Category Archives: business review

How to Make Best Use of Your Facebook and Google Reviews

So many people are working really hard to collect as many Facebook and Google reviews as possible, but what can you do with them once you’ve got them?

Of course they look great on your Facebook and Google profiles but here are a couple of examples of how you can use them in other situations.

Encouraging more people to request an appointment

I’ve written many times about the issue of trust in dentistry; reviews add social proof to your website and this proof that you are trustworthy can increase conversion rates.

Whenever we ask someone to do something on our website, for example request an appointment, using social proof next to the ‘call to action’ can increase conversion rates.

Here’s an example of using Google reviews right next to an appointment request form.

Reviews and request an appointment

Adding value to your fees/prices page

One of the most visited pages on any dental practice website if the fees page. If all you list are just your fees without adding value then you are doing yourself a disservice. Without letting patients know what they get when they spend an amount of money is a surefire way of making yourself look expensive!

A great way to add value to the service you offer is to let your happy patients do that marketing for you. A simple way to do this is to add Facebook reviews directly to your website, Here’s an example.

screenshot-2016-09-20-15-06-17

How to add a Facebook review to your website.

Locate the reviews on your Facebook page, once you have done this click on them.

Locate the reviews on your Facebook page

Choose the review you wish to embed, then click on the little arrow top right to bring down a list of options.

Choose the review

Click on the embed option.

Click embed

Copy the code and paste this into your website on the fees page.

Embed code

You now have an interactive review on the fees page of your website which goes a significant way to reduce risk.

Advantages of using embedded reviews are:

  1. They are much harder to fake, anyone can make up a review, but not anyone can get a review from a real person on Facebook.
  2. Because people can interact with the review by commenting it demonstrates a trustworthy organisation that is open and transparent.
  3. Because there is openness and transparency the patient can see that this review is not being manipulated… unless it’s obvious that you have reviewed yourself 🙂


I’d love to know your thoughts also…

Dental Online Bookings – Responses From Appointmentor, Toothpick and Denticon

I had some really good feedback on my recent blog post about online booking systems for dentistry. I therefore decided to put an open letter out there to any of these companies allowing them to respond and review their own products. I asked 4 specific questions of these companies regarding the concerns that I have, here are those responses (From Appointmentor, Toothpick & Denticon) exactly as these companies replied to me.

Just to note that I have VERY specific concerns, not about online booking as a concept, but about it’s current implementation – the concerns I have are:

Does the person booking stay on the practice website, if not why not

I do not like the idea of working hard to get a person to your website then loosing them off your site to book. I would like to see FULL and seamless integration in to your website.

Do you run a searchable directory that allows people to book with competitors &  If you do run a searchable database how do you stop patients booking with competitors instead

I do not want to be promoting what could essentially be a directory of competitor companies. If you loose a web visitor to an online booking company website then that person has the ability to book with another practice.

How do we add the ‘booker’ to an automated email system which thanks them for their booking and adds them to an ongoing email list?

Every time a person interacts with your practice it is an opportunity to motivate and inspire them to refer you to their friends. I want to see automated branded follow up emails to online bookings with social sharing functionality AND patients added to an ongoing communication campaign e.g. Thank you for coming to see us etc – think Amazon!

Is there a requirement to place a link from the practice website to yours? If so why?

I do not like the idea of placing a link from YOUR website to the booking company, this will tell Google that their website is more important than yours and could end up with them outranking you in the search results… if they also work as a directory that is a double negative for you!

And so.. on to the responses, in no particular order…

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Toothpick

Contact: info@toothpick.com
Website: www.toothpick.com

1. Does the person booking stay on the practice website, if not why not?

There is an option for the person to stay on the practice website and we have used this for certain clinics who use the booking this way . Its can slow down the booking experience and is challenging to deploy for some websites due to the variation in design and technology that practices use. Mobile websites for dental practices are in their infancy and most practice websites are not mobile friendly. These are the real challenges of today world.

It’s worth noting that over 50% of UK dentists do not have a GDC compliant website.

Managing and updating a practice website is a service that web developers certainly do and we work with the major suppliers to ensure both the practice gets the most out of online bookings and new patient acquisition.

In fairness Mark ,you have actually inserted the booking link to practices across the UK. They have seen an uplift on new patients and are really behind Toothpick.

[Ed:I have indeed placed these links upon request of the dental practices]

2. Do you run a searchable directory that allows people to book with competitors?

Toothpick is aiming to address the concerns the OFT have raised last year , largely that patients have little idea of what dental services are available to them. 50% of the UK population do not regularly attend the dentist and over 10% in emergencies only. Our A and E departments are at bursting point and 111 the new telephone service for non emergency health related matters are unable to manage demand. We have a terrible reputation globally for poor dental health and are the butt of jokes for most Americans. This is unacceptable in 2013. Toothpick has a huge challenge in making it easy to locate and book a dentist as currently it can be very difficult for patients ue to the constraints and limitations of the current system. Zocdoc launched the same service in the USA 4 years ago and had the same initial concerns within the market fighting ultimately what people expect from a modern consumer market . To be able to make an informed choice about who they see for the dental health.

