There are many ways to increase practice production, and adding a new service is an excellent option. Unfortunately, many dentists spend time and money to become educated about a new service, only to achieve a minor impact on production. Why? Because they don’t have a formal plan to introduce the new service.
Four ways to grow
The most effective way to launch a new service in your practice is to consider the four generally accepted paths to business growth.
- Sell more of your current services to existing customers.
- Sell a new service to existing customers.
- Sell a current service to new customers.
- Sell a new service to new customers.
Each of these four viable growth strategies carries an increasing level of risk and difficulty. In other words, it is far easier to sell more of an existing service to existing patients who already trust you than to sell a new service to a new patient.
The key to successfully implementing a new service is to establish goals and a plan. In most cases, practices simply bring in a new service, then gradually offer it to existing patients who have a specific need. Unfortunately, many patients never hear about the new service or recognize that they may be a candidate for the new treatment, and many potential patients never discover you offer a service that might benefit or appeal to them. Dentistry today has fantastic new opportunities to improve the lives of all patients. Adding a new service will not only help patients, it will increase production. This is one of those situations where everyone wins. Implementing a new service invigorates the practice, creates excitement and energy for the doctor and team, and reinforces the right branding.
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Four steps to (successfully) launch a new service
Step 1: Systems
Everything that happens in a dental practice should be based on systems. Systems have a direct impact on the level of efficiency, production, profit, and income of the practice, as well as the level of customer service and patient satisfaction.
When thinking about adding a new service, it is important to think about how systems must change. We recommend that you start with scheduling, because that system controls all other systems. If the schedule has not been mathematically constructed to allow for at least 30% growth overall, it should be replaced with one based on higher production that also allots time for the new service.
You should also examine your case presentation system. How do you present cases, including the new service, to patients? Case presentation is a step-by-step system like all others. It begins with selecting the location for case presentations and making sure the consult room is inviting. It includes the initial greeting by the doctor and taking time to learn one personal thing about every patient, and then moves through the entire case presentation process that hopefully results in the patient accepting beneficial treatment. Throughout the case presentation process, it is essential that the patient participates in the conversation, as this will cause them to develop interest in the new service.
Step 2: Marketing
When implementing a new practice service, current patients are the best group to educate first. They already like you, they’re committed to the practice, and they’re interested in learning about what’s new. Keep in mind that when you communicate with patients about a new service, you’re also communicating that the practice is up-to-date and leading-edge. There are patients who leave practices every year who believe that their dental offices aren’t keeping up with the most modern forms of dentistry.
How do you communicate to patients that a new service is available and educate them on who might benefit from it? A marketing communications program is a standard playbook for big companies launching new products. This playbook should include the following action items:
- Adding information about the new service to the new patient and current patient phone scripts
- Having a hygienist use scripting to educate every hygiene patient about the new service
- Having the doctor educate the team members so they can talk to patients intelligently
- Sending emails within a 30-day cycle that include a short update on what’s happening in dentistry and the practice, and offer a free consult to all patients interested in the new service.
- Adding information about the new service to your website
Each of these recommendations requires a strategy for exactly how it will be carried out. Taking time to think carefully about the marketing communications plan is the right way to implement a new service regarding patient education.
Step 3: Tracking
We rarely see practices add a new service and also properly track results such as:
- How much production is expected to come from the new service within 12 months?
- How much of the new service must be performed?
- How many current patients qualify for the new service? How many new patients might take advantage of the new service?
The endpoint of all systems design is measurement. When you bring in a new service, you should set goals for production, number of patients, number of new patients, and number of referrals. A new service can have a positive impact, but you need to understand where that impact is taking place. Some new services are excellent for current patients. Others create more referrals and new patients for the practice. Each new service needs to be analyzed with key measurements to track results.
Step 4: Hype the team
One of the most crucial factors in implementing a new service is having the entire team get excited. There are practices that simply have the doctor become educated in a new service and then begin to offer it to patients. This haphazard approach means the team knows very little about the service other than how to set up a tray or add someone to the schedule. It is far better to have the entire team educated about the service, the patient benefits, and the team’s role in helping patients understand this new opportunity. When the team is excited about a new service, it will increase the number of patients who are ready to take advantage of the benefits. You don’t want your new service to be the best kept secret in the practice.
The most important metric
Practice production is the single most important metric when it comes to understanding your practice and analyzing overall practice success. Adding a new service should be considered in practice production, profit, and income, and every practice should follow the recommendations above to maximize the opportunity that comes from a new service. This involves having systems redesigned to keep the practice efficient, building out a marketing communications program, educating and exciting the team, and creating a tracking measurement process. When you follow these steps, it’s likely that production from new services can double, triple, quadruple, or more.
Editor's note: This article appeared in the July 2023 print edition of Dental Economics magazine. Dentists in North America are eligible for a complimentary print subscription. Sign up here.