Five tips to make your dental practice more profitable

Dr Jeffrey Sherer explores the five best ways to make your practice more profitableDr Jeffrey Sherer explores the five best ways to improve your practice and make it more profitable.

It is easy to assume that dental practices are the same as most businesses you will find on the high street. We are selling fillings and tooth whitening as opposed to electrical goods and cappuccinos. At a basic level, this is true.

But the major difference, which sets practices apart, is that there are only a limited amount of people who can do dentistry and customer loyalty is generally at a very high level. People refer to a practice as “my dentist”, suggesting a personal connection with you.

Dental practices benefit from the crossover between being part service industry and part retail. Here are some tips which I have learnt over the past two decades of being involved in dental practices to help make your practice more profitable.

Go online

It is safe to assume that people will not be able to purchase dental fillings and crowns from the likes of Amazon and eBay in the near future. With that in mind, the role of the online world should not be underestimated.

The simple fact is that you need a practice website, and a decent one at that. Like it or not, a potential new patient is highly likely to view your website long before they ring the practice or book an appointment.

They are going to have a look at your reviews also. A practice which scores well on search engines is more likely to be found and this will help drive new patients to your door. Similarly, a good Google rating of more than 4 will spark consumer confidence.

Once we made the step towards online bookings, we never looked back. We allowed patients to book a limited selection of appointments online. These include examinations, hygienist visits and toothache appointments. One of the great benefits of online bookings is that patients pay in advance, so they are much less likely to miss an appointment.

Having online booking is like having a receptionist working twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Our audit showed that more than 50 % of online bookings were when the practice was closed. So, when you are asleep, your business is still working!

Reduce your expenses

One way of measuring the value of a dental practice is to look at EBITDA. This refers to earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation. When practices sell, they will often achieve between 6-12 times EDITDA. Therefore, by shopping around for items which you use regularly, you can source products and services at a cheaper price.

Not only will you make the savings initially, but when you come to sell the practice that saving will be multiplied many times in your sale price. There are a number ways you can reduce your expenses. Some of the common ones being consumables, waste collection, stationary, phone/internet provider and accountant fees.

I would recommend looking for ways you can save money which will not have any effect on the quality of the service you provide. By changing our gas and electricity providers, this equated to a saving of more than £1000 per year across our group of practices.

Remember – when you come to sell the practice, these savings will be multiplied by 6-12 times, which helps to generate a better sale profit.

Recommendations

Word of mouth is the by far the best marketing tool a dental practice can ever have. Happy patients bring in other patients and it soon leads to exponential growth.

Over the years, dentists have come up with a multitude of ways of encouraging referrals. For example, discounts for the person who made the recommendation and price draws for electric toothbrushes.

I have always found the best reward is a patient making a referral that ultimately brings in another patient to the practice is a personalised thank you. This can be in the form of a posted thank you, telephone call or email. This makes people feel valued and special, and is likely to encourage them to make future referrals.

If you really want to offer a physical incentive for patients who make referrals that is fine. I have always found a telephone call to say thank you has been the most appreciated.

Additional services

Patients are more and more educated about options open to them. The internet is a great source of information and patients can read about implants, orthodontics and endodontics to their heart’s content. More and more patients are seeking treatments to improve their looks as well as their dental health.

Offering a wide range of dental treatments at your practice means that you can attract patients who seek these more expensive treatments. It will give you an advantage over those practices who do not.

When we opened our practice in 2004, we secured the services of a visiting specialist endodontist and periodontist. This meant that patients who needed these services were able to have the treatment all under the same roof. The fees stayed in house because we never had to refer.

Develop your team

In my experience, getting the right team of people together makes for a special practice. Staff training, especially with your front of house, is so important and it is time well spent.

I remember visiting a competitor’s practice once. When I asked if any appointments were available, the receptionist sternly told me the practice was not taking on any new NHS patients. When I enquired about private appointments, they said: ‘Private appointments are just NHS appointments with sprinkles on top’.

I wonder what the practice owner would have said if he knew potential new patients were being told this? Some of the best nurses I have ever worked with have been trainee dental nurses. Someone who is reliable and enthusiastic, with a good eye for details, will make a super dental nurse given the right environment.

I have always found time spent with training the team has paid dividends in the long run.


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