Active patient numbers

Pair of glasses on a formAdvertising services that patients want is key to retaining new business, says Simon Hocken.

Recently I met several dental practice owners whose practices were shrinking, not necessarily in terms of their turnover or profits, but in their active patient numbers.

Active patient numbers is a true measure of whether your practice is growing or shrinking. It’s a Breathe Super Six key performance indicator and our clients measure it every month, graph it and watch closely for trends.

One practice was shrinking by 400 patients a year, another by more than 700 (if I want to get the dentist’s attention, I simply work out how long it will be before their practice stops making a profit. In the first case it was seven years, in the latter one it was just three).

Advertised offerings

I found myself saying to one principal: ‘You know, the long and the short of it is people in your catchment will buy the service they really want and if you’re not offering these, there are plenty of practices around here they can go to that will give them what they want, and they will drift away’.

I know, I know, it’s obvious isn’t it, but I wonder how many principals actually ask themselves if they are giving people what they really want. Many websites are still offering this as their proposition on their home pages: ‘A comprehensive range of dental treatments in relaxed and friendly surroundings’ or ‘Providing you with the very best dental care with state of the art equipment in a modern and relaxed environment’.

If you want to check this out, try Googling either of these phrases, hundreds of practices come up!

If you really think this is at the top of the list for people who are choosing a dentist online, try this simple exercise with your team. Ask them to imagine they are new to the area and they need to find a dentist this afternoon. What criteria would they use to choose a dentist?

Top picks

Whenever I do this with individuals or with teams, these seven are always their top picks:

  1. Trust. I trust them to do the work. They have experience and they are qualified to do the job. They know what they are doing. Other people like and trust them too
  2. Painless. They won’t hurt me
  3. Access. They are easy to find, it’s easy to park, they are open at times that will suit me
  4. Availability. They can see me quickly
  5. Fees. Their charges seem about right and in line with what I might expect to pay. Neither too high or too low
  6. Choice. They provide a wide choice of solutions, options and treatments
  7. Nice people. They seem like the sort of people I want to take care of me and also people like me go to their practice.

This is what you (and me) and your team want to buy from a dental practice and it’s exactly the same for everyone considering finding dental care. So, if you’re still offering state-of-the-art equipment and relaxed and friendly environments, well, you’re wasting your time. Stop the babble. Your clients assume you do this anyway in the same way they expect an airline to have aeroplanes that can really fly!

And if you don’t give them what they really want, they’ll simply drift away at 400 or 700 (or more) a year. Ask Woolworths or Homebase.

New website anyone?


For more information sign up to Breathe’s newsletter at www.breathebusiness.co.uk, or email Simon at [email protected].

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