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Dealing with The Dreaded Money Question

There is a long-held belief among dental consultants that we must never give prices over the phone when a patient asks.  Instead, we’ve created an elaborate way of not answering the question, and trying to get the patient in. I know, because in my first book, Everything is Marketing, I gave exactly that same advice.

Well, times are changing. People are very used to being able to find the price, and the cheapest price, for almost anything. Right there in their hand is a smartphone that can find the cheapest TV, car, dinner or hotel.

The problem in dentistry is compounded by the fact that fees vary so much from practice to practice, and UCF’s are radically different depending on what city or town you’re in.  And I know some dentists in Beverly Hills who charge a separate fee to put on a temporary (which is why they don’t want to get a CEREC–there’s goes that extra income!)

What’s a patient to do? Especially since the whole dental insurance coverage issue is just as confusing to them, and hard for them to understand that it’s not health insurance at all, but some variation of a discount plan on basic care.

I still believe that when a patient is asking what a crown costs, they are really asking if they can trust you not to overcharge them, since they can’t come in and start pulling charts to figure out if you’re a good clinician or not.  (Even if they knew what to look for, HIPPA wouldn’t allow it!) So they don’t know what else to ask, so they ask for prices. And many front desk team members will just give up the cost right away, without establishing any value or clarifying that costs depend on diagnosis.  And that’s not good either.

Now, some patients live on a very tight budget. Quite a few of them, actually. So cost is a huge factor when it comes to dentistry and accepting treatment. I don’t really have to tell you that.  And not everyone values dentistry the same way that you and I do. Some people just want to be able to chew or get out of pain.

And I also understand that most of you don’t want patients who are looking for the cheapest dentist. You don’t want to be that, and you don’t want people to expect that. But somehow, you’ve got to still get them to come into the practice and find out what a remarkable experience you give them, so that they start to believe you are worth the cost.

There is no simple answer here, but a large part of the solution is to have someone very skilled working at your reception, who knows how to listen, how to empathize, and how to effectively create a great first impression of the practice, and persuade someone to come in to experience it for themselves.

And then it comes down to the words. In many cases, rather than being totally evasive, you can give a range of what something would cost, depending on their individual condition. And it’s still critical to explain to people that it’s impossible to diagnose over the phone.  But a root canal is a root canal, and 9 times out of 10 you are going to charge exactly the same amount each time you do it.  So they know you’re being evasive when you don’t just tell them, and that doesn’t build trust.

In short, your front desk person has to be comfortable talking about cost, while making sure to build value over the phone, and inviting the patient to come in and see for themselves. If she is confident that she is working for a dentist who does high quality work  in a comfortable environment at a reasonable price, then she is going to project that over the phone, and the patient will sense it. And then, talk about the range of what a treatment would cost, and also make clear that an initial exam is free or a very low cost.

Of course, you won’t get everyone in.  That’s the reality. And not every patient is a good fit for the practice.  But you can improve your odds.  And I’ve become convinced that we need to not only get comfortable talking about fees over the phone, but we need to get good at it.

I’m going to dive much deeper into this whole question of maximizing the front desk results in my next webinar, with special guest Laura Hatch, who has helped create the front desk environment that built two multi-million dollar practices, and who know teaches those skills in her fantastic video course, Front Office Rocks.  The webinar is Friday, January 12th at 11am Pacific time.  You can register by clicking here, and even if you can’t make it, as long as you register you’ll be sent a recording of the webinar.

It’s going to be extremely valuable for anyone building a practice, so don’t miss this one!


Even if You’re Careful, You’re Going to Get a Reputation

How many times have you heard someone say “My reputation is at stake,” or even “We’ve built a reputation as (fill in the blank)?” But how can you really define “reputation,” and how is yours created?

The truth is, your reputation isn’t what you do; it’s what people believe you are going to do.  And there’s a huge difference there. And given today’s headlines, I don’t think I have to tell you that your reputation is constantly at risk.

What you do and how you do it may be the foundation for your reputation. However, the propulsion, the spreading of it, the required active engagement in the media, is what exposes it to the world. That is what gives it life.

And that exposure and circulation is happening all the time, with or without your permission. Certain media, whether you like it or not, are creating and building that reputation. Yelp, Google, Facebook, Healthgrades, Instagram and many other sites are gathering opinions, ratings and reviews about you — all the time.

So the real question becomes, how are you actively “controlling the story?” 

It’s understandable to think, “I’ll let my outstanding work speak for itself.” But it’s not really enough to be good. In fact, it’s not even enough to be the best.

The truth is, the marketplace is littered with products and services that were “the best,” and yet the second- or third-best version wiped them off the map. Why? Because they were more actively and expertly marketed. The best product, although superior, failed to take control of the conversation and paid the price.

And I know what you’re probably thinking right now, “I’m a medical professional. I shouldn’t have to be involved in all that sort of behavior.” The problem is, your competitors do involve themselves. And your impression about social media’s lack of respectability is mostly misguided.  The reality is, consumers are hungry for information about you, even if it is only someone else’s biased impression. And consumers’— your prospective patients’— easy access to this information only increases their appetite for it exponentially.

Which is why, again, you need to take charge of your reputation.   Fortunately, there are several ways to do just that — most of which involve actively engaging your patients in the process. Here are a few steps to consider:

  • Create video patient testimonials and distribute them via your social media, email, and website. Letting someone else sing your praises is a lot more powerful than having to do it yourself. And using video lets you show, not tell, prospective patients what your practice has to offer.
  • Claim your social media. Check out your profiles on Yelp, Google, Facebook and Instagram. Is your information accurate? Have you included everything that makes your practice great?
  • Counteract negative reviews. What are people saying about you on Yelp, Google and other review sites? Don’t let negative reviews just sit there working against you, respond. But when you do, make sure you are positive, professional, and above all, compliant.  Need help? Click here to download our FREE guide to handling negative online reviews.

