Although things may have eased a little, the current economic climate still remains challenging for most practices. Here Practice Plan Area Manager, Katrina Rees, suggests ways to get the most out of the income streams you have already.
We’ve all noticed the impact the cost-of-living crisis has had on our pockets. We’ve seen the way it’s affected our personal lives, but it’s also had a huge effect upon the costs of running a business, too. At home we’ve noticed large increases in our food and energy bills and those two areas are really stretching the purse strings. Our income is our income and, unless we do something like get another job or work some overtime, we can’t grow it. So, you have to work with what you have and cut your coat according to your cloth.
However, it’s similar in a practice. Overheads are going up massively there, too. Materials, staffing costs and energy fees are all increasing alarmingly. Lab fees are also higher putting a significant squeeze on profit margins in practice. We’re all being advised by people like Moneysaving Expert, Martin Lewis, to have a look at our expenses and expendables and see where we can make adjustments and cut costs.
Identify opportunities to make more money
And this is the right thing to do. We don’t want to be spending any more than we need to. However, I would advise only making changes if the items are not adding value. And, whilst it’s a necessity to be making all these considerations and changes, sometimes we need to be looking at the other side of things and identifying, not just where we can reduce costs, but also where we can actually grow our income. Identify how we can make more money and where are the opportunities within the business to do that.
So, if we look at a dental practice, then the team is your greatest asset. Every single person within that business brings something to the table. However, there are probably opportunities to develop and upskill them. A benefit of this is, if you’re giving your team members opportunities to develop and upskill then they’re more likely to stay. Recruiting is expensive, so, work with what you have, nurture it and grow it.
Most practices have a shining star, a member of the team who really has a special skill for talking to people, or a certain aptitude to just make things happen. These are people that you need to tap into and utilise them to support your revenue. You can deploy them in the right place, in the right role within the practice to make changes. And one of the key areas for this is the front desk. Your reception is the absolute nerve centre of your business.
Every enquiry and every patient comes in via that reception. And everyone coming out will also go through that reception area. So, your teams on the desk are going to be the individuals who have really key conversations with your patients. And the type of discussions those reception teams have with your patients will determine exactly whether the patient is going to book an appointment for that required treatment, or not. So it’s really important that you take time to give your front desk team the attention it needs as this could make a huge difference to your business.
Ensure your teams have the skills they need for the job
The conversion rates from enquiry to appointment is dependent on a really good conversation and the skills and knowledge of the individual speaking to patients. Take the time as a business owner or practice manager, to observe and identify good examples of conversations and conversions, so they continue to do those good things. But also make a note of areas where you notice the front desk team members aren’t quite hitting the mark and need some support to develop and improve. This will really make a difference to you. It may not just be about the conversation, it could be how they respond to an email, or possibly the follow up process you have in the practice needs attention. Is it as slick as it used to be?
If we cast our minds back to pre-Covid times, we had good, strong processes in place. Then, suddenly, everything changed because our ways of working changed. Have you slipped back? Is there room to tighten up your processes? Sometimes a minor change can make an enormous difference. Taking the time to review how and what you communicate, as well as how you manage enquiries can quickly identify areas for improvement. And these are things we don’t often step back and look at.
Sometimes, we do need to go right back to basics and look at the little details because, as I said before, small changes really can make big differences. And this could result in much higher conversion rates from enquiry to chair time. Ultimately, this will grow your revenue. You only need two good courses of Invisalign®, or high-end treatments to generate a lot of money for your business.
Consider a Treatment Coordinator
Another thing to think about is a treatment coordinator. Not every practice has one. And I’m not saying every practice should have one. However, this role could be an opportunity to really utilise the skill set of an individual in your team to spend time one-to-one with your patients to talk to them about their treatment options, products, finance and all the options available to them at your practice.
Quite often a patient will leave the practice after being given a little bit of information about a treatment plan without fully understanding it. They may have had only a rushed conversation at the desk before they left. Some treatment plans can be costly and so the patient may want time to consider their options. If they haven’t had a full explanation to ensure they understand what options are available, such as the cost and what payment options are available for them when they go home, doubt may set in and they may decide not to go ahead.
A treatment coordinator can help eliminate any doubt. The patient can have a one-to-one conversation with a dedicated specialist within the practice who will take the time to talk through every detail. They can even show them images of before and after successful treatments. This could be worth thousands of pounds of revenue for your business. So, it’s really worth giving some serious consideration to this role and whether it’s a viable option for your practice.
Make good use of empty space
Something I am seeing more often now when I’m in practices is empty surgeries. A surgery sitting empty is £250 plus an hour of revenue that you could be adding to your practice. So just take a moment and be brave. I appreciate some owners may not want to bring extra people into the practice. They may have concerns about vicarious liabilities and additional risk. But sometimes you have to stop, take a step back and be brave.
You could look at the possibility of getting a specialist to come in to do implants, ortho or even facial aesthetics. Upskill somebody to do Invisalign® and offer them a clinic one or two afternoons a week. If the space is there, then the opportunity is there, too. It’s just a question of thinking creatively and trying to see how you can fill that empty chair to bring in more money for you.
Now is the time to go back to basics and look at the business with a fresh pair of eyes. Put yourself in the position of someone new to the business and assess what changes you could make to grow the revenue. Because there are plenty of private opportunities for practices. You just need to ensure you are prioritising the right things to make a difference.
If you’re going to this year’s British Dental Conference and Dentistry Show on 12th and 13 May, why not come along to the Dental Business Theatre, programmed by Practice Plan, where a panel of experts will be offering answers to the question “How can my practice beat the cost-of-living crisis?” We’ll also be at stand K50 with our friends from Wesleyan.