In The Chair With Edd Jones At C&E Consult

We talk to Edd Jones, partner of C&E Consult, dental business consultants as he shares his advice to dental professionals struggling to know where to turn and what to do during these challenging times.

Q. During lock-down, is it important for practices to keep in touch with their patients?

It’s critically important that practices keep in touch with their patients during the COVID-19 crisis!

The key thing to do here, is to put yourself in your patient’s shoes – how would you feel if you heard absolutely nothing from a company with whom you have spent (potentially) thousands of pounds?

Patient loyalty is not something that simply ‘happens.’ It’s a bit like getting fit – it takes months, even years to get to where you want to be, but all of that can be undone in a matter of weeks through lazy habits and lack of action.

The same is true for patient loyalty, if you stop working hard at it, things go downhill very quickly.

Q. What advice would you offer practices when it comes to keeping in touch with patients?

When it comes to keeping in touch with your patients, there are various methods and platforms you can use to do this such as; emails, social media and Zoom – all of which are very useful and I would recommend doing now, if you haven’t already.

However, in this instance I’m a big fan of the ‘old school’ technique of picking up the telephone and calling patients, personally. That personal touch goes a long way in showing your patients that you value their loyalty and are there to answer any concerns they have until you reopen. I realise that you have thousands of patients - but it’s not like we’re rushed of our feet finishing root canals, is it?  

Q. What about your staff too – how can practice owners keep connected with their teams?

It’s equally important to keep in touch with your team. I would certainly advise a fortnightly or even weekly video call with your teams. It is generally useful to have a full team Zoom as a ‘welfare check’ and then perhaps one just for your clinical team, to update them on all things clinical – be careful not to dish out any specific work tasks here though, as you don’t want to fall foul of HMRC when it comes to furlough.

Please, please…keep in touch with your teams – you are not the only person who is deeply invested in the future success of the practice, so keep them in the loop. Loyalty doesn’t grow on trees and this is your opportunity to help that loyalty flourish.

Q. Is now a good time for practice owners to take stock of their business more generally and revised their plans?

It’s certainly a great time to take a deep breath and assess where your practice is as a business currently, along with where you want to be in an, ‘ideal world.’

Now is the time to sit down and set yourself some definitive and measurable goals for the future, with a specified timeline. That could be next week, it could be in 5 years. 

One thing you now have at your disposal is time. You are off the hamster wheel, wahoo! Use this new found gift wisely, don’t get distracted or bury your head in the sand – step back, think openly and honestly about your business and make some decisions on its future. Always source your information from reputable sources, rather than just seeking out ‘guidance’ that fits your existing internal prejudices - be honest and true to yourself and your core values, when making those plans.

If you’re not sure how to go about this, ask for help. There are some very good business consultants out there who will be able to help you with that.

Q. What are you three top tips for all dental practices who are worried about the survival of their business?

At C&E Consult, we are very much of the opinion that there will be a definitive and intense ‘honeymoon’ period when things go back to ‘normal.’ Remember, we have been deprived of all our leisure options – shopping, going to the gym, eating out, buying a new car, going to the pub, travelling, seeing family. That is stressful and we will all want to treat ourselves as soon as we possibly can at the end of this. How can dentists benefit from the honeymoon period?

Firstly, make yourself visible to potential and existing patients – “We are open for business and are the safest, cleanest and most professional Practice in the area!” or words to that effect anyway.

Focus on aspirational treatments such as whitening, Orthodontics and facial aesthetics, these are easy to assign the wow factor to. However, don’t forget that it’s ‘health first,’ and an awful lot of people will be anxious to see if they have maintained a good level of oral health during lockdown.

Lastly, make sure you have marketing and advertising campaigns set up and ready to go, to help get that visibility. This can be Google adverts, social media adverts or a celebratory BBQ to which all of your current patients are invited, to celebrate the status quo returning – why? Remember what Seth Godin said about a ‘purple cow?’ Well now is the time to create yours and make some hay whilst the sun is shining on the dental paddock.

Q. How should dentists and / or practice owners be using this down time?

Your first responsibility during your downtime in a business sense at least, lies with your patients and your team. what else could you be doing, that brings a benefit to the wider community? You have clinical skills – why not volunteer for the NHS (if it is medically safe for you to do so)? Why not see what else you could be doing for your local community – collecting prescriptions, delivering shopping for elderly residents or simply offering to be a ‘phone buddy’ for someone vulnerable during this time is a great thing to do.

There is of course always the option of completing online eCPD training, which has obvious benefits, there are no shortage of webinars available currently addressing a whole myriad of dental content.

Ultimately, do something for someone else, that is productive – it might even make you feel really good about yourself.

Q. Is there more the dental community could do for itself to support one another during this difficult time?

Supporting each other is vital, during the most challenging time we are likely to face during our lifetimes. The lack of effective leadership from the top, does mean that we can call on each other for support and often, guidance in the darkest of hours. We are very spoilt in this day and age with the array of communication tools we have, so let’s use them. Slack, Zoom, WhatsApp, text messages, emails, phone calls - it’s never been so easy to stay connected when we can’t actually see each other in person.

Talk to each other, council each other, give a virtual hug if one is needed – avoid negativity at all costs.

One final note, which we are drumming into our customers on a regular basis, is that when this temporary blip in the human continuum is over with, we will all look back over this time and think about who we had dealings with personally and professionally and how they acted. The people with true core values and ethics, will shine bright.

How do you want your patients to feel when they look back at you in a few months’ time?