Net-net, your reputation is still based on what others say and think about you, but you are not powerless. You still have the ability to monitor what’s being said, acknowledge it and counteract it with information that you control.  So in the end, your goal isn’t so much about making sure you don’t get a reputation, as it is about owning and shaping the one you’ve got.


“What’s the deal with dentistry and social media?”

To paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld, “What’s the deal with dentistry and social media?”

Whenever I want to know what’s really going on in the front lines of dentistry I go straight to the source: practice administrators. So, when we conducted our new national survey of how dental practices use social media particularly close attention was paid to the responses we received from 200+ office managers.

Hoo-boy, did we learn a lot about managing a successful social media presence. What these practice leaders told us was so eye-opening that we’re dedicating entire our November 15th webinar to examining their responses.

“Social Media Showdown! 200 Views from the Practice Manager’s Chair” is a free online presentation that every dentist and certainly every office manager will want to attend. My special guest for this live webinar is Heather Colicchio – president of the American Association of Dental Office Management. We’ll examine the survey results and share best practices for saving time and getting better results from Facebook, Instagram and more.

Sign up now and be sure to stick around for the live Q&A session following the webinar. As an added bonus, everyone who attends will receive a copy of Futuredontics’ new report, of the new report, “How Dental Practices Use Social Media.”


Ready, Get Set, Instagram!

Okay, I get it. You’ve heard of Instagram, you know what it is, and you even agree that you need Instagram for your business. But if you’re like many dentists, what you may not be so sure about is how to set up an Instagram account for your practice, or how to put it to work to promote that practice. We hear you, and we’ve got you. The folks in our marketing area have created a really great resource just for you, our “Instagram QuickStart Guide.” It takes you step-by-step through the process of creating an Instagram practice profile, posting effective content and developing a healthy list of followers for your practice’s account.

And here’s the best part, you can download a copy for yourself for FREE, just by clicking here.



Don’t Panic, Plan.

It doesn’t take a genius to understand why I am writing this post now. All you have to do to is turn on the news. All around us are reports about back-to-back, off-the-chart storms and hurricanes, life-threatening earthquakes, and wildfires popping up like never before. It’s a lot. And sure, it’s enough to make you feel pretty humbled, but I’m here to tell you, it does not have to make you feel helpless.

What I’m saying is, there’s no better time than the present to create a detailed emergency plan for your practice. I get it, as a small-business owner, this task is a little trickier without a “corporate headquarters” to help you out. But the truth is, disaster preparedness is especially important for businesses like yours. In fact, FEMA reports that more than 40% of small businesses, lacking a solid emergency plan, fail to reopen their doors after a disaster strikes.  So let’s dig in and make some plans now, so that together we can beat that statistic.

Be a People Person
Have you ever noticed that when news crews visit the scene of a disaster and interview the victims, standing among their destroyed homes, the response is usually the same, “Well, these are just things. The most important thing is our whole family is safe.” I’m sure you feel the same way about your greatest resource, the members of your team.  So start by asking for their help. Put together an emergency task force to help you create a detailed plan with their safety in mind. Consider things like:

  • A defined evacuation plan
  • Clear instructions and ownership of each duty,
  • Provisions for those needing extra assistance
  • Adequate supplies (water, batteries, chargers, flashlights, first aid kits, whistles, tools for shut-off valves) for all of your staff and the maximum number of patients who could be at your office.

Talk Ain’t Cheap
During a disaster, communication becomes more important than ever. Make sure all of your staff’s contact information is accurate, and that at least a few key employees have access to that information so that they can act as point people if needed. These “communication officers” should also have contact information for vendors, your payroll provider, patients, etc., and understand who needs to know what.

Think Outside Your Phone
Because you won’t be able to depend on cell service, consider alternate means of communication for your practice, your staff and your patients. For example, during these latest events, Facebook has proven to be a great way for people to provide updates and to mark themselves as safe. We’ve also found that during Hurricane Harvey, PatientActivator’s® communication tools have come in really handy.

Geek Out
Let’s face it, our lives are on our computers. So while we have fewer paper documents, records and reports to worry about, we still have to be concerned about the actual hardware that allows us to store all that stuff. Back up your data regularly and store it off site, or better yet, send it to the cloud. And, of course, if you do still have some actual paper documents, make sure you have copies — off site and in a secure, fireproof, waterproof location.

Power Hungry
And while we’re on the topic, let’s spend a moment talking about keeping power flowing to all of this technology. What if during a key procedure your practice goes dark? Could your computers handle a power surge? Think about all the electronic items that would be unusable should you lose power and consider getting a back-up generator or battery system for your computers.

Cover Your … Assets
Recently, when the city of Houston became covered in water, I was amazed to learn the number of business (and home) owners who did not have flood insurance to cover the extensive damage to their properties. When’s the last time you checked your insurance coverage? Do you know what is and isn’t covered? What exactly is an “Act of God” any way? Is your current amount of coverage appropriate for the size of your business today? What about your equipment, could it be replaced if needed? Do yourself a favor, and make sure you’ve got the coverage you need to help you bounce back completely and quickly.

But don’t take my word for it, ask the real experts how to do your future self a favor and get your emergency plan together today. Take a look at the following websites for some additional guidance. And if you are a 1-800-DENTIST member, make sure you’ve got us on your important emergency contact list!

American Red Cross




Small Business Administration