Jodena Consulting Blog
July 11, 2017
Over 90% of people trust a recommendation from someone they know. As consumers, they make their buying decisions based on input and feedback from friends and family. Jonah Berger, a professor of marketing at Wharton, claims in his book Contagious that word-of-mouth is ten times as effective as traditional advertising. The challenge for you as a dentist is to get people talking about your practice to their friends and family. But that is not going to happen unless you and your team deliver an extraordinary experience that consistently exceeds the expectations of your patients. Average doesn’t cut it. You have to be exceptional.
1. Technology is impressive, especially when a patient realizes the benefit of that technology to them. I would suggest that you consider:
- The option of on-line appointment scheduling.
- The option of making payments online.
- The use of text messaging to confirm appointments.
- The use of tablets rather than paper on a clipboard to gather information from new and existing patients.
- The use of an iPad when making case presentations.
- Always having a real person answer the telephone all day long. People absolutely hate phone trees.
2. Continuously let your patients know that you care about them. At the end of every day, doctors should call every patient who received local anesthesia for any procedure performed that day. Hygienists should also call any patient who had scaling and root planing. It doesn’t take much time, and it is SO appreciated. Over the years, I have had three outpatient surgeries. It’s still incredulous to me that the operating physician never called even once on the night of that procedure to see how I was doing!
3. A dental practice is a major gossip pit. The front office personnel hear things when they answer the phone all day long. Good news and bad news. All other staff members are listening to similar stories as they interact with patients throughout the day. I suggest that one staff member be assigned the task of gathering this information from everyone and placing it on the dentist’s desk by the end of the day. The dentist can pick and choose, but must write at least two personalized notes every day. These notes are sent to patients either congratulating them on a recent event, or commiserating with them on a recent tragedy or unfortunate occurrence. In an age of email and texting, this old-fashioned type of communication is unheard of, especially from a busy doctor. It shows genuine caring, great inter-office communication, and is totally unexpected by the patient.
4. Follow up on conversations with patients that take place in the course of their visit to the office. It is so easy to email a link to a patient about a restaurant, or an upcoming event, or any one of a million things that might’ve been casually discussed. Doing this shows true consideration and uncommon follow-through. Every staff member should look for these opportunities.
I could go on and on, but I think you get the message. NOBODY else does this! Because it is hard, it takes time and energy, and it requires a commitment to creating WOW experiences day in and day out. If you truly want people talking about you in your community, then adopt this culture. It is only then that you will see the results and the power of word of mouth advertising.
And by the way, if you were ever considering dropping out of some bad PPO plans and operating out of network, it might be a very wise idea to read this post a few times – and then act on it!
June 26, 2017
My wife and I recently went out for dinner to celebrate our wedding anniversary. Elegant restaurant – one of our favorites. Our server was a woman, probably late 50s, well spoken and engaging. She took great care of us, but the dentist in me couldn’t stop noticing that she had no maxillary teeth distal to her first bicuspids. And her remaining teeth were obviously periodontally compromised.
She reminded us of another woman who for the past few years has worked as a front gate attendant at a golf community in Florida where we spend some time each winter. As a dentist, I could never understand how she could be hired for that position because it was so obvious that she was missing three or four anterior teeth. Fortunately for her, this year a number of the residents got together to raise some money and bought her a beautiful smile.
This year I have read two books that eloquently describe the economic plight of so many citizens in our country. Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance tells of the struggles of America’s white working class. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional and class decline feels like when you are born with it around your neck. And Evicted by Matthew Desmond won the Pulitzer Prize for portraying poverty and profit in the American city, following eight families in Milwaukee as they each struggle to keep a roof over their heads.
From the point of view of the dentists, the dental profession unquestionably has been negatively impacted by the effect that lowered dental insurance remuneration is having on their profitability. On the other hand, these two women I describe, and most of the people portrayed in these two books, can’t afford to go to the dentist even at PPO fees.
So we have a real problem in this country. I do not have a solution. I am not trying to make a political statement. I’m just thinking.
