Measuring The Unmeasurable In The Business of Dentistry. Part I

“Dentistry is the last bastion of free enterprise.”

It was a patient, who uttered these words to me, a long time ago.

I was working as an assistant dentist. In working class Western Sydney. 1984. Three years before I bought my dental office.

Dentistry, too, is primarily a cottage industry.

Not that it’s people working part time from home.

More so, it’s a business built on relationships rather than on commoditisation and on mass production.

Though commoditisation of the profession is happening.

With varied results.

Now, a sure way to guarantee a path to the poor house is to operate your dental practice with total disregard of the principles of business.

I’m not advocating total disregard.

Dentistry is a business.

And it needs to be treated like a business to be successful.

There are certain parameters and measurements and metrics that need to be collected.

And acted upon.

What gets measured gets done.

What gets measured gets repeated.

What gets measured gets rewarded.

Measuring is so important.

That’s for sure.

And without measurement there is only guess work.

And not measuring *anything* is a sure fire pathway to mediocrity, struggle and failure.

In business.

And in dentistry.

But sometimes, in dentistry and in business, there are intangibles.

The unmeasurables.

And sometimes we need to trust our gut feeling.

Because overlaying an ROI mentality onto everything that moves and breathes, is just sheer stupidity.

In dealing with ROI, or return on investment, of Customer Service, or more importantly, World Class Customer Service, the measurement of reward or return is an intangible parameter.

What is a smile worth?

How do we measure the return on a smile, a laugh, a wink or a nod, during a conversation with a client?

Or the return on the impression a client or customer receives when they see a businessman in a fine tailored suit?

Or polished shoes?

Or tidy, neat hair?

How does big business measure return on investment on those things?

In dentistry, despite the fact that the *doing* of the dentistry is mechanical, there is in fact a strong overlay of personal, of human relations.

And big business, and corporatisation often don’t get that.

Sure, there is a market out there for mass production.

And give the masses mass production and they’ll take it, sometimes because they don’t know any better.

Or that better, and best, exist at all.

How do you measure ROI on word of mouth?

And the intertwining of word of mouth with measurable marketing?

Or even new marketing, and new media?

Because sometimes “marketing” as such, is a leap of faith.

What’s a patient worth?

What is a patient in your practice worth, really?

What’s the average dollar value of a new patient to your office?

What does a new patient spend, on average, first visit?

Or in their first month?

Or first three, or six months?

What’s the dollar value of a new patient in their first twelve months in your office?

Or after two years? Three years? Or Five years?

What’s the dollar value, or average spend of a patient who has been coming to your office for ten years?

And more?

And what percentage of your new patients reach those milestones?

Of three months?

Six months?

One year, five years or ten years?

More importantly, where did they come from?

How do you measure whether they kept coming back because of something that was said, or done, that made their day?

Yet was unmeasurable.

An intangible.

In the same way, how is a dentist to know what to do, sometimes, in business as well as in dealing with patients.

Where should I spend my marketing budget?

What should I invest in to attract more new patients?

And what type of patient?

Would you invest 30-40% of what a patient spends to attract a new patient?

Well maybe you would.

But would you keep paying 30-40% of every dollar they spend just to keep that patient?

Not if your overhead runs at 70-80% of turnover…

Yet that’s what some dentists do when they hop into bed with third parties, like insurance, and preferred provider plans.

These dentists confuse activity with results.

Better to be busy, on low or no margins, than to take time, and spend time, they say.

Or they believe.

Because every other dental office around is doing it that way…

Omer Reed told me a few years ago that with regard to Dentists in the USA, at age sixty five, 95% of those dentists reaching that age are not able to retire, or walk away, if they so desire.

Nineteen out of twenty dentists reaching age 65 still need to keep working for financial necessity.

And yet nine out of ten dentists will say they don’t need a coach.

Nineteen out of twenty will say they don’t need advice.

Nineteen out of twenty will do what most other dentists are doing.

And they’ll be OK.

Well clearly, that’s not working for nineteen out of twenty.

How does one dentist know to hire in outside advice?

Or how does one dentist know to invest in a marketing campaign?

Or in social media?

How did one dentist know to be the first dentist in a big advert in the Yellow Pages?

Or on radio?

Or TV?

What’s the ROI from doing an advertising campaign?

And is a billboard or signage placed strategically acting subliminally, along with other marketing, to attract more patients, or quality patients?

And at what point is ROI on a campaign immeasurable?

Or just hope?

Like building a house, or taking a vacation.

You pay up front before you get the product.

Yet you can’t measure the ROI on living in a new house, six months, one year, or ten years down the track.

What did that investment do for your state of mind?

Or like a vacation?

Six months, one year, five years later, what did that *experience* do for you?

Do those memories bring joy? Do they lift you?

And in what way?

How is that quantitative?

Is a smile, a warm touch, a kind gesture a tangible, measurable product?

What is the true ROI there?

Sometimes the return on investment does not rear its head until many years later.

And the investment may only be a simple act of kindness.

Or a leap of faith.

Not acting kindly, and never taking leaps of faith are a surefire guarantee of no success.

Are a guarantee of mediocrity.

You must trust the intangibles.

Within reason.

But you must.

Give, and you will receive.

Seek and you will find.

And trust….


Connecting, and other intangibles, and their intrinsic values, are just some of the parts of  The Ultimate Patient Experience, a simple easy to implement system that I developed that allowed me to build an extraordinary dental office in an ordinary Sydney suburb.  If you’d like to know more, ask me about my free special report.

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