Nov. 8, 2011
Director's Message: Finding opportunity in difficult times (How exactly do you do that?)
“Oh dear!” cried Chicken Little, “the sky is falling. I must go tell the king.” The expression “the sky is falling” has become synonymous with a person jumping to an irrational conclusion and working everyone they meet into a panic.It can be argued that this is happening with the current economic situation — the dental community and our patients are being whipped into mass hysteria.Whether or not you believe the economic “sky” is falling (or that it’s already crashed around you), tough times have always provided great (and lucrative) opportunities. The trick is to know what to look for.So, how do you find opportunity during these tough times? This is a two-part series that will explore some options. The following is for clinical providers and/or dental practices. The next installment will focus on dental entrepreneurs within the industry. Don’t do what you did during good times and expect the same results. Keep up with the changing needs and expectations of your practice and patients. Suggest new strategies or systems to your employer-dentist. If you have had an idea about prevention, perio, recare, enrolling more cases, etc., don’t be shy. Even if your suggestions are not implemented, it shows that you are thinking of the overall health of the practice (and ultimately your job).Focus on the need.For example, if you offer free whitening or athletic guards, look at how to communicate it to more patients. Is the offer on your website or Facebook page? Does your office send e-dental briefs to your patients between visits? How might you take the lead with this? Experiment with new ideas. The more the better. The trick is to take a number of small, manageable risks and see what “sticks.” For example, if your practice has a strong preventive program, offer complimentary adult fluoride treatments until the end of 2011. It’s a thank you for your patients continuing commitment to their oral health. Other options include a complimentary whitening take-home syringe, specialty toothpaste, or power toothbrush head. We all like small valued-added surprises. Just think about the last time you went to a dental convention and received a “free” item from a dental company, a beauty sample from your hair stylist, or free golf balls; if you are like most people, you loved it!Roll out the red carpet. Whether you are the owner of the practice or not, good customer service doesn’t cost you a cent; in fact, it pays. Patients keep their appointments, and your schedule stays full! Follow up on every lead. In a good economy, people get sloppy. There’s no room for that now. Don’t skimp on post-care calls or follow-up notes. Yes, handwritten notes (our inboxes may be filled with noise); put the U.S. postal service to work, continuing to provide opportunities to get your services out there.Consider other markets. No matter what your practice’s specialty, there is usually an affluent segment of patients who are still buying services. Is there a way to collaborate that would appeal to this market? For example, consider the owners of a martial arts school, esthetic salon, or bakery (yes, a bakery or a restaurant!) Think branding xylitol mints/gum for their customers with your logo or contact information. Don’t pretend that times aren’t tough. Emphasize it. Reassess the needs of your practice by listening to your patients. Ask them what they need to help weather the economic storm and manage their oral health. Be optimistic. Times will change; they already are changing. Focus on what’s working well; share and CELEBRATE that upbeat attitude with patients, teammates, and especially your employer. Positioning yourself as the “go-to” person with an optimistic, problem-solving attitude could lead to new opportunities. The economic reality has created new boundaries. You can leverage those boundaries to provide your practice with focus and increased creativity. Economic downturns are tough, but resourceful clinicians, who are forward-thinking employees, can ensure a prosperous future.So, instead of worrying about the “falling sky,” think about what Albert Einstein once said: “In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity.” Who are you going to take advice from, a chicken or a genius?Warm Regards,Kristine A. HodsdonDirector, RDH eVillage