Three Pieces Of Apathy That Are Killing Your Dental Business

A number of things this week have reminded me that in Dentistry, the number one reason that our patients leave our office and seek treatment elsewhere is because of apathy, or perceived apathy towards them from both our staff and ourselves as doctors.

And that’s very sad.

I was listening to a CD set this week from Dan Kennedy, and on one disc he quoted a well-known survey on why businesses lose customers, and I guess the statistics are very similar in Dentistry.

  1. 1% of customers pass away.
  2. 3% of customers move away.
  3. 5% follow a friend’s advice and switch to that friend’s merchant
  4. 9% switch because they find a better product or service
  5. 14% change merchant because of product or service dissatisfaction. They are unhappy with the service or the product they have received.

Kennedy says that with 1. and 2. there is little we can do, but with 3, 4, and 5, we as merchants, or business owners, or dentists, can have an effect on minimizing these numbers by simply striving to provide a quality product with better attention to service.

Kennedy points out that these numbers 1. to 5. total only 32%.

He sadly points out that the remaining 68% of customers that leave a business do so because of indifference. They do so because, in his words, they don’t feel valued or appreciated or wanted.

They feel ignored.

In my teachings and in my writings, I am constantly reminding my clients and my followers that we need to be having relationships with our customers so that we develop a friendship with them, a relationship so strong that they feel that there would be no way on earth that they would even think of ever going anywhere else for their dentistry because they feel they would be betraying a special relationship they have.

We want our clients and patients to think of us as their “friend, first and foremost”.

“Oh, and by the way, that’s where I get my teeth done”.

And it’s simple really.

It’s purely about having a quantum shift in thinking.

And in mindset.

And in believing that everything we do for THAT patient we are with at THAT time is to enhance our relationship, our friendship with them.

So much so, that they value us first and foremost for our friendship, and our friendliness, and our courtesy and kindness that we show to them.

Over the past week, I’ve been talking with Dentists both young and old about their team members and the behaviours those team members are displaying.

First and foremost, we’ve discussed the way that our Dental Front Office People manage and deal with the incoming New Patient Enquiry.

A true “people person” answering your phones will do their utmost in their powers to persuade your callers that they have indeed found the right Office to call and that your Office is the best and only place for that caller to receive the finest quality Dentistry with exceptional World Class Service.

And the caller will have no doubt that there is no other place in town to even bother calling.


Instead, what often happens, is that callers to your office keep on calling other offices because even after calling your office there has been no perceived point of difference between your Office and any other Dental Office they have already called.

And that’s a truth, and a pity.

The other issue that I’ve been in discussion about this week that relates back to attitude and apathy, is the staff members’ use of mobile phones, and texting and messaging, during work hours.


The fact of the matter is, that if this behaviour is going on in your office, it’s not actually a behaviour but a carcinogenic culture that needs to be removed.


Because any distraction or lack of attention to the task at hand, which is providing a World Class Experience for our clients, customers and patients firstly and foremost above anything else, is an insult to not only our customers, but also an insult towards our fellow employees and our employers as well.

And there’s no place for it.

Sadly, when either or both these behaviours are present in a Dental Office, it’s not just a reflection on the team members.

It’s also a reflection on the poor standard of leadership being provided to the team.

Team members only behave in both these ways because they think they can get away with that behaviour, or because they’ve seen other team members get away with those behaviours and they then feel that if those people are allowed to do it then why can’t I?

Behaviours or cultures like these can become a cesspool of inappropriate activities that infest your office like a subculture.

And rectifying and correcting that cultural behaviour and existence can be so painful and so traumatic to the Dentist as a Business Owner that he’d often rather just wallow in the pain and the pity of it all than attempt to eradicate those behaviours and habits from his office.

But eradicate and exterminate he must.

Because the pain of inaction, long term, is far more devastating than the minor inconvenience of standing up for what’s right and what should be done.

Having the wrong people and the wrong behaviours present in your office can be very disheartening and frustrating for new employees hired who come to your office full of vigour and vim and enthusiasm, only to encounter this wall of apathy and indifference.

Failure to eradicate and take action purely creates a spiral of lack of respect towards the business owner.

And if the owner doesn’t seem to care about this culture or behaviour within his team, how can he ever expect the team to show the same care and more towards his clients, customers and patients?

The answer is: he can’t!

Kennedy says that what it costs a business to replace a customer lost is dramatic.

Because, he says, the value of a customer is measured threefold:

  1. the profit on the initial purchase
  2. the profits on repeat purchases over the lifetime of the customer
  3. the profits on the referrals to your business by those existing customers, providing you with customers you did not have to go out and pay marketing money to acquire

Kennedy says that losing an existing customer costs you all that money above plus the cost to replace them.

He says that every customer or patient that you lose then costs you twice as much as it does just to get a new customer.

Because of this, he says that in reality it’s a bigger profit centre to your business to keep customers than it is to acquire customers.

The way our staff and team members behave toward our customers and patients is a direct reflection on the leadership and direction they are given.

If we are to be critical of our team behaviours we must first take a good look at the examples we are setting to our team.

I’m not sure whether it was Larry Winget or not, who said that in life you end up with exactly what you deserve.

Winget did say you’re where you are because that’s where you want to be.

Otherwise you’d change it.

If you’re in the process of changing things then I salute you.

If you’re contemplating changing things, you’re on your way towards greatness.



The Ultimate Patient Experience is 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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