The Six Strategic Factors of Running a Competitive Dental Office

Andy Goldsmith, DDS
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Dental offices for decades have confused increased productivity with strategic success. Dentists flock to seminars to learn how to become more productive. Furthermore, a drive for greater efficiency permeates our profession as compensation rates decrease, expenses increase, and profits become more elusive.

Ask any dentist how their office is doing and you will get responses related to their production and not to their outcomes. Is our profession no longer driven by outcomes? Have we seen a shift in our profession where dentists are more concerned about their activity than their clinical results?

I have long followed a practice philosophy taught to me by my first practice partner. Do the right thing and the money will follow. This has led me to achieve great success in dentistry with happy patients and ideal outcomes. But, this success comes from recognizing the strategic factors involved in running a competitive dental office that were recently brought to light In a Harvard Business Review article by Graham Kenny. Let’s explore these factors and illustrate how they can work for your dental office. 

Location 

Location is one of the most significant factors related to practice success. A survey of 3,000 patients conducted by Futuredontics in 2016 found that 44% of patients choose a dentist based on the convenience of the location. This strategic factor is therefore important to the success of your practice, but it may be something that you can or cannot change. When evaluating your competitive strategy, you can determine which factors to focus on, and relocation may be something you need to consider.

Hours of Operation

Are your hours convenient for your patients? This is one of those times that you must really evaluate your practice from the outside in. In fact, we should examine all of these factors from the outside in as our practice competitiveness comes from how well we serve our target customers and how well we out serve the competition. For example, do your target patients require your office to have early hours, late hours, or weekends?

Range of Goods Sold

Most dental offices offer the same services. However, there is some  confusion on the side of patients as to what those services are. When you walk into a restaurant, it presents you with a menu of services with no confusion. When you get your oil changed, there is a sign displaying what services the garage provides, again, with no confusion. However, walk into a dental office as a patient, and you are left to your own assumptions about what services are offered. Let your patients know what services you offer, and when you are evaluating your competitive strategy, determine if you need to add additional offerings or perhaps narrow your focus to cater to your target clientele.

Office Presentation

Walk into your office with a fresh perspective as a new patient off the street. An office should be welcoming, well lit, clean, and professional. It also should smell good. Your office should be a reflection of your dentistry, and it should be strategically designed to attract your target patients. If you need some additional thoughts on this, you can download a free white paper called “The Ultimate Guide to Modernizing Your Dental Practice” from my website.

Customer Service

Once again, think about your target clientele and take an outside in approach. Your goal is to exceed your patients’ expectations and create raving fans out of them. How you treat your patients will be reflected online. According to one study, as many as 96% of patients say that online reputation is between “somewhat important” and the “most important” factor in choosing a dentist. Your strategy needs to involve customer service to run a competitive dental office.

Price 

It’s something that nobody wants to talk about. When you evaluate your strategic factors, however, you must evaluate price. According to the Health Policy Institute, most Americans cite cost as the primary reason why they don’t go to the dentist. What I see as the primary issue is that as a profession, we do a poor job talking about the value of our services.

We have financial coordinators who discuss cost and make financial arrangements, but how much time is spent talking about value? What’s the difference between a room at the Ritz Carlton and a room at Motel 8? Value. Having said that, you need to be prepared that there are few differentiating factors when you compete on price. Accept that your margins will shrink and the competition may be able to go lower than you are willing to go. 

Case Study

A dental office that we will refer to as Maple Bend Family Dental performed a competitive analysis of its practice involving all the members of its team and information obtained from interviewing patients. After decades of non-stop growth, Maple Bend Family Dental had a loss, and it was time for it to look from the outside in and evaluate its outcomes and position from its patients’ perspectives. After some coaching and strategic analysis, the practice made changes in product range, image, office presentation, and price. 

  • Product range: Maple Bend Family Dental added additional services and products, a whitening menu, implants, 3-D imaging, and clear aligner therapy.
  • Image: The practice moved to more holistic branding through ads and in-office stand-up banners, handouts, and emails.
  • Office presentation: The practice updated its color, carpeting, and layout. It also added wireless internet, flat-screen televisions, and an electric fireplace.
  • Price: There was no increase in pricing, and the practice promoted a decrease in pricing for specific procedures, including quarterly promotions based on collaboration with certain vendors. 

Maple Bend Family Dental will continue to monitor its efforts and will remain committed to being agile as part of its dedication to constant improvement. In this process, it is essential to involve your team and your customers, as both will provide critical feedback, especially when considering your practice from the outside in. The key is in determining what not to focus on.

Running a dental office can be arduous at times, but utilizing a strategy to remain competitive can ensure your success. Focusing your efforts on the strategic factors involved in running a competitive dental office will make profitability less elusive and will allow you to focus on producing great outcomes with your patients. 

Dr. Goldsmith graduated from the University of Nevada Reno in 1992 and Marquette University School of Dentistry. He then completed a two-year general practice residency at the University of Colorado, where he was a part-time associate professor and established a successful dental practice in Colorado Springs. After 11 years in private practice, he sold it to help establish Smile Source, a group of dental practices dedicated to preserving independent practice dentistry that now has more than 500 locations. Dr. Goldsmith has published articles in multiple journals and spoken to dentists around the world. He currently operates Process23.com and FlipFlopDentistry, which offer online CE and practice management education. He can be reached at goldsmithandy@gmail.com.

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