Succeeding in the Post-Pandemic Practice
As the country attempts to return to normalcy following the COVID-19 pandemic, patients remain reluctant, employees continue to be preoccupied with the cares of life, and the world's supply chain seems to be hanging on by a thread. No longer are regional business hardships isolated to areas in which they were previously prevalent. Conventional business practices are not likely to yield the reliable results they used to; thus, fresh, innovative ideas are needed to thrive in this unusual environment. For dental entrepreneurs, a number of simple steps can be taken to protect practices from the many fluctuations occurring in the world today. These steps can help a business stand out, save money, and use "creative efficiency" to survive in a post-pandemic atmosphere.
Practice Aggressive and Creative Marketing
In this new "work from home" world, companies like the Gap and other traditional brick-and-mortar stalwarts are predicting up to 80% of their sales to take place online by 2023.1 Businesses need to adapt to the times and be using social media to increase sales. They need to find creative ways to gather customers (and make them followers) by offering captivating content and clear communication via social media. It is not only necessary to be on the social media platforms, but know which platforms are right for your business. This depends on many factors, such as the product/service the company offers, the age range of its target market, and how much effort the company can put into maintaining the platform.
For example, dental offices almost invariably need Facebook to build a customer base to centralize their customers/followers around a group page for announcing important information. This can be anything from the addition of a new staff member to create a personal connection, to the purchase of the latest digital dentistry equipment. Not only do you have to draw people to your page, but you must keep them coming back with creative content, such as interesting articles or humorous pictures, etc. Instagram is also worth considering because it provides an easy way to disseminate information across a very popular platform.
Hire Multitasking Employees
Hiring employees who are capable of multitasking, especially when it comes to details regarding marketing and social media, may prove to help the business improve efficiency and save money. While bringing on a receptionist with years of dental experience and organization skills might seem ideal, having someone with "intangibles" can be of great value. You can teach the person the dental business, and having a receptionist who can spend his or her downtime setting up the practice's social media campaign, beefing up engagement, and showing everyone, including the dentists, how to use it, can be extremely useful. Social media is not a one-way relationship; dentists can get lots of helpful information and advice on everything from problem cases to equipment reviews, human resource aids, payroll and tax information, and so on. Business owners should surround themselves with experts in areas in which they are weak.
Consider also hiring an assistant with an IT background. This could save the practice time and money when it comes time to install a new office computer, fix the connection from a sensor to a camera, or anything else computer related that might otherwise require outside assistance.
Consider Cloud-Based Storage/Practice Management Systems
During the height of the pandemic, someone had to dodge the stay-at-home restrictions and go to the office to review patient records, because obviously the server cannot leave the office. The same is true when there is inclement weather-someone usually needs to go in while the team stays home as appointments are canceled for an unspecified period. Cloud-based practice management now enables the same convenience and mobility for a dental practice that a tablet and cell phone offer for one's personal life. As secure as anything else in the cloud (and legally covered as such), these platforms allow dental practices the work-from-home convenience of reaching customers to cancel appointments, sending claims remotely, performing inventory management, ordering supplies, and more-all from your or a trusted employee's home. These systems operate in real-time and give the practice owner the option of running things from home when needed.
Go Digital Already
Digital dentistry is, indeed, the new norm. According to Technavio, the global CAD/CAM market is expected to grow by nearly $660 million between 2021 and 2025.2 Not only are dental professionals buying the technology, but patients are looking to be treated with it. Nowadays, most adults who walk into a dental practice with outdated equipment feel, at best, concerned, and, at worst, inclined to try a different practice. Some older practitioners may use the excuse that they have only a few years left to practice and then they are out. If so, congratulations. However, when it does comes time to sell the practice, investments made in it, whether they be chairs, technology, or renovations, will not only pay off, but are what young, new buyers are looking for to start out.
The good news is that when buying equipment or technology from reputable companies today (using your peers' advice that you received from your new social media skills!), practitioners can expect excellent training and support-and a greatly improved workflow. When upgrading, practice owners should know what capabilities they want to take on in the practice both now and in the not-too-distant future, have a budget in mind, and ask questions based on these factors.
Adapt a Forward-Thinking Management Philosophy
The overall theme of this article is adaptation, and the biggest management overhaul may be needed in the practice owner's own mindset. With so much uncertainty on people's minds-schools opening and closing at a moment's notice, businesses struggling to get employees out of their houses and back to work, families scuffling to maintain stability-business leaders need to be compassionate and forward-thinking, accommodating and understanding.
Don't lose good employees because they're having issues with their home life if you can help it. Make the practice a wonderful place to work such that employees want to stay no matter the difficulties they are experiencing outside of work. Respect your employees and their new life situations as you would hope someone else would do for your own family members when in a tough spot. They won't forget it, and when you need someone else at some point, they'll be happy to sing your praises. Besides, it is immensely more practical to keep an employee than to train a new one. A 2017 study published in the Work Institute's Retention Report documented that it costs 33% of a person's annual salary to hire a replacement if that employee leaves.3
A recent article by Deloitte titled, "The Worker-Employer Relationship Disrupted," describes moving from a "survive" mindset to a "thrive" mindset, where the pandemic is teaching companies to be better by addressing the challenges facing employees these days. The article quotes famous management consultant Peter Drucker, who said, "The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence itself, but to act with yesterday's logic."4
We are living in strange times, yet everyone is facing the same need to dig deep for ideas to stand out in the crowd. For dental offices in particular, COVID-19 presented a challenging outlook at first, but it seems they have emerged as a safe and sanitary place to visit as the pandemic, hopefully, winds down. Although protocols have changed, business is back, and dental practitioners may need to alter their thinking and sharpen their skills to gain the advantages necessary to succeed in this crazy post-pandemic environment.
About the Authors
Director of Sales Operations, Marketing, and Public Relations, CAD-Ray North America (cad-ray.com)
1. U.S. Retail Trend Report 2021. Conductor website. https://www.conductor.com/learning-center/retail-trends-report-2021/?utm_medium=organic_social&utm_source=linkedin&utm_campaign=cndr_learning_center_research_retail_trends_report_2021&utm_content=org_social_1. Accessed April 25, 2022.
2. Technavio. Global Dental CAD-CAM Market - nearly $660 Mn growth expected during 2021-2025. InvestorsHub website. June 9, 2021. https://ih.advfn.com/stock-market/stock-news/85323417/global-dental-cad-cam-market-nearly-660-mn-gro. Accessed April 25, 2022.
3. Bolden-Barrett V. Study: turnover costs employers $15,000 per worker. HR Dive website. August 11, 2017. https://www.hrdive.com/news/study-turnover-costs-employers-15000-per-worker/449142/. Accessed April 25, 2022.
4. Eaton K, Mallon D, Van Durme Y, et al. The worker-employer relationship disrupted. Deloitte website. July 21, 2021. https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/focus/human-capital-trends/2021/the-evolving-employer-employee-relationship.html. Accessed April 25, 2022.