These services are available in Most of Europe , why should the UK be any different We launched Toothpick.com 6 months ago and no have almost 2000 practitioner live. We have ambassadors from fully NHS to fully Private practices. 50-100 dentists are joining Toothpick a week and bookings are growing exponentially, with almost 50% when the practice is closed. They would happily speak to you about the positive impact its had on their business if required.

You would not  consider booking a 2 day stay in a hotel now without seeing pictures of the hotel , reviews from trip advisor . So why should finding a dentist be any different ?

3. If you do run a searchable database how do you stop patients booking with competitors instead?

Absolutely – if a patient finds a practice website and are willing to book an appointment , they are directed to the booking pages of that practice and cant search elsewhere so there is nothing to worry about.

4. How do we add the ‘booker’ to an automated email system which thanks them for their booking and adds them to an ongoing email list?

Automatic email confirmations are sent to the patient with links to the practice website etc

If the patient opts in to receive more information from the practice , consent should be sought in the first instance and then managed either through a mailing company or via the practice management software , its really simple

5. Is there a requirement to place a link from the practice website to yours? If so why?

No , see the rationale answer to question 1 

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Appoint Now ! Denticon and online dental appointments

Contact: anne@denticloud.ie
Website: www.denticloud.ie

Denticloud is the agent in Ireland and the UK for the localised version of the PlanetDDS cloudbased  dental practice management program , Denticon .

Denticon is a powerful practice management program and allows patients to book directly online through Appoint Now !

The AppointNow ! application is available free of charge to Denticloud clients who use Denticon as their practice management program .

Appoint Now ! allows the practice to place an online booking request button on the practice website or Facebook page .

Online booking process using Appoint Now !

The patient stays on the practice website after clicking on the online appointment request button , and can book an appointment directly from the website . This appointment is then automatically entered in the Denticon schedule .

When the appointment is made , a confirmation email , with directions to the practice is sent to the patient.

The practice also receives an email informing them that a patient has made an online booking . This gives the receptionist an opportunity to call the patient ,confirm the booking, and introduce the practice to the patient .

Online Patient registration

The patient is also directed to the practice online registration area on the website ,and this allows the patient to fill out their medical history and Dental /Smile analysis questionnaire in the comfort of their own home .

This serves two purposes , the first being that it saves time for both the patient and the practice at the first visit & secondly , allows the practice to preview the patient profile before the visit and use the information to ensure the patient experiences a great patient journey . On arrival the patient signs the medical history using a signature pad attached to a tablet or computer at reception and is then ready to be seen by the dentist. .

Advantages of an online booking system that integrates fully into the practice diary .

There are a number of advantages to having the online booking integrated into the practice management software and linked directly to the software diary , including keeping the patient within the practice website during the online booking process.

However , with AppointNow ! , the huge advantage is the integration with the hugely powerful Denticon diary . The diary is a key component to successfully managing and maximising your practice.

The Denticon diary allows

1) Templating of the diary to schedule procedures at particular times , to ensure efficient use of the dentists time by booking highly productive treatments at the start of the day when the dentist is performing well . This also means that the practice knows that production targets can be reached early in the day , and other less productive items can be booked for later in the day.

2) Templating also makes it easier for the receptionist to book the schedule properly , as the receptionist can use the find a slot by production type , and the system will find the next slot available for endodontics , or whatever production type is specified .

3) Templating also allows for sharing of high end equipment between surgeries , by templating certain times for its use on the schedule in each surgery .

4) The appointment slot itself can also be templated to allow the dentist to maximise his chairside time. A forty minute appointment can be divided into:

  • a) a ten minute slot to administer local anaesthesia ,
  • b) a second ten minute slot where
  • the dentist is free to leave the surgery and check on a hygiene patient , and
  • c) a twenty minute slot to complete the procedure during which time the dentist isrequired to stay in the surgery for all of that time .

5) The appointment slot expands on the diary screen to give full details of the patient , the treatment planned for that visit and the value of that treatment .

6) The production view of the diary will show the total value of all the appointment s . This helps staff to learn how to reach targets and how to book effectively to reach those targets

7 ) Each appointment slot also allows the practice to track the patients journey through the practice . Prior to the appointment the patient can be marked as confirmed or unconfirmed depending on contact with the patient .

Once arrived , the patient can be marked as in reception , in the surgery or checked out .

8) The appointment slot can also be marked as a missed or cancelled appointment .This is logged by the system and allows for reports to be generated on missed and cancelled appointments and for follow up on those patients .

