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Is Facebook Over?

There is a LOT in the news about Facebook this year, and none of it is particularly good.  First, they let us know that if we wanted even our own followers to see our postings, then we were going to have to pay. Then Cambridge Analytica comes along and lets us know that they can easily influence elections using our Facebook data. And that our data is out there a million times over.

So dentists are asking me if they should stop using Facebook, because people are going to be bailing out of the site.  And so my question is, “And go where?”

People have a social media addiction.  They need that dopamine hit all through the day. The average person spends 50 minutes a day on Facebook.  So if they stop using it, are they going to start reading newspapers? Or worse, talking to people at the dinner table?

Or maybe they’ll switch over to Instagram. Well, Facebook owns Instagram.  And Whats App, too.  And Snapchat is losing people much faster than Facebook, and Twitter still can’t find its purpose, except as a national broadcast system for our current president.  LinkedIn?  Great if you’re looking for a business connection. Pinterest?  Not for the dental industry.

The reality is this: most of what’s going on with Facebook has nothing to do with small businesses.  The fact that they are curtailing their merging of outside data sources with their own data doesn’t matter except to large businesses, who spend hundreds of thousands targeting ads to people, and of course to political campaigns. For the rest of us, it’s a slightly different version of business as usual.

People will still use Facebook to connect with their friends, to get the news and to get spending ideas.  Ads will still work. Pages will still use it to learn what it’s like to be a patient in your practice.

Granted, Facebook shows a lot fewer people your posts than ever before. We have to adapt to this by making sure our content is interesting, and incorporating things like auto-responses through Messenger whenever anyone comments or likes a post.  And we’ll have to pay to boost posts. But the audience is still there.

The fact is, 20% of the world’s advertising dollars are spent on Facebook.  They’re not going anywhere. They need to make some major course corrections in terms of privacy of data and a few other things. But they are already moving in that direction.  And they will be forced to by the government if they don’t.

Stay the course. Post interesting videos and photos and contests and events, as well as patient testimonial videos and recommendations and reviews.  Boost popular posts. Test some advertising for implants, or aligners, or implants.  All the stuff I’ve been recommending for years. It will still work. You might just have to buy some more eyeballs, but hey, it’s been a free ride for a long time.

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!

 

The Devastating Impact of Indifference

With the ever-increasing influence of social media affecting every business, it is more important than ever to be hyper-vigilant when it comes to the perception by your patients that you care about them. They need to feel that you care about them more than money, more than efficiency, more than your own sense of importance.

And understand that the opposite of caring is indifference. Think about how quickly and easily you perceive when someone is being uncaring or indifferent to you? How little did you like it? And did you post somewhere about it? Did you feel compelled to tell someone? Or did you just not use that service anymore?

It doesn’t matter if you’re not feeling particularly caring that day or toward that patient (and I’m talking about everyone on the dental team, not just dentist).  What matters is that they perceive that you care.  Which means maybe you have to act like you care, even if you don’t feel like it.  Because that’s the job.

This blog was inspired by a recent post by Seth Godin, whom I normally find extremely insightful, but this post was more akin to wisdom, and relates directly to creating a remarkable patient experience (my favorite theme!), so I’m going to quote it in its entirety here for you:

The Toxic Antidote to Goodwill,

by Seth Godin

 

Anyone who has done the math will tell you that word of mouth is the most efficient way to gain trust, spread the word and grow.

And yet…

It only takes a moment to destroy. Only a few sentences, a heartless broken promise, a lack of empathy, and it’s gone. Not only that, but the lost connection can easily lead to lawsuits.

Doctor, the surgery seems to have gone wrong!

It’s not my fault. I did a perfect job. Tough luck.

Architect, the floor is sagging, the beams were put in the wrong direction!

I don’t care. There’s a three-year statute of limitations, and even then, it wasn’t my job to ensure that the work met the plans.

Airline, my two-year-old can’t sit in a row by herself, and the agent on the phone said you’d work it so we could sit together!

It’s not my fault. If you don’t want to get on the plane, don’t get on the plane.

In all three cases, there are significant operational barriers to magically fixing the problem. But that’s not where the breakdown happened. It happened because a human being decided to not care. Not care and not express anything that felt like caring.

A human being, perhaps intimidated by lawyers, or tired after a hard day, or the victim of a bureaucracy (all valid reasons) then made the stupid decision to not care.

By not caring, by not expressing any empathy, this individual denied themselves their own humanity. By putting up a brick wall, they isolate themselves. Not only do they destroy any hope for word of mouth, they heap disrespect on someone else. By working so hard to not engage (in the vain hope that this will somehow keep them clean), they end up in the mud, never again to receive the benefit of the doubt.

What kind of day or week or career is that? To live in a lucite bubble, keeping track only of individuals defeated and revenue generated?

It turns out that while people like to have their problems fixed, what they most want is to be seen and to be cared about.

Of course you should use these fraught moments to reinforce connections and build word of mouth. Of course you should realize that in fact people like us get asked to recommend airlines and doctors and architects all the time, but now, we will never ever recommend you to anyone, in fact, we’ll go out of our way to keep people from choosing you.

But the real reason you should extend yourself in these moments when it all falls apart is that this is how you will measure yourself over time. What did you do when you had a chance to connect and to care?

Sometimes the only option is to reach deep into ourselves to offer up caring even when we feel we are too busy, too annoyed, too frustrated or too frazzled.  But this is when it makes all the difference.  And if it’s just a performance, so be it. Because what happens almost every time is that other person responds positively, warmly, humanly.  And suddenly you feel yourself genuinely caring. And find a way to solve the issue.

Tips to Overcome No-Shows

If you were lucky, you had a chance to hear Gary Takacs and I do a webinar on how to radically reduce no-shows in your practice. My marketing team enjoyed it so much that they thought it would be good to boil the points down to a tip sheet.   If you’re interested in laying your hands–or at least eyeballs–on the aforementioned sheet, click here!

To see the whole webinar and a whole slew of other great resources, sign up at our Futuredontics page here.

Cracking the Insurance Code

I’m not talking about treatment codes here. I’m talking about how to stem the revenue erosion that many practices are facing by accepting dental plans, and I’m doing it in a webinar with my good friend Bernie Stoltz, the CEO of Fortune Management. His company has helped more than two thousand practices solve this challenge and build strong practices with happy patients.

We will go into alternative methods of satisfying your patients needs without compromising your profitability, and how to make choices about accepting plans as part of an overall strategy.  If you’re hoping to thrive in the next decade, this webinar is a must!

It happens on Tuesday, July 11th at11 am PT / 2 pm ET.  Click here to register.

Here’s what we know already: “Insurance” is now the #1 reason people pick a new dentist. This game-changing consumer behavior is hurting profits at practices nationwide. Join me and Bernie and learn new, better ways to leverage your insurance and dental plan offerings to maximize production and patient satisfaction. Here are some highlights:

  • Why insurance is your #1 hidden marketing expense
  • Best insurance strategies for 2017 & beyond
  • Tips on choosing the right plans for your practice
  • Smart new alternatives to traditional dental insurance

Don’t miss this informative, fast-paced presentation followed by a live Q&A session.  And as always, if you register but can’t attend, you’ll be sent a link to the recording of the session. See you online!