Three Practice Promises to Keep in 2018

Roger P. Levin, DDS


Forget resolutions—the word is tainted with failure. As soon as “This is my New Year’s resolution!” is uttered, you can almost feel it slipping away. Instead of resolutions, make promises. They carry more weight, and we tend to follow through with them. Resolutions have a built-in failure rate, whereas promises are sturdier. If we break them, it hurts. I can hear some of you out there saying, “Come on, Roger, you’re just playing the game of semantics.” I would argue that words matter and that some words are better than others, especially when it comes to motivating us to change our behavior. Well, it’s February, and I am betting that many of us have already broken most of our resolutions, so let’s move on to a more powerful agent of change—promises!

Let’s outline and discuss 3 promises that dentists should make to themselves to cover the remainder of this year and beyond!

1. I Promise to Elevate My Practice’s Customer Service

In a crowded marketplace, exemplary customer service is a true differentiator. It gets patients and visitors talking about your practice to their family, friends, and acquaintances. There is no form of marketing that is more convincing than a third-party endorsement from a satisfied customer.

Most dental practices have good customer service. They have pleasant staff members who smile and say hello to patients. Going from good to great customer service is not an easy task, but it’s definitely worth doing. As former NFL quarterback Roger Staubach once said, “There are no traffic jams along the extra mile.”

Where are the opportunities to improve customer service in your practice? Start by evaluating these areas and processes, as if you were a potential new patient:

  • Exterior. Does your office look welcoming from the outside? Once a practice gets established, dentists tend to not pay much attention to the exterior of the facility. Many owners think that as long as the grass is cut and the snow is shoveled, the rest takes care of itself. When our consultants visit new clients, they are often astonished by what they sometimes find even before walking into practices—peeling paint, overgrown vegetation, rusty signage, crumbling sidewalks, parking lots with giant potholes, etc. If your office looks in disrepair, people walking or driving by will not even consider your practice as a place for their dental care. Do you have a high no-show rate for new patients? You may have to consider the fact that your exterior may be scaring some of them away. For many people, just the thought of visiting the dentist induces fear and anxiety. You don’t want an unattractive exterior triggering any additional negative emotions.
  • Interior. When was the last time your office was painted or wallpapered? If it has been longer than 5 years, it might be time to spruce up the look of your dental office, at least in high-traffic areas. In addition, thoroughly inspect your entire facility: walls, doors, windows, floors, furnishings, counters, bathrooms, operatories, consult room, etc. Do you use a cleaning company? Is it contracted to do more than just cursory dusting and vacuuming? If so, it may be time to make sure that hard-to-reach areas receive some extra attention.
  • Verbal Skills. Review your practice’s customer service scripts. Make sure the language is up to date, value building, and patient friendly. Meetings are excellent forums to role play scripts. These scripts shouldn’t be memorized, but instead serve as talking points, guiding employees to provide the right information in the right way. You do not want to turn your team into a bunch of anxious actors more worried about flubbing their lines than engaging in genuine and sincere interactions with patients. Taking a hard look at your practice’s customer service will probably make everyone at least a little bit uncomfortable. However, getting better will not happen unless you identify specific areas for improvement.

2. I Promise to “Socialize” My Marketing in 2018

Great customer service will help fuel more internal referrals, but what about all the people who do not come in contact with your patients? How will you reach them?

Social media is a great way to engage new prospects and stay in touch with current patients between appointments. Share contests, nutrition information, open appointments, oral health tips, and articles, as well as fun stuff about yourself and your team, including pets, hobbies, and vacation photos. If you are running a whitening or new-patient special, post that occasionally. If you go into too much of a commercial sales pitch on your practice’s Facebook page, people will tune out. However, you should use paid ads on Facebook, which will appear in the timelines of potential patients. You can target prospects by location, age, and interests. Ads are inexpensive, simple to create, and can be turned off or on with a click of a mouse. When done correctly, Facebook advertising is a powerful and cost-effective way to create greater exposure in your efforts to gain new patients.

3. I Promise to Increase Acceptance for Elective Treatment and Larger Cases

Single-tooth treatment accounts for the majority of doctor production in most practices. Case presentation for these procedures is a relatively simple process. You tell patients that they need an amalgam or a crown, and they readily agree to treatment. Unfortunately, it is not so easy with elective treatment and larger cases, where patients have to dig into their own pockets to pay for treatment.

Many dentists get discouraged because patients need more time to think about these treatment recommendations. There are few automatic “yeses” with these more involved and more expensive cases. You have to be willing to play the long game. But realize this may require you to have several conversations with patients before they ultimately say, “Yes!” Plus, it is a different type of conversation. It’s more about emphasizing the benefits rather than stating there is a problem.

Give yourself a modest goal of increasing cosmetic and larger cases by 10% in 2018. For many practices, that might translate to one additional treatment a week. Work on your case presentation skills. Create greater awareness about all of your services. For potential cosmetic candidates, ask a question such as, “Are you happy with your smile?” Many people would like to improve their smile. They might not agree to do it that day, but you’ve given them something to think about before they return in 6 months.

Getting better at anything takes commitment and focus. In my opinion, promises beat resolutions, hands down! Hopefully, you will consider using the 3 promises shared herein to keep your team and you focused on increasing practice production in 2018!

Dr. Levin is a third-generation general dentist and the chairman and CEO of Levin Group, Inc, a leading dental management and marketing consulting firm. To learn more about the company’s training and consulting services, visit

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