How I dodged a bullet with performance reporting By Mike Hesketh. June 15, 2016.
A lovely little scenario unfolded in The Exeter Dental Centre a few Mondays ago.
We were going through the morning huddle at 0800. Mondays are always busy as the weekend team want to share successes and the week team are coming in fresh. It’s a squeeze to get everyone down to surgery by 0820 but I love the buzz.
One of my associates suggested we could target patients with edentulous spaces and dentures with direct mail or email (a bolt from the blue because although he does great dentistry he hadn’t taken much notice of the mechanism by which new patients are put in front of him before). We discussed the pros and cons briefly as a team then moved on.
At this point I thought we’d finished the marketing discussion for the day but, after going around the group before cracking on with the first patients, one of the other associates mentioned that he had been seeing a lot of new student patients lately, most of whom had not needed any new dentistry. You know the ones; great, well maintained teeth, next to no fillings, probably ex-ortho patients, and they just want a check-up and clean. Exeter being a university town, this is no great surprise.
I talked about the triumvirate of straightening, whitening and cleaning but realised that didn’t help this particular generalist associate. We don’t see new patients in less than 40 minutes and it can be up to an hour — at £66 this could mean lot of loss leaders on the associate’s behalf. The other associates confirmed this was the case with them too and said they were seeing next to no new over-60s, the prime Saga set patients who have failing and poorly maintained teeth in need of voluminous dentistry.
I talked to the group briefly and said we would investigate traditional marketing techniques like mail drops, newspaper ads and radio, adding that these were expensive so would have to be thought about. This seemed to placate them all and I toddled on to my first patient, thinking in the back of my mind, “I don’t particularly want to increase my marketing spend, especially not in a haphazard manner.”
I started a simple filling and got to thinking, “Is the assumption correct or can we work out the average ages of our new patients and compare it to a similar month a year ago and then compare it to another month in the year?” So in a little break I walked up to my business hub, spoke to my in-house KPI and bookkeeping guru and asked if there was a quick way our practice management software could do this.
I was told to leave it with her but I can’t do that because I’m like dog with a bone, so on passing the head receptionist on the telephone desk I asked her to add a column for age to our new patient tracker spreadsheet for future accuracy.
By lunch I had the following information from my guru:
You can see that while the 20 to 30-year-olds had more than doubled in a year, so had the over-60s. We had 43 in April 2016 alone which, shared among the associates, is plenty of big ticket restoration work.
I could have taken an erroneous shotgun approach and assumed that targeting over-60s with a direct mail campaign could only help the practice. But, even though we don’t track new patient age as part of our six key performance indicators, you can see how having a culture where staff are dialled in to decisions based on numbers rather than hunches saved me from making that mistake. I quickly sent the above data to the team and invited comment — all within a Monday.
Try to build a culture of making informed, rational decisions like this in your practice. It will save you money.
“I could have taken a shotgun approach but rational decisions save money”
Mike Hesketh, head of management consulting