The rise of the internet economy and dentistry
The internet has completely changed the way people shop and search for services. Dentists must acclimate or become lost in the 21st century.
Let’s face it. We live in a totally new world. The internet has completely changed how people consume information, how they buy, and their expectation that products and services are acquired and delivered in real time. New customer acquisition and retention is more difficult than ever before.
We buy everything from ready-to-cook meals to automobiles online and think nothing of it. This wasn’t true even a decade ago. The rate of change in technology and consumer behavior is faster now than ever before and it’s disrupting entire industries, from music and movies to health care. For example, it wasn’t that long ago that banks had tellers. Now we have ATM machines and online banking.
The “Amazon, Apple, Walmart,” and social networking effect
That’s a mouthful, but remember when there used to be bookstores such as Borders, and video rental stores such as Blockbuster? Amazon initially sold books online, then movies, and then everything else. Apple turned the music industry upside down by convincing record companies that if they didn’t sell everything online for 99 cents per song, they’d become extinct. We went from buying and downloading music from iTunes to streaming music via Pandora and Spotify. We use everything from Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor, HomeAdvisor, Angie's List, and more to read reviews about everything we want to purchase. We also use reviews to make sure that the product or service we want is priced right at the best place, and to find the best service providers, whether that’s an auto mechanic, lawyer, physician, or dentist.
Big-box retailers such as Walmart and Target essentially killed off most of the small independent stores and spawned a whole new generation of big-box specialty stores that fell victim to even bigger-box department stores and then, of course, Amazon. Now Sears is shuttering many of its stores, and Macy’s and JC Penney are struggling to remain relevant. Shopping malls are closing at ever increasing rates, and the list goes on.
In order to compete and survive, businesses such as Best Buy had to adapt to the pressure of the internet consumer culture. They developed their own online presence while also becoming a one-stop shop where people can order electronics online, pick it up at a Best Buy store, have the Geek Squad install it in their home, and receive training in how it all works. Ironically, Amazon is now in the brick-and-mortar business after it purchased Whole Foods, placing further pressure on chains such as Kroger’s, Albertsons, and others.
How can your practice survive and thrive in the face of inevitable disruption?
Dentistry is going through similar disruption. Patients are more informed than ever. The internet provides patients with knowledge they really couldn’t access before. People use review sites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor to find the best-reviewed providers when making the decision to visit a practice. I know. I’m one of those patients.
On a recent business trip, I woke to a raging toothache that I instinctively knew was a nerve issue that would require a root canal. I immediately used both Yelp and TripAdvisor to locate a practice with high ratings. I started calling them. My call to the first office went to voicemail. I called the second highest-rated practice on the list and was put on hold for a long time.
I called the third one and they answered immediately, invited me to come right in, and said they would fit me in that morning. Sure enough they did, and I was able to get to my conference on time and present my talk. The moral of the story here is twofold. The early bird gets the worm, as my mother would say. Though the first two dentists I called had higher ratings, not answering their phones and putting me on hold for what seemed like an eternity cost these two practices a patient and lost revenue.
Problems facing dental practice management today
• Legacy technology can’t help you cope with today’s real-time world.
• Patients are more informed than ever and not as loyal.
• Lost calls equal lost revenue.
• There is no alternative when your phone service goes down or suffers from quality issues.
• There is a lack of integration with leading practice management systems, for example, Dentrix, EagleSoft, and Opendental.
• There is a lack of automated scheduling and appointment reminders.
• There is a lack of a managed service specifically targeted to your vertical market.
• There are problems tying your locations together without complicated dialing schemes.
• There are difficulties with new-patient acquisition and retention.
A solution to dental industry disruption
The first order of business is to be a great practitioner. You will need a communications partner that can help you adapt and cope with real-time consumers/patients. That partner should exhibit all the qualities in the bullets listed below, allowing you to never miss a call that might result in missing a new patient opportunity or a call from an existing patient. Both can result in a lost revenue opportunity and lower patient satisfaction. As the founder and CEO of United Office, I have some definite opinions about what your service provider should be able to do.
Your VoIP communications service provider should be able to:
• Provide the best voice quality and business continuity coupled with extraordinary customer service
• Offer a seamless back-up solution for your communications platform
• Help you maximize revenue capture so that you never lose a call or place a call on hold or send it to voicemail
• Integrate with your PMS platform to deliver a superior customer experience
• Automate appointments and schedule reminders, eliminating human error while creating a more effective workforce
• Provide performance analytics that provide you with the information you need to help you manage your practice more effectively
• Empower your staff to float seamlessly between your locations using one unified and simple dialing scheme
• Easily create and modify your own unique workflow choreography and create your own virtual office communications environment
• Deliver all of these services within the context of a managed service
Raymond J. Pasquale is the founder and chief executive officer and director of Unified Office Inc. He was a founding member of Sonus Networks’ services organization, recruiting many of its most senior members. He has held senior technical, sales, and management positions in industry-leading companies including Cascade, Ascend, Lucent, and Digital Equipment Corp. Pasquale has extensive sales and customer engineering experience along with proven management team leadership in dynamic, emerging technology companies.