9) Patient recalls are also generated from the appointment diary

10) Lab work can also be tracked using the Denticon diary .

Denticon with AppintNow ! allows a dental practice to offer online bookings without taking the patient to another website , and to continue to use the powerful management tools offered by the software

=======================================

Appointmentor

Contact: mubbasher@welltime.co.uk
Website: www.welltime.co.uk

Let me be the first to say that all the points you have raised are valid. However there is another party to this equation – the patient, the ultimate customer.

We live the Internet Age. The Internet brings about great empowerment and choice. Today the nearest competition is just a Google search away. We cannot assume that by not providing online booking or any other services that the patients are seeking, the patients wouldn’t go to Google and find out someone else who provides facilities and services in a better manner. Similarly, years ago, conversations about products and services used to happen on the company’s own forums and websites. Now these discussions happen on Facebook, on twitter, out there in the open world. The Internet is here, the Social Media is here, and they are here to stay. The most sensible approach now, perhaps, is to embrace the change and make the best use of the opportunities it presents.

Today people do want to have interactive engagements, they want instant gratification with immediate results. They like to have choices and options. People want flexibility and convenience. They really want to know that as customers they are being taken care of in the best possible way.

Health industry is where the ‘Financial industry’ was 20 years ago. Customers would go into the banks to the counters to find out how much they have in their account (the tellers would read out information from a screen to the customers- it was an inefficient mechanism as customers could very well read the information themselves). Hardly anybody does that any more, we go to the ‘hole in the wall’, i.e. the ATM or check information online on our PCs, Laptops, and increasingly, on the mobile devices.

Healthcare is now moving in that direction too. Dental practices that provide online booking have more visibility on the Internet, can be perceived as more accessible (open for business), and, by enabling and empowering the patients, giving them the choices and options, would be seen as taking ‘the patient first‘ approach- for example, If I was going to London for a week-long conference or course, and needed an appointment urgently in out-of-hours situation, the practice that gets my business is the one that allows me to book immediately giving me the peace of mind that I have a confirmed appointment at my convenience with the dentist.

The Email notification forms that initiate a request for appointment from a web page lack this facility (request for an appointment made on Friday evening is usually seen/responded to on Monday morning- that’s simply too long!). The patient can not see the availability and choices in real time. Also, the practice responding to the patient’s email request (from direct email to their address listed on their website or via a form filled at the website – essentially it is the same as leaving a recording voice message on the practice answering machine) cannot provide a confirmed appointment until someone has attended to the communication in the morning. There may not be a slot available by then (or at a suitable time for the patient’s requirement), the patients may have to endure pain or discomfort. They may choose to search and find somewhere else on the Internet. Herein, therefore, lies the problem for dental practices, our clients and yours…

Google has all the practices in the area already listed and available with their phone numbers, as well as their email addresses. Facebook and twitter allow people to comment on the services independently and freely, there is no central control over the chatter.  These resources are very accessible and available within a few clicks. . But then, herein also lies the opportunity…. to come clean, to be authentic, to be transparent and to be a contributor with the patients in their journey for optimal oral and dental health, to be a valued partner in their wellness and well-being   (see the link here, why we chose the name Welltime for our company 😉 )

So let’s now discuss how we can create a ‘win-win’ situation, let us review the 3 key concerns you have raised:

1. The patient journey on your website could be compromised?
The solution: allow practice branding. Allow the patients to have the consistency of experience through same look and feel during their engagement (AppointMentor actually allows that).
This assumes that the patients are already at the practice website.  If they are, then the appointment management system most suitable for the practice is the one that works from the practice’s own website, allowing both new and existing patients to book appointments  (ours does :)).

However, there is an important general point to be made here. By the time patient has clicked on the ‘I want to book an appointment right now’ button (we just call it ‘Book Now’ for short), they have probably read about the treatments, about the dental team, the testimonials, the fees if any; and have made up their mind. They are now entering a funnel with one task on their mind: To book an appointment as quickly, and as hassle free, as possible. Any good appointment management system would recognize this aspect and automatically remove all distractions, all non-essentials from the process of achieving this task at hand (e.g. if main website has flash or animations or lots of navigation information, once patient has started the booking process, good Online Appointments Management Systems would allow the patients to focus and successfully complete their task, quickly and efficiently). We, for example, put in the colour themes and logos of the practice in the booking pages, but then keep the process focussed on the completion of appointment booking and achieving the results.

The point about booking to happen totally from the practice own websites (i.e. where the patients do not leave the site) is possible using iFrames technology which runs appointment booking process from within the practice own website and web pages. The reasons for the normal re-directing to a central booking application are purely economical- most practices would probably not have the in-house IT resources/ skills to run a secure web server;  having a facility made available in this manner keeps costs down for everyone while enabling a useful service for patients. 

2. We lose the ability to enhance the patient journey after booking?
The solution: allow practices to have automatic customized branded communications after the appointment with patients.

