information to guide you as you set or adjust your fees. An online search for dental fees also can help give you more guidance, as can contacting your local dental society.

As you’re adjusting and setting fees, keep in mind they should reflect the level of services you provide. For example, if you offer a spa-like environment or additional patient conveniences that aren’t available at other nearby practices.

Financial goals aren’t being met. Has it been a while since you’ve invested in a new technology, or made enhancements to your office? Are you putting off making such investments because you don’t have the money? Raising your fees will help.

Setting personal and professional goals is also important, as is understanding how much money it will take to meet them. Determine what you need to bring in each day to reach your goals and set fees that will get you there.

Your fees are the lowest (or highest) in your area. You might be excited to find out your fees are the lowest in your community. Lower fees should attract more patients, after all. While that might be true, you won’t be attracting the type of patients who will help you grow your practice. Instead, you’ll start seeing more and more dental shoppers. These patients come to your practice because they want a deal; they’re not interested in finding a dental home. They’ll visit once or twice, then move on after they find a practice that charges even less, or has a special going on.

If you discover your fees are actually the highest in your area, it’s important to make sure your prices are warranted. Do you provide exceptional customer service and a unique patient experience? Do you offer technologies and services that make your practice stand out? If not, you might want to think about lowering your fees.

Raising fees isn’t a popular topic among dentists, but it should be. Increasing your prices isn’t going to send patients to the practice down the street, and it isn’t going to make dentistry unaffordable for them. Patients understand you need to raise fees to maintain the level of care they’ve come to expect. They don’t mind paying a little more if it means an improved experience. So, don’t let fear and guilt keep you from charging what your services are worth. Set solid fees and then raise them from time to time. You’ll grow your bottom line and start meeting your goals.

Next Thursday: Raise your fees without fear of losing patients Share this Newsletter

Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com
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