June 9, 2017
My wife and I recently had the privilege of attending two graduations. Our oldest grandchild (can you believe we have 10!) Josh from the Georgetown University McDonough School of Business in Washington, DC, and our fourth oldest Samantha from Edina High School just outside of Minneapolis, Minnesota.
It was interesting to observe the challenge facing the commencement speakers as they told 600 to 800 students dressed in identical caps and gowns that “individuality” is the key to success! The advice at these events is always inspirational. Kids with their entire adult life ahead of them – a blank slate about to be written on. Be a person of conviction and courage. Don’t make choices based on what others will think. Spread good karma. People never forget kindness and generous acts. Bring the passion to do what you love.
A recent Seth Godin blog post entitled Choosing Your Spot beautifully reinforced these sentiments. “At your job, there are probably people with more experience than you, more domain knowledge than you, even more skills than you. But there’s one place where you can make your mark: your attitude. You can bring more generosity of spirit, more enthusiasm, more kindness, more resilience, more positive energy, more bravery and more magic to the room than anyone else.”
As I listened to and read those words of advice, I couldn’t help but think about how they can relate to our dental profession. Just as the graduates dressed in their caps and gowns appear indistinguishable from one another, to the public at large, perhaps all dental practices appear homogeneous with one just like the other – a mere commodity. You cannot allow this perception to exist if you intend to be successful! Please listen and – more importantly – act on these wonderful graduation challenges. In this era of insurance turmoil and PPO dominance, you will need to work hard to distinguish your practice from the competition.
May 25, 2017
Human resources 101 supports the concept of at will employment. Simply stated, as an employer, you have the right to dismiss an employee for any reason as long as you do not discriminate based on age, gender, religion, race, or sexual orientation. This should be clearly stated in the beginning pages of a current professionally written office policy manual.
As dentists, this has been drilled (no pun intended) into our heads. If we intend to let someone go, it has to be done properly to avoid the potential of a lawsuit for improper firing. So hopefully you do follow the rules and dot all of the i’s and cross all of the t’s. But based on what I have been hearing, you are still not out of the woods.
Something called retaliation has become the newest form of discrimination. It is the easiest to imply and the hardest to defend. According to Kelly Yeates at Insperity “many businesses create unintended liability for themselves because they don’t fully understand what constitutes retaliation or how to avoid it.”
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines retaliation as a type of discrimination that could follow a previous discrimination allegation. So an employer may successfully defend charges of discrimination for something like improper firing or harassment or wage and tax issues, but because of the way you or your staff responded in those negotiations or interactions, you could ultimately lose the second time around when that same employee sues you for retaliation.
Pretty scary! All the more reason to carefully document every hiring or firing decision, provide the proper training for your staff, and to be absolutely certain that your office policy manual is current. I would strongly advise the owner of any dental practice to call David Dee at HR for Life. In this increasingly litigious environment, you need a company that has your back and totally understands the business of dentistry.
May 11, 2017
Every dentist wants to attract more customers. New patients are the lifeblood of a successful practice. A referral from an existing patient is the ultimate compliment and hopefully the main source of how new people find you. But the next largest path for new patients to enter your practice is from the Internet. Someone does a Google search for a dentist in their area and hopefully lands on your website. To make an appointment, they are prompted to call the office.
Reality check. The front desk of a dental office often feels like the busiest place on the planet. Phones ringing. Patients being checked in and out. Treatment plans being discussed while appropriate financial arrangements are arranged. So when a new patient calls from the website to schedule an appointment, instead of always being greeted by a friendly talented staff member on the second ring – the preferred outcome – they often get shunted into the dreaded phone tree. And after pushing five different buttons, that prospective might still end up listening to a message machine that says “we are in the office but busy assisting other patients. Please leave your information and we will call you back.” Not a good way to start a relationship!
Factor in some other statistics. According to an Accenture 2013 consumer survey, 38% of all appointments are scheduled after hours or on weekends or when an office is closed. 20% of all new patient phone calls end as hang ups on voice message systems. 81% of people would prefer to make an appointment on line rather than speak to someone at an office. It should be apparent that the telephone as the entry path for a new patient to schedule an appointment presents a lot of problems.