A good CRM system would allow sending branded, customizable letters / confirmation emails to the patients ensuring consistency of patient journey (PatientConnections, our CRM system does it- but what’s more, because it is fully integrated with the Online Appointments Booking system, it does it automatically, since the system knows which patients came to the practice for appointments on that day).

Solutions like this enable better compliance with CQC by sending automated patient feedback survey to the patients- it is generally a good practice anyway for businesses to ask customers what can be done better and what services can be improved. PatientConnections has an extra value added proposition that includes relevant educational articles and special offers from the practice, enabling customer education, up-selling and cross selling facilities.

Finally, feed backs received back from patients (with their consent) automatically are uploaded back on to the practice website, creating fresh testimonials that are useful targeted content for search engines, helping with the SEO process. Plus, if patients already have Google account, our system suggests to them (and makes it easy for them) to post a review in Google Local Reviews, making the practice profile higher and more visible on Google searches; as well as allowing them to easily post positive reviews on FaceBook and Twitter, creating a free viral marketing effect facilitating in attracting new customers.

3. You may inadvertently end up promoting your competitor dental practice.
The existing patients would more likely come to your website directly (or even through Google since their search would include the practice name). Enabling them to book online is a smart decision as it directly facilitates them. The new patients, however, are searching in generic terms for treatments provided in a given area. For that, Google already has it: the competitor’s websites listed on the same page as yours. That is where the battle for SEO with a lot of money and effort being spent is taking place. Having spent that much amount of effort and money on getting the patient to the practice website, it makes logical sense to have essential mechanisms to engage them; make it easy for them to register and book, to pay online and to get a confirmation of the appointments (if, as a practice, we have a customer, shouldn’t we be doing everything possible to retain that customer and avoid circumstances where they go searching on the Internet for other alternatives?).

In summary:

In the end, it’s not about online booking or offline booking, but making sure that our customer’s customer, the patients, win by making their life easier, by enabling them, by providing them choices with ‘top notch’ service).

And our customer wins because more patients come to the practice that has greater visibility and ‘open for business’ / ‘ready and willing to help you’ approach, more patients pay online hence reducing paperwork and FTAs, and reducing the gaps/white spaces in the appointment diary- thereby generating income for the practice through a pragmatic patient-oriented fantastic service.

An important contribution of Online Booking and CRM systems should be in helping the practice staff, the receptionists and practice managers, to cope with the stress of dealing with patients, who might be in discomfort and frustrated because the phone lines are always engaged – or because after 6 pm they can not interact / engage with the practices (I am constantly told by customers who have AppointMentor Online booking system, how relieved they are as now they are able to cope with the 8:30- 9:30 am mad call rush in the mornings….’ Receptionist now have more free time to focus on the patients who are in the practice hence improving quality of services and overall patient experience. They also have an ability to help patients with the continued touch points with through automated feedbacks and follow up communications that helps them with maintaining patient relationships without any additional manual labour).
Online Booking also facilitates tracking of referrals (has the customer come from Google, Newspaper ad, the leafleting activity, or Word of Mouth, i.e. where should your marketing dollars and pounds be spent for more effective marketing). For a lot of practices, the Monthly Recalls are an important source of stable revenue – Auto Recall facility helps automatically send the patients with a Recall link unique to them, the patients can click the link on their smart phone or email, and be taken to a booking page directly ensuring recalls are booked effectively (it saves money and time on postage costs and stationary/printing and posting activities).

My honest belief is that it is a smart and clever business decision to promote your business to existing and new customers through these innovative solutions, using their strengths (for example allowing patients to provide feedback that comes straight to your website, automatically, without a hassle), attracting new patients and facilitating existing ones. I believe practices would win by using these technologies and solutions and will have long term sustainability and business profitability – by focusing on enabling and providing awesome, fandoobytastic, unparalleled service to the patients.

Just my  $0.02

Cheers,
Mubbasher.

 

Values

This is an additional blog post to my usual 2 weekly ones, I thought it fitted nicely with the topic of values I discussed in my last post and added weight to the ‘values are important’ argument.

I am half way through reading a great NLP book by Steve Bavister and Amanda Vickers, it addresses the concept of values…it’s not like me to quote verbatim from a book, however these were such great words.

The importance of values can not be overstated.  Just imagine what it would be like if nothing mattered to you. Why would you want to do anything? What would be the point? People who have a strong sense of what’s important to them usually have a real sense of purpose that acts like a propulsion system, which moves them forwards”

Now re-read the quote from the perspective of a company rather than an individual and substitute the ‘people’ for ‘companies’….that’s the importance of values!
In my next blog post I will describe a creative technique to elicit company values.
Please pass this email on to others and encourage them to subscribe as this is the greatest compliment you could pay me… so until next time…
Cheers,
Mark

financial ratios made useful

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Is that a yawn I hear? Well, this is a short post…mainly because I know how boring finance can often be! But this is an important area of our business and should not be overlooked. I may be teaching granny to suck eggs here, but until I studied finance at university I had never come across these ratios…no-one ever bothered to show me. So if you are a finance wizz, please excuse this article, but if you are like I was and a bit hazy about ratios…read on!


