In an earlier blog, I talked about the need to constantly review your treatment prices and why now is a good time to increase your prices.
Now, I want to look at how, if you do decide to increase your prices, you can best communicate this to patients.
Lessons from Trafford Council
In the first blog, I talked about the experience of receiving an annual letter from Trafford Council informing me of a tax increase. And I think there are some lessons we can all take from their approach about how to tell customers about price rises.
Every year, in January, the council send me a letter giving me three months’ notice that next year’s council tax is going to go up.
So, there’s point number one: people don’t like surprises, and certainly not financial surprises. The more notice you can give the better.
Point number two, the letter from Trafford Council will say, ‘Next year your rates are going up to this. And you can pay it in 10 instalments’.
It will say that in big, bold print on page one, because you might as well get it over with.
There’s no point in giving somebody a 10-page letter and telling them that in the last line. You might as well put the bottom line at the front.
Point number three, Trafford Council give me pages and pages of why it’s more expensive this year.
Frankly, of course, I don’t read that, it goes straight in the bin. But nonetheless, if I did want to get into the minutia of why that was happening, they do present me with the information.
Have a Fair Pricing Policy
I’m not proposing that a dental practice should have 10 pages explaining that lab costs and material costs have gone up, because patients aren’t going to read that.
However, I was very fortunate to be able to collaborate with one of my clients on a document that we put together, which is called a Fair Pricing Policy.
It’s a document that says in two or three pages:
‘Can we please explain the philosophy of our pricing? The philosophy of our pricing is that we need to be fair to our patients. We need to be fair to our employees and we need to be fair to our suppliers. And we also need to be fair to ourselves, because we’ve got a business to run.
‘We, as the owners of the business have a right to generate a reasonable return on our investment in the business. And you as a patient are entitled to be charged a fair price for the work that we do. And it’s by bringing all that fairness together that we end up with a pricing policy.
‘And that pricing policy means that in order to be fair, our plan price for 2021 will be X, and our fee per item price list for 2021 will be Y. And we’ll be implementing that from this date.’
In summary, in a perfect world you would:
- Give people three months’ notice
- Be very transparent at the front of your communication about what next year’s prices are going to be
- Have a Fair Pricing Policy.
And you would also welcome patients’ opinions by saying, ‘We welcome constructive feedback on this fair pricing document, here’s an email address or phone number’.
Accept the ‘always unhappy’
It’s important to remember that, no matter what you do, there’s going to be a section of your audience who will not be happy. And those people are not happy at most things in life.
There is something freeing about realising that. It allows you to proceed knowing that while those people may not be happy, the majority do value what you do – as many dentists hopefully came to realise during COVID-19 when patients who couldn’t access their normal service suddenly understood just how important their dentist is.
These people will appreciate your transparency and be happy to pay a small increase to continue accessing your service.