I would suggest that you consider using a company called LocalMed. LocalMed was started four years ago by an entrepreneur named Keith English. The company now works with almost 1500 dental practices in the United States. LocalMed is a website plug-in for dental websites that allows patients to find and make dental appointments at a date and time that works for them. This innovative software integrates seamlessly with the major dental practice management platforms like Dentrix, Open Dental, Eaglesoft, and Softdent. LocalMed can actually read the practice management software to find open appointments in real time. It then combines the dental practices unique scheduling rules and insurance participation to provide the patient with an appointment time that works for them. Making a dental appointment is now as easy as making a dinner reservation on Open Table!
As soon as an appointment is scheduled online, LocalMed sends an email to the front desk with all of the contact information for that patient. The office, if they wish, can then reach out to that patient at the appropriate time by telephone to welcome them to the practice and establish a personal touch.
I have spoken with a number of dental practices that have been using this service for over one year. I heard universal satisfaction with the results and even more enthusiasm for the level of customer service provided. There is a one time start up fee of $990 and then a cost of $249/month. No contract – you can cancel at any time. I love that approach as you have very little risk. After a 30 minute initial telephone call, the program can be installed and ready to go live in 48 hours. LocalMed is HIPAA compliant and all communications are sent to the practice in an encrypted manner. Call Sally Weiss or Joe Chickerillo at 888-203-7531 for more information on how this revolutionary program can help your dental practice.
April 27, 2017
As a subscriber to my Blog, you know that I extol the virtues of organic strategies that increase the visibility of your practice website. These search engine optimization techniques (SEO) work well in most communities and will generate new patient telephone calls from within your local area. But in extremely competitive and crowded geographic areas – whether it be Boston or Manhattan or Orlando – organic visibility is difficult to achieve. In this kind of Internet environment, a well designed Google AdWords campaign (PPC) might be worth your consideration.
Create a compelling offer. “Buy three implants and get the fourth for free” is NOT what most people are searching for. Think about who you are and who you are hoping to attract and build your campaign around an offer that would generate new business. And for sure you need to be aware of what your competition is doing. It doesn’t do any good to offer an implant for $4500 when a similar offer right next to yours is advertising the same implant for $3000.
Your goal is to get patients and not clicks. If the reach of your campaign is too broad, many people who click on the ad will not be realistic candidates to drive to your practice. So it is critical to keep the geography tight in order to increase conversion.
Your ad copy must stand out. Your ad is going to appear next to at least three competitors at the top of the search results page. So your message must be inventive and creative and appealing in order to get what you’re hoping for – prospective interested patients calling your office.
The landing page must be extraordinary. Video and photos are a must, and keep the written paragraphs that describe the procedure short and succinct. When someone clicks on your ad, they will be ported to that specific landing page on your website. That page must be promotional as well as informative in order to compel that patient to call. You absolutely need to include a call tracking telephone number and forms that make it easy for a visitor to this page to request an appointment.
Let everyone on your team know about the campaign. As basic as this sounds, there is nothing worse than having someone answer the phone who doesn’t know about the details of the promotion. And be sure to respond to forms that come in from your offer within 30 minutes in order to significantly increase conversion rates.
Determining the proper budget. Your AdWords budget needs to be adequate to achieve the desired results. A good rule of thumb is to expect at least four dollars in production for every dollar you spend running a pay per click campaign.
I strongly believe that the average dental office does not have the time or the expertise to manage a successful Google AdWords campaign. You need help from experts who do this for a living. My friends at TNT have shared some truly amazing data with me on return on investment from campaigns they have designed and administered. If you are located in a competitive marketplace and are trying to attract patients for specific procedures, I suggest you call Tim Healy at 214-680-1270. You have nothing to lose. The call is free.