Debtor and creditor days

This has probably been one of the best ratios I have learnt to manipulate in my business, yealding the best results once I go them sorted. These ratio

s simply say how long you are taking to pay your suppliers (creditors) and how long you are taking to be paid by your customers(debtors), if your creditor days are longer than your debtor days you will have a cash surplus, if it is the other way around you will need to borrow money from somewhere for the difference in the days…a crucial ratio to understand I think!!

Simple calculations

Look at your last set of accounts, go to the balance sheet and

 take the amount owed to the creditors,  probably in the ‘current labilities’ section, now look at your profit and loss account and divide those creditors by the purchases for the year and multiply by 100. This now gives a % of creditors you owed at the time of the balance sheet. Assuming your accounts are made up for the year, multiply this % by 365 days…this will now tell you how many days credit you have taken with your creditors.

example:

Total creditors owed on balance sheet £10,000

Total purchases for the year from profit and loss £100,000

10,000/100,000 X 100= 10%

10% of 365 days = 36.5 days credit taken


To work out your debtor days, look at your balance sheet, di

vide your total debtors (probably in the nett current assets) by the sales figure for the year in your profit and loss account. mulitply this by 100 to give a % then multiply the % by the total number of days the accounts represent…probably 365.

Example:

total debtors from balance sheet £60,000

Total sales for the period from profit and loss £800,000

60,000/800,000 X 100=7.5%

7.5% of 365 days = 27.3 days credit given


In this example we are giving 27 days credit and taking 36.5 days credit, this means we have the use of the money for 9 days.

But imagine if this was the other way round! If you take less credit than you give you may need to borrow money, either in the form of an ovedraft, or in the form of having less money in your account which could be invested elsewhere earning interest.

When Amazon launched their online book store they used this to a fantastic advantage. They took the order and the money from the customer online, then they ordered the book from their supplier and agreed extended credit terms. They had their money from the customer for over a month before they needed to pay the supplier, this money was used to fnd their rapid growth! A whole business model was based on the fundamental priciple of manipluating creditor and debtor days.

In practice

I am not suggesting we don’t pay our suppliers at all…please don’t ge me wrong. I am suggesting though that agreeing credit terms with suppliers and adjusting your own policies and possibly incentives to affect your debtors days is a godd idea. 

When these ratios first came to my attention, I realised I was having to borrow money for nearly 20 days a month…ouch! Now I have reversed this by offering early payment incentives to customers and agreeing slightly extended terms with selected suppliers, the difference now is almost 0, but occasionally swings in my favour…result.

More fun ratios will follow in future articles.

additional resources:

Business Balls Financial Glossary

Business Knoweldge Centre

The greatest compliment anyone could pay me is to forward this to a friend and encourage them to subscribe, any dental business owner is more than welcome!

Cheers for now, 

Mark

 The information inthis article is not intended to represent professional advice and should not be taken as such. For fully representative analysis averages of creditors and debtors should be taken over the accounting period, the examples given are for simplicity and ease of understanding only.  Please check with your accountant before making financial decisions

This blog is part of my service offering dentists and dental technicians dental business consultant advice on dental marketing and other dental business issues for everyday use in the dental surgery or dental laboratory 

A journey in to the unknown

This is another specially commissioned article for ‘The Technologist’ magazine in the UK, I must say it is a real honour to be asked to write these articles so if anyone else would like an article written for a publication please let me know and I will see what I can do.


I have been asked to write about my journey through business and dentistry and what I have learnt throughout this journey; but why would you care?


Do you feel you have reached your full potential as a technician or dentist? Have you reached our full potential as a business person? If you own your own laboratory or surgery is it performing at its best? Do you have the answer to all your problems?…if you answer ‘no’ to any of these questions then you need to read on, if you can honestly answer ‘yes’ to them all then give me a call as I want to write a book with you!


This article is written deliberately in a direct manner and to provoke debate, please read on and comment on my website. (Details at the end)



We all start life in blissful ignorance, think back to your childhood – remember playing in the park with your favourite friends, remember the warm summer days during the school holidays doing exactly as you like. You didn’t care about mortgages, or paying the overdraft or sorting out that argument with your neighbour…in fact you wouldn’t have known how to do any of those things…come to think of it you didn’t know any of those things existed. You were incompetent in those things PLUS you were ignorant or unconscious of their existence, we call this happy state of affairs unconscious/incompetence. This is represented in Figure 1.

