Okay, I made that term up, but what I’m describing is one of the biggest gaps in your practice, which is the difference between what the dentist thinks and what the office manager knows to be true.
For example, I was talking to a dentist recently at the CDA about the need to have a Facebook page for her practice, and she said, “No one in our office is on Facebook.” Her office manager was standing next to her, and said to me, quietly, with a little smile, “We all are. She’s the only one who isn’t.”
Very often we use our behavior as the norm. Unfortunately, many times what we do and think is not the same as the majority of people.
I will also occasionally meet a dentist who says, “Most of my patients don’t use email.” Well, according to a Pew Report in 2011, 92% of Americans have an email address, and 49% of them use it daily. Is there any reason to think those percentages have gone down int the past two years?
We have practices using PatientActivator that have more than 90% of their patients’ emails. And our favorite way to communicate with office managers is by email, and they generally prefer it as well. They are online all day, checking and sending emails.
Another dentist didn’t want to use automated appointment reminders because he felt that “texting is impersonal. We prefer phone calls.” What he meant was that he finds texting impersonal. But not everyone feels that way. Some feel the opposite, and find a phone call intrusive. To reinforce that, another study showed that 74% of the cell phone population use texting, and 31% of them prefer texting to a phone call.
The fact is, how people adapt to and utilize technology has become quite varied. Though it is often age-specific (people 18-24 send an average of 110 texts per day!), very often it’s not. In contrast to that, the fastest growing category of Facebook users is the 60+ age group. I find office managers are much more in tune with this, as they are the ones tasked with patient communication.
Office managers often know more about practice marketing as well. We did a survey recently in cooperation with the Association of Dental Office Managers (AADOM), and we found several gaps between what the managers and dentists believed. For instance, 72% of office managers consider practice websites very important, while only 45% of dentists do.
So who’s right? Well, approximately 50% of consumers consider the design of the website the most important factor in judging the quality of a business. So you tell me.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not knocking dentists. I’ve worked in marketing for 30 years, and I’ve never seen changes in consumer behavior happen so quickly. I’ve also been in dentistry for 27 years, and I’ve watched the clinical demands on dentists accelerate at a dizzying pace, so it’s not surprising that the nuances of marketing and digital behavior often escape dentists. And I know many dentists who do manage to keep current, but it’s daunting and time-consuming for them.
The best way to close that practice diastema, in my opinion, is to trust your office manager, and empower her (or him) to decode the marketing challenges the practice faces. They are your connection to the world, and they know your business. (I also recommend signing them up to be part of AADOM, which is a terrific network of office managers all helping each other.)
You start to close those gaps, and get in alignment, and you’ll see results quickly.
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