The Ultimate Measure of Dental Practice Success

There are lots of ways businesses gauge their success: gross revenue, profit margins, total customers, percentage of growth and dozens of other metrics.  But the true measure of how you’re doing as a business comes down to one simple thing: how many of your patients would recommend your practice to someone else.Girls whispering

Every business has three categories of clients: promoters, detractors, and passive but unenthusiastic customers. In the marketing world, this is measured by what is called a “net promoter score”.  This method was developed at Harvard Business School, and they use a standardized formula to calculate the score for businesses, but you don’t need to know all that. (Click here if you do.)  But Apple uses it, IBM uses it, and in fact we at 1-800-DENTIST use it on both the consumer side and the dentist side of our business, because we care about each aspect almost equally.  Big corporations pay attention to this score because it cuts right to the heart of the matter, eliminating all sorts of statistical noise. If your customers won’t promote you, you’ve got problems, no matter how much money you’re making.

In the dental world, this concept is often boiled down to “word of mouth”, but that blurs the measurement. Of course, patient referrals should always be your number one source of new patients.  If that is not the case, then your patient experience is definitely not what it should be.  But you want many more active promoters than detractors. If you don’t have promoters, nothing else you do to attract patients will matter in the long run, because dentistry is about long-term relationships with patients, not what you can produce in the first visit.  But just as important is you don’t want the bulk of your patients to be merely satisfied. And for too many practices, that is exactly the case.

This gauge of success is complicated in dentistry by two things: first, most patients don’t know how to assess your clinical skills, so they recommend you based on the experience of being in your practice.  And second, most of what we do in dentistry just gets people back to normal.  This makes it difficult to have a service people can get excited about.  But it doesn’t mean it’s not possible.  In fact, it’s the key to steady growth, and perhaps even to survival.

The reason it’s more critical than ever is because word of mouth has gone digital.  It is no longer one person saying something to another.  Now it’s someone posting on Facebook for all their friends to see, or writing a review on Yelp that anyone in the world can access, or dozens of other places where the review lives on indefinitely, and can be easily found through an internet search.  (This is why my company offers Reputation Monitor, so that you can get an accurate gauge of what is being said about you in the digital world.)

But you also need software that gives you feedback about your patient experience. If you are using Patient Activator, Demand Force, Revenue Well or other digital communication application, then your patients are being surveyed automatically.  READ THOSE RESPONSES!  Find out where you need to improve, or what you are blind to about the experience of your practice.  Negative feedback is beautiful thing once you get over your initial reaction to it.  If for some reason you don’t want to use one of those services, simply do a Survey Monkey eblast to your patient base.

I’ve made my living finding patients for dentists.  But the only dentists who have succeeded with me long-term are the ones who can turn one referral from me into five, because these new patients discovered that it’s possible to love your dentist, and they wanted other people to know about it.  And now your patients can proclaim your wonderfulness in a more far-reaching and permanent way.  Seize the opportunity, my friends, and accept any critique with gratitude, and your promoters will soon be everywhere.


2 thoughts on “The Ultimate Measure of Dental Practice Success

  1. Fred,

    I couldn’t agree more with you on WOM! If dental practices focus on the experience for the patient, it will explode their referrals. Getting out of the mindset of being a dentist, and into the mind of the patient. As a patient, what kind of experience do you want? If more dentists can think like this, they will dramatically grow their practices.


    • Agree, Mike, that the basic question is “What do you want your experience to be when you’re paying for a service?” And of course, how do you respond when you don’t have that experience? Seems obvious, until you see how few businesses, and dentists, are doing it.

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