Reinventing dentistry

There was an interesting article published recently in The Sunday Times called ‘Retailers must reinvent to survive’,[i] which reported some of the difficulties that the UK retail industry has been encountering in the last several years and the ways in which some have been striving to overcome them.

It said that, while the UK economy has been steadily recovering since the recessionary years, retailers have consistently struggled to keep pace with the growth – indeed, the Office for National Statistics has reported that retail sales volumes have decreased by 1.3 per cent since March.

The reason for this, it would seem, is that many retailers are failing to adapt to the changing demands and needs of the consumer populace and, as such, are losing out to those industries that have. The author of the article used BHS as an example, explaining how the chain had not been investing in either its system or its customer experience – and has, thus, seen a significant drop in its revenue success.

The main problem is stagnation. In the digital age when consumers can purchase what they want quickly and effortlessly from the internet, brick-and-mortar shops need to offer something more than the standard shopping experience. Unfortunately, BHS has not recognised this and continues to offer the same service that is has for many years – a service which is now out of vogue.  

In contrast, Waterstones – which has been facing real competition from e-commerce sites like Amazon – has managed, through genuine innovation and an adroit understanding of what consumers want, to not only stay in business, but flourish. This is clearly demonstrated at its new Tottenham Court Road store in London, which features a bar and pop-up cinema in the basement. James Daunt, the managing director of Waterstones, says that this strategy has been implemented in their stores as a direct response to the fact that ‘the days of an absolutely practical stand-and-deliver shop are limited’; customers want a more social and recreational experience when stepping into a shop – something which Waterstones is now effectively providing.

From this, other retailers can learn an important lesson – or they can mourn over the loss of what once was and risk becoming obsolete. Indeed, it’s a lesson that many different industries can learn from – including dentistry.

Dentistry has undoubtedly come to the same crossroads, at which practice principals must choose to either invest more in their business as a whole, or fall by the wayside. It is now no longer enough to offer clinically excellent dentistry – patients are demanding more from their dentists than just good treatment. They want the experience.

We can see this very much in the way practice aesthetics have started to change. Patients no longer want an ultra-clinical environment when they come to the dentist (if, indeed, they ever wanted that in the first place) – they want luxury. This paradigm shift may be predicated on the fact that private dentistry is becoming more prevalent and, as such, patients want to feel as though they are getting precisely what they are paying for.

In a similar vein, many practices are beginning to realise that their practice must have an online presence to be successful. This requires a functional and mobile-friendly website, as well as the facility for online appointment booking. Almost every single person in the UK has access to the internet nowadays, and it is a resource that is simple too important to be overlooked.

Of course, there is a great deal more to this than simply changing the aesthetic of the practice and getting a new website. Changes needs to be introduced at all levels – and principals need to work up from the very foundations to ensure their business is sturdy enough to withstand the winds of change.

This involves tightening up any associate agreements and employment contracts since, after all, a happy staff will almost certainly always translate to happy customers. By arranging a list of appropriate and bespoke protocols for the practice, detailed in an extensive employee handbook, every member of staff will know precisely where they stand – they will know what is expected of them and what they can expect from their principal. This cohesion will undoubtedly strengthen the practice from within – and allow any outwardly patient-focussed strategy to be implemented with consistency and direction. 

This will also help safeguard a practice from dispute, from both inside and out – as well as promoting a standard of professionalism that will become second-nature to the staff and instantly recognisable to the patients.

Undoubtedly, though, achieving this level of cohesion and business security can be difficult, which is why specialist providers to the dental profession, like the expert solicitors at Goodman Grant – who can help practices build a bespoke employee handbook – are essential.

Dentistry, much like retail – and many other industries for that matter – must begin to reinvent itself; professionals need to recognise what their patients want and take steps to offer it to them before a competitor does. From enhancing the patient experience to tightening up the business aspects of their practice, dental professionals need to start adapting to new expectations and standards and reinvent their businesses to suit the modern profession.

[i] Retailers must reinvent to survive – published online 29/05/16; link: [accessed 01/06/16]

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