April 12, 2017
Call me the eternal optimist, but I have always felt that a dental practice providing great clinical treatment supported by exquisite consistent customer service could do well in any town in America. Recently I am seeing and hearing a lot of angst and anger from my clients that is making me question whether my optimism can still be justified. This unease has been building gradually over the last five years for four major reasons.
• Doctors are coming to grips with and reacting to the competition from the expansion of corporate dentistry into their neighborhoods. Private equity firms are making significantly large investments in corporate dentistry companies providing them the capital for the aggressive acquisition of successful private practices.
• Dental insurance carriers are denying more and more necessary treatment and requiring doctors to jump through hoops to get paid. It is becoming an exhausting fight.
• Many insurance carriers will no longer allow their in-network providers to balance bill patients up to the published office fee for procedures once that patient has exceeded their annual maximum benefit.
• Insurance fees are definitely going in the wrong direction. Delta Dental – the largest dental insurance company by far- is eliminating in many states their Premier fee schedules and requiring in-network providers to accept insultingly low fees that are often 30-40% less than usual and customary fees. PPO dominance is becoming the norm.
I sense we are fast approaching a tipping point. It is getting closer to decision time. In this current environment, only the courageous and the smart and the truly committed dentists will be able to continue to practice comprehensive, high-tech quality dentistry while earning a paycheck commensurate with their talent and experience, years of schooling, investment in technology and on-going continuing education.
Can you do this while accepting PPO fees? I don’t think so. Can you do this understanding and complying with the restraints of remaining an in-network provider? In my opinion, only with great difficulty. Thus I think you will need to take the steps to create the impression in the minds of your patients that you and your staff are worth the additional costs to continue to stay with your practice and receive the quality treatment they deserve. That is the challenge, and I welcome the opportunity to discuss my ideas on how to make this happen.
March 27, 2017
Four weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about general re-targeting of ads across the web. By using this technique, once someone has visited your website, you can follow that person around the web with ads specific to what they were searching for. This is an excellent solution for dental practices that already have great web traffic.
Today I want to discuss a different strategy called search based re-targeting. This solution is best for dental practice websites – that for whatever reason – do not have prominent Internet visibility. A beautiful website is of little value if prospective patients can’t find it. These practices might be located in a very competitive Internet marketplace like a large metropolitan area flooded with other dentists. Or perhaps they are a relatively new dental practice website. Google gives serious preferential treatment for rankings based on the length of time a url has been active. So a new website has tough sledding to get noticed. Perhaps these dental practices do not have other mechanisms in place such as Facebook ads or Google Ad Words to drive traffic to their websites.
Search re-targeting allows a dentist to follow consumers around the web based on what they searched for even though they never landed on YOUR website. How this works is a bit confusing even for a sophisticated Internet savvy person. So by definition, this is way above my pay grade to explain. But essentially there are data programs that can identify an individual who has performed a search on Google, Yahoo, or Bing and landed on another website. These programs capture the url and the search term that was just used.
As an example, let’s say a consumer in Worcester, Massachusetts does a search for “best dentist in Worcester”, or perhaps “dental implants/Worcester”. For reasons mentioned above, that person does not land on your website. But using search retargeting, a dentist in Worcester can target that consumer with ads about his or her dental practice providing information on exactly what that consumer was searching for. Even better, those ads can be further refined by income level, age, and gender.
When you place an ad on the radio, you certainly don’t need to understand the mechanics of radio signals and broadcasting for the ad to be effective. That same logic applies to these more advanced Internet ads. The bottom line is that search retargeting is simply a prospecting tool, and when executed properly with effective display ads, it can be a great strategy to find potential new patients who otherwise would never find you.
If you have any interest in learning more about this cutting edge marketing approach, please call Heather LoGrippo at 617-957-3868.
March 13, 2017
When a dental practice is sold, the purchase is almost always financed by a bank. With rare exception, the borrower is able to obtain 100% financing of the purchase price. Accounts receivable associated with that same dental practice are financed very differently. Banks do not finance at 100%. The typical arrangement is payment of 90% for balances that are under 30 days, 75% for accounts between 30 and 60 days, and only 50% on accounts that are 60 to 90 days old. Banks understand that there is only a 57% chance of collecting in full on an account that is 60 to 90 days past due.
