Would it be too dramatic to say COVID-19 has changed the world? How about the dental business? New guidelines are created almost daily. Extreme measures are needed to create an aura of safety. And hesitant patients are entering dental offices like frightened children.
If the constant mask-wearing doesn’t drive you crazy, then you’re better off than most.
This might be a dramatic start to get your attention, but my main point is sound: It’s time to pick a dental distribution partner and settle in for the long haul.
Several months ago, I wrote an article on what to look for when choosing the right dental distributor. Yes, there are very good reasons to do your research and choose one over another. Some people dig in and check return policies. Some look at reward programs. Some evaluate software capabilities. Others simply go by word of mouth without performing due diligence.
But then there are those of you who play them all—using one for most of your needs and then "working the system" to find someone willing to come down by a few hundred dollars on a piece of equipment. I’m here today to tell you that this is a one-way ticket to nowhere. As the saying goes, loyalty talks and...well, you know the rest.
To use an analogy, when the tornado sirens are blaring, it's time to head to the cellar. But the only people who are getting in are close family.
Take a look at the personal protective equipment (PPE) situation. There will be less to go around for months and maybe even longer. If you aren’t being told to try getting PPE where you spend the most money, then you’re probably getting an inferior product.
Have you needed service? Many service providers have laid off or furloughed employees. They're working with less availability. Do you usually request a favorite tech when you call the company you only use for service? Good luck seeing that tech in the next few weeks, if you’re lucky.
What dental practices might not realize is that loyalty speaks volumes during dark days. Under normal circumstances, your sales rep is visiting often, helping you with any issues on the spot, and focusing fully on your growth. Your rep is making you personally aware of the programs available to save you money—the ones that you don’t know about—because your rep knows about his or her company and yours. Rest assured, it's in your rep's best interest as much as yours to get you into promotions that favor your growth.
When there's a worldwide supply crisis (like now), companies will rightfully work to keep their best customers in step. Other than sales figures, there’s nothing for a rep to use to plead your inclusion on premium services.
Loyalty programs start with issuing point-per-dollar rewards on spending, but the good ones go much further. The fact is, using a distributor for all of your merchandise makes it cheaper.
Here's another fact: purchasing all your merchandise with one company makes your equipment purchases cheaper and your technical service cheaper. And here's a pro tip: using software platforms and service club memberships are additional ways to capitalize on that connection.
The bottom line is that loyalty provides benefits in so many ways. Doesn’t it make more sense to be a great customer somewhere than a marginal customer everywhere? The people who "get it" receive an expert partner for a lifetime for the industry's ebbs and flows. You can always choose another rep if you don’t think yours is the best match, but simply playing the field and not committing to a single distributor is akin to dating frequently and not finding happiness. You are doing yourself a disservice by not earning the full membership rewards of any company you’re doing business with.
It’s time to let go of your inhibitions, get down with the “all-in” experience, and ride the roller coaster with a customized seat belt.
Matthew Newman is the operations manager for the Baltimore/DC/Northern Virginia region of Patterson Dental. A 20-plus year veteran of operational management, he has spent most of his career in the fields of distribution center management and hospitality. He writes articles on operational management, office synergy, and a variety of other topics. He can be reached via LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/matthew-newman-9582979/.