Are you in it for the long term?

Handshake SMALLLong-term relationships are key to a successful dental membership plan, says Practice Plan’s Les Jones

The retail environment has changed beyond recognition of the past twenty years. Traditional boundaries between sectors have become increasingly blurred and the growing influence of technology coupled with an explosion in online retail has revolutionised the way in which we, as consumers, now interact with retailers and vice versa.

However, one traditional aspect of retailing has not only remained, but is growing in importance in the eyes of retailers and customers alike, and that is the power of relationships.
Positive and genuine relationships build trust and understanding and lead to a shift from a customer and supplier arrangement to one of partnership and mutual benefit.

Relationships and loyalty

Of course, whilst the dental industry is sometimes playing catch up with other sectors in terms of technology, digitalisation and modern forms of communication, it can claim that strong relationships have always been at the heart of excellent customer service, which is then translated into a deep loyalty from the patient to the dentist.

This relationship approach is highly relevant when choosing your dental plan provider. Think about it for a minute or two; a plan provider’s success is wholly dependent on the success of its clients – the dental practices. The more patients a practice has on plan, the more income is generated for the plan provider and, of course, the better it is for the practice as well – a well populated dental membership plan provides a steady and predictable income for the practice and also nurtures stronger relationships and loyalty with the patients. So there is mutual benefit in growing a membership plan within a practice.

However, for this potentially symbiotic relationship to work, both the practice and the plan provider have to commit time and resource to achieve the right outcomes. And this is the point at which the various plan providers start to differentiate themselves.

‘Positive and genuine relationships build trust and understanding and lead to a shift from a customer and supplier arrangement to one of partnership and mutual benefit’

Points of difference

At the heart of every plan provider’s offer is the setting up of the plan and the administration of a collection service. Apart from variations in fees, there is little to separate one provider from another. But when it comes to the provision of added-value support services that will help the practice attract more patients and grow a successful plan membership base, there is a world of difference.

At Practice Plan, we recognised very early on that our success and that of our clients were, in fact, one and the same. From a sustainability perspective, you can’t have one without the other. As such, we have developed a business approach that is completely focused on the success of our clients, the dental practices.

Many dental practices will choose a plan provider based on cost alone and some will switch from their current provider for short-term and short-lived financial gains, but these are false benefits. Choosing your plan provider should be based on the breadth and depth of the relationship that could be developed and the long-term support and guidance that could help you to grow a well populated plan and a consistently profitable practice.

So how do you find and recognise such a plan provider?

Making a choice

Firstly, look at the experience and credibility of the provider’s support managers (you’re first point of contact) – do they have first-hand knowledge of the dental industry? How long have they been in the business (a high turnover of client managers is not a good sign)? Are there existing clients you can talk to get a deeper understanding of the support and relationship you can expect to receive? And can they provide evidence of a track record in helping practices like yours to build a successful membership plan?

Once you’ve ticked these boxes, ask what wider support you can expect, such as help with your marketing strategy, support in promoting your plan, training for your team and instant online access to management reports and information about your plan.

These are some of the things that will be evidence of a provider that is committed to building a long-lasting and mutually beneficial relationship rather than one based on short-term gain – for either party.

Most dental practices would benefit from relevant support and advice from experienced industry professionals and one of the most cost effective ways of getting such support is via your membership plan provider providing, of course, that you choose the right one!

Les Jones is the marketing director at Practice Plan and the Editor of ‘The Business of Dentistry Magazine’.

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