This is what many people call the learning curve; “It’s a steep learning curve” is a common phrase. Let’s take driving a car as a further example, a child can’t drive and doesn’t know he/she can’t drive; they are in the first box, bottom left and are HAPPY. As soon as we start to learn we are still incompetent, but we move to conscious incompetence…we can’t do it and we know we can’t do it! We then often become UNHAPPY!


As we progress we become more competent, but we stay consciously competent…we need to think about our driving…press the clutch, change gear etc.


The more we practice the more competent we become AND the more unconscious the knowledge becomes, until finally we are fully competent and we don’t even have to think about it…we drive a car, hold a conversation and listen to the radio at the same time…only at this final stage are we HAPPY again.


So how does this relate to learning? How does this relate to improving your business? How does it relate to you?

We often begin studies or education to find things out…CPD for dental professionals should be like this, we should embark upon a mission to find out more and develop ourselves… often people will reach the consciously incompetent or even consciously competent stages. However both these stages are UNHAPPY stages…so people often give up at this point.


The art is to be aware of this, to be aware of your own development stages – if you can push further to really embed this new knowledge it will become UNCONSIOUS…and at this point we become HAPPY again! No pain, no gain!


I would encourage everyone that runs a dental business to try to find out more about running a business, go on some courses or study business academically through a college or university. I guarantee you will realise there is so much more out there than you realised before. I am now at the end of my studies and I now realise that I am incompetent in so many areas, areas that I didn’t know existed before. I am incompetent but at least I am consciously incompetent which means I can do something about it. It means I am aware of all these things I should be doing…so now the real learning and development starts.


If you sit in your laboratory or surgery with your head buried in your ‘teeth making’ you will possibly remain in the first HAPPY box of my diagram, but you need to know you are HAPPY because you are unconsciously incompetent, there is a whole world of knowledge and experience out there which could dramatically change your business for the better which you know nothing about …personally I would rather go through a bit of pain and strive to be HAPPY at the end of the learning curve rather than at the beginning…your choice though!


Resources:

Business Blog – Hints, tips and advice on running a dental business

http://www.markoborn.blogspot.com

Business resource centre

http://www.businessballs.com

Business Balls further reading on conscious competence and how to take learning to a 5th level

http://www.businessballs.com/consciouscompetencelearningmodel.htm

Open University Diploma in Management

http://www.open.ac.uk/oubs/__assets/y8srl4ijt4zf6blwp5.pdf

Happy discovery and happy learning!

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Mark

This blog is part of my service offering dentists and dental technicians dental business consultant advice on dental marketing and other dental business issues for everyday use in the dental surgery or dental laboratory

Managing change, from a new bonus scheme to a new CADCAM system

So you want to change something in your lab or surgery? May be you are moving premises, may be you want a new CADCAM system, may be you want to introduce a new bonus system? All of these things involve change…and If you want this change to be smooth then the change needs to be managed.

Here is a simple guide to managing change and to making sure your staff are with you.

Firstly you need to remember this A+B+C>D where:

A is a disatisfaction with the way things are now
B is a shared vision of the future situation
C is a simple, low risk first step
D is the cost to the idividual (by cost I DO NOT mean financial, it may be time, effort, loss of friends or any other negative implication of the change that is unique to that individual)

Lets take a laboratory or surgery premises move as an example. As the business owner you have decided to move, perhaps current premises are too small, old or expensive – you have a disatisfaction with the way things are now. You have found a great new premises that is larger, newer or cheaper, there is now a gap between ‘what is’ and ‘what ought to be’…the old premises and the new. In order for change to work EVERYONE must be aware of this gap, and have a desire and the resources to close it.

To you, the cost is low (again I do not mean financial cost)…otherwise you wouldn’t be initiating the change would you?

But what about your staff? Are they fully aware of this gap between ‘what is’ and ‘what ought to be’? Without an awareness of the gap they will have no desire to change, they will have no desire to work on that new CADCAM system, or no desire to move premises.

Your job as a manager is to manage this gap, to develop the disatisfaction with the current situation, to really highlight the new future alternative and to create that desire to close that gap.
I am not saying you need to fabricate things here, just let your staff know the situation! You also need to provide your staff with the resources to close that gap, but these resources will be different for each individual…some may need time, some may need assistance with work etc.

You then need to give the staff a safe and simple first step, they need to be able to ‘dip their toes in the water’ in a way that is non-threatening. Perhaps you can provide some sort of transition period for example.

So, to summarise. You need to let your staff know the ‘what is’ situation and highlight the disatisfaction with the way things are now (A), you then need to create a shared vision of the future, the ‘what ought to be’ (B) and give your staff a simple, low risk first step (C). If all this added together is greater than the cost to the individual (D) then there will be less resistance to change.

If A+B+C>D then there will be less resistance to change.

