Most dental service organizations (DSOs) and practice owners are leaving big money on the table by not leveraging the most basic tool at their fingertips. As it exists today, the market remains very favorable for DSO and group practice sellers. But as this market continues to mature, buyers are becoming more selective and are looking for more than a consistent bottom line.
It’s no longer enough to have an operational practice that isn’t losing money. The highest multiples are now going to the groups that can demonstrate operational excellence. Buyers are looking for and paying more for practices that have a platform for growth.
Knowing this, many practices have started to build out their online presence and train their staff to utilize more advanced practice management solutions. While these are important techniques for strategic growth, most practices fail to address the biggest point of revenue leakage: the phone.
Despite the fact that 92% of all customer interactions occur on the phone, the patient phone experience is where practices often struggle the most. The fastest, easiest, and most accessible way to realize an immediate revenue lift and establish a growth platform that private equity firms value is to get better on the phone. And there are three simple strategies for improving your phone use.
Take Advantage of the Hawthorne Effect
The Hawthorne Effect refers to the behavioral response individuals have when they know they are being watched. Properly used, this effect can elevate performance and instill accountability.
The simple act of recording every phone call at your practice and letting staff know their calls will be reviewed to ensure every patient is invited in for an appointment results in an immediate lift in phone performance. Recording and reviewing calls also provides an opportunity for managers to work with staff on phone handling skills by listening to specific calls that provide coaching opportunities.
Managers need to lead by example in making the phone a priority. Too often, a ringing phone is seen as an annoyance, rather than potential revenue. In fact, the patient on the other end of a call is just as important, if not more important, than the patient standing in front of you.
Put a Face and Name Next to the Metric That Matters
You have a great team that wants to do well, and you rarely receive any complaints about your staff being unfriendly or rude on the phone. In fact, they’re experts at knowledgeably answering patient questions and providing a friendly experience. Unfortunately, that’s not the problem.
The problem is that a successful phone interaction is being measured by a subjective notion of “friendliness.” Front desk staff and even call center staff feel as though their number one priority is to treat patients well and have a “friendly” interaction on the phone.
While that is certainly important, the ultimate goal of any phone interaction is to help the patient achieve the outcome they were looking for—most often, an appointment to visit your practice at a specific date and time.
It’s a subtle, but important, shift. When you start measuring patient conversion rates on the phone, it cultivates a healthier and more productive phone culture. You begin to create a positive feedback loop around the metric that matters.
By showing staff the number of appointment opportunities they handled on the phone versus the number of appointments they actually scheduled, you encourage the positive behaviors that lead to more new patients.
As these behaviors become habits, your staff is able to subconsciously make the phone a priority. They understand the patient on the other end of the line needs help and wants to visit your practice. In fact, that patient is a higher priority than the one standing in front of them who they have already captured.
When a private equity group is considering a partnership with your practice, you should expect them to call your offices or call center as a potential patient. Are you comfortable with the experience they will have? Are you confident they will be invited to visit your practice? Or will your staff have a friendly exchange of information before saying goodbye without even giving them the opportunity to book an appointment?
Proactively Pursue New Patients
In today’s hyper-competitive market, it takes more than organic referral business just to stay ahead of natural churn. Patients need to be able to easily find you online, and your reviews need to tell a positive story to your prospective patients. However, the most powerful growth mechanism you have at your fingertips is the phone.
Instead of waiting and hoping prospective patients will find you or that your existing patients will wake up one morning and decide it’s time to visit you, you need to proactively seek out these patients. Again and again, outbound calling campaigns prove to be one of the most ROI-positive efforts you can pursue. The ability to execute these campaigns effectively is a strong signaling mechanism to private equity firms that your group is serious about growth.
Here are a few campaigns to consider:
- Call all your patients who are due for a cleaning with a promotional offer if they can come by this month.
- Call all the Medicare and Medicaid patients who have been assigned to your office for a VIP exam.
- Call any previous patients who haven’t been seen in the last 18 months with a special “we want you back” gift or promotional offer.
- Call back every missed caller.
- Call back all appointment opportunities that were not booked.
The key to an effective and proactive outbound effort that will impress potential buyers is leveraging the right tools and resources to measure your success. You need to actively track and record calls to demonstrate the production of your efforts. Most groups can’t execute a proactive outbound campaign, let alone in a repeatable model where success is actively being measured.
As many groups have realized, it’s easy to spend significant money online in the hopes of capturing more new patients, but the results of those efforts are mixed at best. There is a significant opportunity to create a key differentiator in the market by investing in your phone processes and proactively pursing potential patients.
The current market for outside investment in DSOs and group practices is more favorable than ever before. While the ability to make a good living practicing dentistry isn’t going away anytime soon, the types of multiples that are available today for top-end groups and DSOs might.
If you are looking to create the best possible outcome for potential owners and investors, you cannot ignore the phone. The phone is the key element in creating a growth platform that investors will compete for.
Mr. Elverum is partner and COO at Call Box, where he works with owners and entrepreneurs who are frustrated when expensive leads and valued patients call their practice and don’t always have a positive experience. As a former naval submarine officer and Naval Academy graduate, Patrick pairs the people with the processes to improve your patients’ phone experience and reduce the revenue leakage in your practices. To learn more about Call Box and our innovative tools to help you leverage the phone and maximize your multiplier, visit callbox.com/dental/ or call (833) 259-9484.
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