One way in which dentistry has always excelled, among all sectors, is by putting strong relationships at the heart of customer service to build loyalty with patients.
I believe this approach of building genuine relationships based on trust and understanding should be applied not just between practice and patients, but also between practice and suppliers. It is particularly pertinent when selecting your dental plan provider.
Unlike some other customer/supplier arrangements you might form, the relationship with your plan provider is more symbiotic, with mutual benefits for both parties. After all, a plan provider’s success depends on the success of its practices; the more patients a practice has on plan, the more income is generated for the provider, and the more bonded and loyal patients – and therefore, steady and predictable income – there is for the practice.
For this relationship to fulfil its fruitful potential, both sides need to commit time and resource into achieving the right outcomes. This is why it’s important to choose the right provider, as this is where there can be big differences between them.
All plan providers’ core business is setting up the plan and administering the collection of fees. Whilst most cannot be separated in the way they go about this – beyond the fee amount – where they can be differentiated is in the added-value support services they provide. Here, there can be huge variations, and that is important as it is these services that can make a huge difference when it comes to attracting more patients and growing a strong membership.
Therefore, when it comes to choosing your provider it is important to look beyond the false benefits of cost and short-term financial gains. Instead, ask yourself about the depth of relationship you could develop with them, and what long-term guidance they can give you to support building a well-populated plan and a consistently profitable practice.
Some questions you might want to ask are:
- How credible are their field staff; does your point of contact with them have first-hand experience in dentistry?
- Are they well-established, with a low turnover of client managers? A revolving door of staff is not a positive sign.
- Can you speak to some existing clients for independent insight into a practice’s experience of working with them?
- Do they have a proven track record of building successful membership plans?
- What wider business support do they provide? Can you expect help with plan promotion, staff training, strategic marketing advice, or online access to plan data and management reports?
If the answer to these questions is yes, you can feel confident that your provider is committed to building a long-lasting and mutually beneficial relationship with you. And it is worth spending time to ask the right questions of your plan provider, as they are a cost-effective way of accessing support from experienced industry professionals, which can only help you to build a strong, profitable practice.