I know that it isn’t possible to measure each of these areas exactly…that is not the point of this equation… it is simply a way to make sure you manage the change initiative and take in to account (as best you can) the various forces at play. And don’t forget, each individual will have different ideas of the best future and different things which are costs to them…so each person needs to be managed as an individual.

Please forward this email to your friends if you have found this useful… this network is growing and it would be great to have subscribers (and discussions) from all over the world (We already have subscribers in USA, UK, South Africa and Germany).

Fancy writing your own article here? I am looking for guest bloggers, if you are interested please email me on info@markoborn.com

Cheers for now,

Mark

This blog is part of my service offering dentists and dental technicians dental business consultant advice on dental marketing and other dental business issues for everyday use in the dental surgery or dental laboratory

Positioning your dental business in the marketPart 2

If you didn’t get a chance to read part 1, I would recommend that you do so; here is the link…dental market positioning

What did you make of these questions then?

  1. What criteria would a potential customer use to position a dental laboratory or surgery in their own map?
  2. What messages does your business give out about where you are positioned in the market?
  3. What conflicting signals does your business give out that might confuse the customer?
  4. What messages do you give out that make it easier for a new customer to position your business, and so decide to use you?
  5. If your business was lined up with all the others like the drinks in the chiller, how would yours stand out?

I think a good way to further this topic is to look at each of these questions individually.

What criteria would a potential customer use to position a dental laboratory or surgery in their own map?

Perhaps the services you offer? Perhaps the livery of your stationary? Perhaps the way your staff answer the phone? All of these things will give the customer a message about your organisation…a message that your customers will use to position your business.

Perhaps your customers want a small boutique experience?

Perhaps your customers want to deal with a large chain for security and peace of mind?

What messages does your business give out about where you are positioned in the market?

Here is an example I have selected ‘child friendliness’ and ’boutique vs chain’ and put them along 2 axis of a matrix. Of course you know your customers (DON’T YOU!) and so you will know what is important to them….If you don’t know FIND OUT. It is now possible to plot where you are on a matrix, where your competition are…and crucially where any gaps might lie!!

You will need to play around with the labels, plotting different ones on different axes – but this is a great tool for visualising where you business is located.
What conflicting signals does your business give out that might confuse the customer?

This is now crucial! If you have decided that your customers want a boutique feel you need to re-inforce this all the time – stationary, literature, phone calls all have to say ‘we are a boutique practice/laboratory’…we need to think long and hard about this and remove conflicting signals…otherwise customers simply don’t know when to buy from us!

A few years ago I thought it would be a good idea to bring out a multiple quality/price level in my lab. We had always said that we did only the very best, but I thought I was missing out on ‘cheaper’ work, so I brought in a cheaper price band with the intention of operating in this area of the market also.

In reality what happened was that if a case went wrong on my cheaper level I would say ‘aah, but you need to upgrade to my higher level to get better’, this would leave customers confused (quite rightly!). Having multiple levels confused my marketing…what was I now, a ‘high quality lab’ or a ‘lab that sometimes didn’t do high quality but sometimes did but only when they paid’!?!? Confusing!?!?

After I realised my mistake I then needed to correct it. My way around it was to start another company, specifically aimed at a different area of the market. Branded differently, marketed differently and positioned differently. I produced matrics like the one above to work out where my new lab should be positioned, it was a much neater and simpler alternative and removed all the confusion.

There will be more to come on this subject in a few weeks.

As ususal comments are MOST welcome. If you are not subscribed to this blog then please consider it, it is free and makes receiving the posts easy. Subscribe to this blog

Best regards,

Mark

This blog is part of my service offering dentists and dental technicians business consultancy advice on dental marketing and other dental business issues for everyday use in the dental surgery or dental laboratory

Positioning your dental business in the market – Part 1

Market positioning is often mentioned among marketeers…but what does it mean? Having good positioning makes attracting new customers easier, faster and cheaper, so it is an area that is vital for good marketing and a succesful business.

When a person decides to make a purchase they will have a mental map of all the products available that fulfil this need, so as an example lets say you are out for a run and are thirsty, to satiate your thirst you go in to a shop an look in their chiller for a drink.


You are now faced with a whole array of drinks, Coke, 5Alive, Tango, Evian, innocent smoothie. You will now compare these drinks with your mental map of drinks….coke and tango are both fizzy, smoothies are thick and creamy, evian and 5Alive are still drinks for example. You will then compare this map against your need, i.e. your thirst…you may decide that a smoothie is not thirst quenching enough and that you are running so a fizzy drink is not right…you may therefore settle on one of the still drinks.

This is all done in the blink of an eye, and becomes an aunconscious process with this type of purchase…but what about if a manufacturer brings a new drink on to the market?

