The sun is shining. Beaches and bars are finally open, and bank holiday weekend was a blast. Everyone’s happy and carefree again, including dental practice owners, it seems, who are caught up in the euphoria of the moment. There’s excitement about going back to work despite the faff and cost of PPE, and if you own a practice no doubt you are glad to be busy and relatively happy with life, all things considered.
The experience so far for my clients in the Republic of Ireland — where practices reopened eight weeks ago, way ahead of their UK counterparts (the UK dental establishment failed miserably to protect the industry during lockdown and has unquestionably damaged the market, contrasting with the ROI where although there was dithering and lack of leadership, practitioners were never told to close their practices, and the bright ones continued to trade) is that:
- revenue quickly gets back to pre-Covid levels
- standard operating protocols (SOPs) get sensibly modified (so they are workable)
- associates understand and accept their new reduced pay plans
- patients accept either an extra Covid fee or an increase in fees (I much prefer an increase in the overall fee base of circa 15%)
Practice owners have been contending with rammed diaries while creating and implementing their SOPs for safe patient journeys. There is pent up demand in the system, lots of work that was booked (and often prepaid) prior to lockdown coming on stream, and happily lots of toothache.
So there will be excitement among UK practice owners as they reopened in the knowledge that things should play out in a similar way, now that we have the data from Ireland, which shows that people who were planning to have an implant or Invisalign prior to Covid are now making themselves known to their practices.
Yet I sense there is a danger ahead, danger in blithely accepting this appealing but false sense of security that’s being created. My contention is there’s a shock coming, probably in October once the recession starts to bite, with an incoming tsunami of unemployment and rising taxes, from which point elective treatments will be harder to sell.
This is going to be a pig of a recession with a very long tail, so where will your practice be by November when all the pre-booked work is done and paid for? Where will your high value treatments be coming from? You need to get marketing now to get first mover advantage. You need to refresh your patient journey, opening hours and online consultations — the market has changed in its attitude to online and in particular Zoom.
Despite the recession there will always be patients with the money and desire for cosmetic treatment, but you need to be engaging them now. I cannot stress this enough. You need to get marketing aggressively to build up your order book for the famine that is going to come. Things are going to change — don’t wait for someone to ring a bell. Don’t be a victim.
If you need help building your patient funnel for high value treatments then give me a call.