In the ideal world, there would never be a need to send a patient a bill. With a properly executed financial policy, payment should be received at the time of service. I always wonder why is a dental practice the only store in America where you can leave without paying for your purchase? That, of course, is a topic for another day.
For any number of different reasons, dental practices send out a large number of monthly statements. It is a time-consuming and expensive task. Obviously the cost is a great deal more than the 47 cents for postage. And it apparently is not an effective tool for collecting money when you look at a typical aging report. We all know that the older the account gets, the harder it is to collect. But what should you do to shorten the cycle? When do you consider an account to be delinquent? Is it after two or three monthly statements with no response? Is it after a few attempts at making a collection call?
I would like to suggest for your consideration a different approach that involves outsourcing much of the collection process. Transworld Systems Inc (TSI) is a leader in dental collections. They’ve been in the business of helping dentists collect money for 46 years. TSI has partnered with Sikka Software Company to bring dental practices a unique receivables management tool called Dental Collect. Dental Collect integrates seamlessly with all of the major dental practice management systems. It helps to increase overall cash flow while saving time and maintaining patient diplomacy.
The Dental Collect platform begins when a practice identifies a non responsive patient payer. In my opinion, that should be 15 days after the second statement was mailed. The data is sent securely to TSI and is totally HIPAA compliant. TSI Technology generates five contacts with the patient over the next 30 to 40 days. They use a combination of written reminders and telephone calls that appear to come from the practice itself. This is a frequency of touches that no practice has the time or technology to do on their own. The systematic approach is designed to help keep the patient in the practice for a lifetime. No practice wants to lose patients. With TSI, all patient payments go directly to the practice. TSI charges a fixed fee per account of about $10.
The take away message here is that to improve collections, patients with overdue balances need to be contacted earlier than later. The results speak for themselves. I recently wrote a blog about leaving your comfort zone. This may be the perfect opportunity. Setup and training with TSI is accomplished remotely in one hour. Their customer support is free and responsive. Give Charlie Colarullo a call at 508-361-2095. He can arrange an online demo to further explain the details of this remarkable technology.
February 27, 2017
My wife and I recently completed a renovation project of a master bathroom. We shopped online for towels and bath mats, and after visiting many websites we eventually found just what we were searching for. Amazingly enough – for the next 30 to 45 days – there would be an ad for bath towels on the right-hand side of my computer screen. The same thing happened when I was shopping online for a Patriots Super Bowl T shirt. I visited the NFL website, but couldn’t decide on a purchase. Sure enough, I’m still seeing ads for Patriots gear pop up on my computer.
The experience I describe is a form of advertising and marketing called re-targeting. A tracking code is embedded in the footer of a website. The code creates a list of people that visit the site. Re-targeting vendors like AdRoll are able to display ads to your potential customers virtually anywhere that they go online. Studies show that retargeting ads get an average of 10 times the click throughs as other ads. Plus every time that potential customer sees your ads, your brand gains recognition.
Re-targeting can work beautifully for a dental practice. Imagine someone lands on a page of your website that talks about whitening. They found your site through SEO or Facebook. This person is already interested in what you have to offer. You can now follow them around the web for the next 90 days with ads that talk about the benefits of whiter teeth. Creating these ads takes considerable coordination. But if done well, it is a terrific opportunity to promote your dental office to people who have already come to your site.
You can run similar campaigns for popular services like implants, adult orthodontics, and same day crowns. Each campaign needs a series of five different sized ads because the ad space allotted is different depending on which website the ad is showing on. This is very sophisticated advertising, and you need to hire someone with the proper expertise. If you have any interest in learning more about re-targeting, I would strongly endorse my talented friend Heather LoGrippo of Expose Yourself PR. She charges a one-time fee of $250 to create the five ads and then $500/month to manage and monitor the campaign. Heather has a lot of experience with this technique. You can call her at 617-957-3868.