When you own a practice as part of a chain, you have certain obligations to the franchise. At times it can feel like you aren’t your own boss although shedding a bit of professional sovereignty yields considerable benefits.
The most important of these is that you don’t really have to put too much thought into how you run your practice. Or at least that’s how many owner/dentists tend to approach things.
But what happens is that you start thinking about your services as products to be sold rather than treatments for patients. So your practice becomes a glorified assembly line. Where treatments are ranked based on price and not necessarily patient need.
I recently told the story of an elderly couple who came into my practice facing either a pricey root canal, or a simple extraction. Obviously a short term win for me would have been the root canal. But then given the patient’s age and medical history, would that have been the right choice? Of course not. So we did the extraction.
If someone owns a practice that is part of a chain they could theoretically still offer advice to a patient that would save them money.
Doing so would create loyalty with that customer and make their operation stand out among the other chain services lining the streets.
So why don’t more do this? Depressingly, it could be because it doesn’t matter.
Being part of a chain means a steady flow of customers drawn in because of the brand. Word of mouth means little. A chain store is a chain store is a chain store, right? Is your local Starbucks any worse or better than the one down the street? Does it really matter if someone is just looking for a coffee?
Well yes and no. Because a business person can have their cake and eat it too. They can operate under a chain and deliver superior service with an eye to getting return business, loyalty and word-of-mouth.
What’s the cost? Very little if one puts the cost of saving customers money against the cost of regional marketing and advertising budgets.
But there is a very real reason why individual service initiatives don’t often happen in a chain store. Simply put, most dentists working in chain operations only stay for two years. Any quality service improvements will ultimately just frustrate the next dentist who may not have the same integrity.
So what to do? As a customer, I always choose the independent operator. It doesn’t mean I don’t trust the chains. I simply want my dentists to have more of a long term investment in myself and my community.
When the chains make this a part of their business model, maybe they’ll even be able to retain some of their best talent beyond that two year mark.