This manufacturer will research consumer’s ‘maps’, they will decide where their product is positioned in those maps and make the signals to the consumer very strong; these strong signals will allow you to easily place this new drink in the correct position in your map of drinks. So when you are next thirsty and you go in to a shop to buy a drink this new product will be there, you will have seen the marketing and can now instantly position it….fizzy, thirst quenching, creamy, fuity etc etc.

This positioning allows the consumer to make a decision, so if we don’t give the consumer a way to position our services, products or whole business within their maps we make the buying decision of a new customer very difficult…what is our business like? Will it fulfil their particular needs? What is this service comparable to?

I think this is where many dental business fail in their marketing, they neglect to give strong enough signals of where their business, products and services are positioned in the market. Coupled with that they give out conflicting signals which confuse the consumer…multiple price bands with varying qualities of work all on different service levels.

OK, I understand that offering this wide range of services means we cater for a wider range of people…but I think the damage it causes outweighs that benefit.

My opinion is that often customers simply CAN’T use a lab or surgery, the messages that the lab or surgery give out are so mixed and confused that the customer is unable to position them within their mental maps…these business make it IMPOSSIBLE for a customer to decide to use them…so they don’t!

I will post again next time about the practical applications of this, so in the mean time here is some homework for you.

  1. What criteria would a potential customer use to position a dental laboratory or surgery in their own map?
  2. What messages does your business give out about where you are positioned in the market?
  3. What conflicting signals does your business give out that might confuse the customer?
  4. What messages do you give out that make it easier for a new customer to position your business, and so decide to use you?
  5. If your business was lined up with all the others like the drinks in the chiller, how would yours stand out?

I hope this has stimulated some thought, and I look forward to comments form you so that I can respond specifically to them in my next post on the practical application of market positioning.

Mark

This blog is part of my service offering dentists and dental technicians business consultancy advice on dental marketing and other dental business issues for everyday use in the dental surgery or dental laboratory

Control vs flexibility part 2

Please visit my website www.markoborn.com for further information.

A brief review of Part 1

I believe the modern UK dental market is complex and chaotic (changes in NHS, CADCAM and outsourced work from overseas all affect this), in such a turbulent environment it is my belief that an entirely different organisation is required.

I believe that to survive in this ‘complex‘ and uncertain world dental organisations need to be flexible; it has been shown that in complex systems (such as the modern dental market) that the element with the greatest flexibility will dominate…is that going to be you?

How does this relate to the modern dental organisation?

I think the best way to answer this is by way of an example, this will show the direct link between control vs flexibility which in turn will lead to survival in this environment.

Quality control

As a business owner I have to ensure that quality remains high all the time, I can not afford for even one case not to be right (‘you are only as good as your last job’ seems to be the mantra of most dental technicians!).

But how should I control this quality?

Most laboratories I know have a final inspection Quality Control (QC) step, this is done when the case is completed prior to despatch; in smaller labs this will be done by the boss, in larger labs by a senior technician or manager. (Why not post a comment and let me know how YOU do it)

I have a major problem with this – where does the responsibility for quality lie? It lies with the quality check at the end, the hidden assumption made by the manufacturing technician in this process will be:

‘If this case passes QC then it’s OK’

But that is not true is it! We all know that!

If something then does get through to the customer that is not quite right for them (which will always happen in such a subjective market) the tendency is for the boss or QC manager to tighten their control…I hear this a lot, a customer will call me and say “Mark, this case wasn’t right, you need to check things better before they leave your lab”.

The assumption by so many people is that if quality slips for any reason…tighten control!

But what happens with this is that we form a vicious circle…

  • the technician does not meet the standard
  • we tighten control and say ‘show me at EVERY stage’
  • this infers a lack of trust
  • the technician knows you are going to check everything
  • so sunconsciusoly delegates even more responsibility for quality on you
  • because they delegate that responsibility to you, their quality goes down
  • we tighten control and say ‘ show me at EVERY smaller stage’

It takes a brave person to break this cycle.

If you are a dental surgeon reading this, it also applies to you! If you find a problem with your staff, or lab work do you ask the person responsible to tighten their control? To check things better before despatching them?

Many of us are guilty of this, but as I said it just leads to a vicious circle…so what is the answer?

Well I believe that every time a drop in quality happens that this is an opportunity to learn, this is a natural highlight of a deficiency in the knowledge of skill of the person who made the error. The answer is not to tighten control, but to look for the deficiency in knowledge or ability and plug it. A drop in quality is a learning opportunity….period!

This is a constructive rather than destructive approach. And it is an approach that works. It will be hard in the beginning as the manager needs to relinquish some control, but with the right approach and attention to learning quality WILL increase, the responsibility for quality will be back with the individual…where it belongs!

This breads a culture of trust and responsibility in the organisation rather than one of control and oppression…go on try it…and tell me how you get on.

With less management control quality can increase and the organisation can be more flexible; this flexibility will lead to an ability to cominate in the complex market that is modern dentistry.

Mark