This week’s guests live right at the intersection of healthcare and retail. And, between Amazon and the Affordable Care Act (ACA), there is a lot of flux happening in both of these two industries. I’m very excited to welcome one of the largest dental service organizations in the United States, Great Expressions Dental. I’m joined by their CEO, Rich Beckman, and one of their medical directors in Atlanta, Dr. Kevin Dancy.
Despite the upheaval, Great Expressions is kind of unstoppable. Founded in 1982, they’ve grown from 21 centers in Michigan to 289 centers in 10 states. They are growing like gangbusters. We talk about the risks they see in the market and five solutions they’ve developed that have allowed them to thrive in the face of external challenges.
Risk: Attitudes are changing
People’s attitudes about healthcare have been shifting over the last few years. The ACA met (and still meets) with a great amount of opposition, but as attempts to change it have mounted, it’s clear that finding a path forward isn’t easy.
The Affordable Care Act does not have a large impact directly on dental, but the changing attitudes it fosters has caused changes in behavior around all things healthcare – dental included. In times of uncertainty, people become more careful about their spending. Says Beckman, “Everybody is concerned about what’s going to happen. How are they going to spend their money? Are they going to have their health savings account? Are they going to have flexible benefits? Is healthcare going to cost them more in the future? What’s going to be covered? And, so we think that the current time is kind of an impediment, even for going to the dentist.”
With concerns about healthcare costs, dental is one of the first corners to be cut. Instead of being a regular part of a healthcare routine, dental care becomes a reactive measure, with people only seeking out the dentist when in pain or experiencing other symptoms. Many other industries are seeing this as well, and it can be a challenge that pulls a business under.
Risk: Traditional retail is declining
While dental is a healthcare service, it also falls into discretionary spending. The move towards dental as a reactive care measure increases this trend. Great Expressions is seeing suppliers lose ground to Amazon and other low cost online suppliers. There has also been a trend in recent years to house medical and dental offices in large retail outlets, such as Sears, Target, or CVS. As many large retailers are decreasing the number of stores, or closing altogether, these medical suppliers are losing their homes and having to rethink their marketing and operational strategies.
Changes are afoot, but not all change is a bad thing. The ability for a business to survive in today’s agile world lies in the ability to adjust to the changes and not stay rooted in what’s worked in the past. Here are some lessons we can take from Great Expressions Dental on how to make changes work for you.
Solution 1: Increase visibility
For Great Expressions, their stand-alone retail presence is actually acting as a plus. Says Beckman, “Retail gives us visibility. Twenty years ago, most dental offices were hidden in office buildings, in someplace without any signage, and you didn’t really know where they were.” With many medical offices becoming more brand driven, having retail locations adds visibility and brand recognition. This shift to utilizing retail locations as a marketing face is something we’ve heard from other guests as well (Check out this CEO Exclusive article on customer experience).
Solution 2: Make the customer experience spectacular
With dental taking a backseat for many customers, the ease of the dental experience becomes a major driver in keeping customers walking through the front door. While dental will always have a social aspect (your iPhone can’t give you a root canal) the dental world is, like everything else in our world, seeing change due to technology. People want to do more online, from book their appointments, to seeing test results, to accessing x-rays. Great Expressions is leaning into these changes, while keeping a focus on making the in office experience spectacular from the time the customer walks through the front door, with friendly greetings, easy check in, low wait time, and excellent dental service being key.
Says Dancy, “We understand that people are busy, and we want to make that experience easy. “
Solution 3: Be persistent
Great Expressions started with 21 locations and are currently operating 289 locations in 10 states. Last year, they introduced the phrase “irrational persistence.” Explains Beckman, “What that simply means is that we never give up. We make sure that we don’t give up on our patients, we don’t give up on our people, we don’t give up on anything, and we make sure things get done.”
This kind of growth is not, says Beckman, a strictly linear process. Things get in the way (like the threats described above), and your persistence in dealing with those things can be the deciding factor in continued growth.
Solution 4: Employ “The power of one”
As with almost every successful CEO I’ve had on the show, Beckman highlights strong culture as a key contributor to success. At Great Expressions, they call it “The Power of One”. Explains Beckman, “What that simply means is that we treat each and every person as we would like to be treated, and each and every patient.”
For Great Expressions, the effectiveness of the Power of One starts at the top, and permeates the organization. Phrases like “Irrational Persistence” and “The Power of One” are visible on office computer screens. Meetings are held each morning and the staff talks about ways to implement those ideas in their daily routine. Regular rewards are given for success in these areas, providing acknowledgment and also monetary awards.
Solution 5: Work with the customers. Make it easy
Great Expressions never turns away an emergency case. They take all dental insurance, and for those that don’t have insurance, they offer a membership plan through the practice that allows affordable dental care for a lower price. They focus on treating the problem, not the insurance. Says Dancy, “That has been a 20-year tradition and it seems to have worked.”
With changes coming at an ever-increasing pace, one thing that stays the same is the need for strong customer service. Ways to best serve customers changes, but the need to serve them well takes increasing focus with all these market shifts and pressures. With more and more choices available in our global economy, the ability to meet your customer’s needs in a flawless way will become even more deeply at the heart of what makes your business succeed.